BEHAR/BECHUKOSAI (Leviticus, 25:1-27:34) — “Don’t Just STAND There…”

We strive to be holy.  It is not an easy task.  The Torah was not given to angels; it was given to human beings with human weaknesses.  Yet, we make the effort.

In our daily prayers, we make reference to the angels in Heaven and the divine symphony of praise that they offer to G-d every day:

…They are all beloved; they are all flawless; they are all mighty, and they do the will of their Maker with awe and reverence.  They all open their mouths in holiness and purity, in song and hymn — and bless, praise, glorify, revere, sanctify, and declare the kingship of the Name of G-d, the great, mighty, and awesome King, holy is He…  All of them proclaim His Holiness and say with awe: “Holy, holy, holy is G-d, Master of the Hosts; the whole world is filled with His glory…

Pretty heavy stuff.  The Heavens ring forth with holiness that we mortals cannot even begin to imagine, much less, understand.  Yet we try:

We shall sanctify Your Name in this world, just as they sanctify it in Heaven above, as it is written by Your prophet, “they call one another and say:  ‘Holy, holy, holy..’

The above prayer is recited standing, with our feet together as if they are one foot, just like the angels, about whom it is written, and their legs are one straight leg” (Ezekiel 1:7) and who are referred to as “Standers.” (Zechariah, 3:7)

All this, of course, begs the question: whom are we trying to kid??!

We are simple, mortal human beings.  How can we even contemplate a serious attempt at being like the angels?  Their level of holiness is so far beyond ours that it seems pointless to even make the comparison.

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This week’s Torah Portion promises blessings for living according to G-d’s ways. It then continues by warning us of the repercussions created by abandoning the Torah.  (It is customary to read this “Tochachah” — Rebuke, in a lower volume and faster speed than the rest of the Torah reading. In so doing, we demonstrate our reluctance to even read about the negative events that could possibly befall us, G-d forbid.  It is also customary for this Aliyah to be given to the rabbi, the Torah Reader, or the Gabbai, so as not to offend a member of the congregation by calling him up for the reading of these curses.)

In introducing these rewards and punishments, the Torah lets us know what is expected of us: “If you will walk in My decrees, and observe My commandments and perform them; then I will provide your rains in their time and the land will give its produce…” (Leviticus, 26:3-4)

Rabbi Yehonasan Eibeschutz, in his commentary, Tiferes Yehonasan, points out that the Torah expects us to walk in G-d’s decrees, and observe His Commandments.  A Decree is a Mitzvah for which there is no known explanation, such as the prohibition of eating pork, or wearing a garment made of linen and wool.  And we are expected to walk in these decrees.

Rabbi Eibeschutz quotes the verse from the Book of Zechariah, cited above, that the righteous will merit to walk among the “Standers”, the angels.  Why, asks Rabbi Eibeschutz, are angels called Standers?  It is because they stand in place, unable to become elevated.  Yes, they are holy, but since they are basically “programmed” to do G-d’s will, they are unable to achieve higher levels of holiness.

We, on the other hand, are “Walkers”.  We have the ability to walk in G-d’s decrees.  When we are given a Mitzvah to fulfill, and we don’t understand the reason for this decree, it is easy to make excuses not to fulfill that Mitzvah.  However, if we look at it as a decree from our King, we accept this decree and fulfill it.  (“Ours is not to reason why…”)

Angels are in a different situation.  As heavenly beings, they understand the reasons behind all of the commandments.  They lack the struggle that we endure.  An angel does not have an internal drive to reject a commandment.  G-d has said to do it; the angel fully understands the reason for the commandment, and he fulfils it.

As a result of the fact that the angel does not go through the struggle, his reward is not as great.  To be sure, an angel occupies a lofty level.  However, he is a Stander; he will remain at that level forever.

We, however, are Walkers.  We can walk in G-d’s decrees and achieve great spiritual levels and enjoy G-d’s rewards.

The angels are sublime, magnificent beings, who stand at a very high spiritual level.  We possess the ability to walk right past them.

We just have to make sure that we are walking in the right direction.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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From the Archives 

(Sometimes the Torah Portions of Behar and Bechukosai are read in the same week, and sometimes they are read in separate weeks.  To avoid confusion, both are listed here) 

From Behar, the first of this week’s two Torah Portions 

“The Palestinians are Right!” (2010)

 Israel is ours.

From time immemorial, theLandofIsraelhas been inhabited by Jews.  There is no such thing asPalestine.  The so-called “Palestinians” need to wake up to that fact, get a life, and move on.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, dismiss this notion as wishful thinking on the part of the Jews.  They continue to argue that there is no proof that the Land is ours…

Of course, as we know, the Palestinians are wrong … Right? …

THE TRUTH IS THAT … ISRAELDOES  NOT BELONG TO THE JEWS.  It never has…

Read more.

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“The Price of Tea in China” (2006)

“…  For six years you may sow your field, and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and you may gather its crop.  But the seventh year will be a complete rest for the Land…”

…  A farmer works his field for six years, trying his hardest to produce an income to support his family.  Now we tell him to take a year off.

Take a year off?!  How am I gonna eat?!

Good question…

Read more.

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“Aharon Moshe — Servant of G-d and His Children” (2005)

… It is customary among Chassidim to bring written requests to righteous people.  All of their needs are written on these “Kvittlach” — notes, and the righteous people are asked to pray to G-d for the fulfillment of these requests.  After the Second World War, there was a dearth of such holy people.

One great Rabbi, the Rebbe of Satmar, of Blessed Memory, was asked what to do.  “Now that so many of our Tzaddikim, righteous people, have been killed, to whom should we bring our requests for blessings?”

The Rebbe gave two answers…

This was not an easy article to write.  (Tears don’t show up on computer screens.)…

Read more.

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“Ask a Stupid Question…” (2004)

… CHAYIM: I can’t believe what happened to me today!

YANKEL: What happened?

CHAYIM: A guy came by the office today selling ties.  He showed me some hand-made silk ties.  He told me that they were worth $50, but he was willing to sell them for only $30.  What a bargain!  Twenty dollars off!  I bought five!

YANKEL: That’s great, Chayim!  What’s the problem?  You saved $100!  That’s wonderful!

CHAYIM: Well, not exactly.  As it turned out, they were actually made of polyester, and are available on Ebay for $3 apiece.

YANKEL: Oh…Uh, Chayim…

CHAYIM: Yes, Yankel?

YANKEL:  You, my dear friend, are a jerk.  A naive, stupid fool!  You should be ashamed of yourself!  What’s the matter with you?!  How could you allow yourself to be ripped off like that?!  Boy, that con man must be laughing at you now!

We have just observed two violations of Torah Law…

Read more.

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“Free as a Bird” (2002)

We’re all familiar with the famous words on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land…” Many people are not aware that it is actually a quote from the Torah. (Leviticus, 25:10)

…”Proclaim ‘D’ROR’ throughout the land.”

You’ll notice that I left the word “D’ROR” untranslated. Most commentaries give comparable translations… synonymous with the bell-maker’s translation – “Liberty.”

… Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra presents an interesting insight into the word “D’ROR.” … the Dror is a very independent bird. As long as it is in its own nest, it sings to its heart’s content. However, once it is taken into captivity it silently refuses to eat and eventually starves. (“Give me liberty or give me death!”)…

Read more.

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From Bechukosai, the second of this week’s two Torah Portions 

“Confessions of a Would-Be Vegetarian” (2005)

… it began to sink in.  Do I really want to KILL my chickens?  Do I really want toEATmy chickens?  After months of watching their antics, running and wing-flapping and squawking around my back yard, making me laugh and giving me eggs, do I really want to put them in a soup pot?…

Read more.

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“Your Money or your Wife!” (2003)

How much is a person worth?  What is the dollars-and-cents cash value of a human being? … The Book of Judges tells us the heartbreaking story of Yiftach, whose poor judgment led to a tragedy … Yiftach was praying for success in battle … “If You deliver Ammon into my hands, the first thing that comes out of my house to greet me, I will offer as a sacrifice.” (Judges,11:31).

The Talmud says that Yiftach had made an irresponsible vow.  Not every animal is acceptable as an offering.  If the family cow or his pet lamb had ambled out the door to meet him, either one would have served as a fine Thanksgiving offer on the Altar.  But what would he do if he were greeted by Fido or his daughter’s pet iguana?!

Actually, the scenario was even worse…

Read more.

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“Labor Gains” (2001)

Jewish life is all about choices.  We are given the option of choosing the path that G-d wants us to follow, or a path that goes the other way.  Either way, says the Torah, there are consequences to our choices….

We are, of course, proud to be Jewish.  We fulfill Mitzvahs and we recite prayers.  But do we LABOR IN TORAH?  Do we toil and struggle to make Torah the be-all, end-all emphasis of our lives?  Is Torah our lifeblood?  Or is it little more than a cultural appendage, a potpourri of chicken soup, matzah balls and gefilte fish?… There are two types of people who subscribe to my weekly messages…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 6:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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