Parashat Behar/Behukotai

Dedicated Le’ilui Nishmat Our Beloved Sister Esther bat Sarah by Ezra and Sarah Ashkenazi

Parashat Behar / Behukotai

In previous parashiot we learned about the mitzva of Shabbat. For six days we have an obligation to work. On the seventh day we are not allowed to work, as it should be a holy day for us to become close to Hashem!

Shemitta, Shabbat For The Land…

Now we’re about to learn about another Shabbat, and that is Shemitta — the Shabbat for the land to rest. Rambam says that the comparison between Shemitta and the Shabbat is that both bear testimony to Hashem’s creation of the universe in six days and His rest on the seventh. The seven years of the Shemitta cycle also alludes to the six thousand years of history that will be climaxed by the seventh millennium the Mashiah’s arrival, which will be a period of peace and tranquility.

It says in the first passuk, “Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai, saying: Speak to B’nei Yisrael and say to them: When you come to the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem; for six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard; and you may gather in your crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem; you shall not sow your field, and you shall not prune your vineyard.”

Just imagine if someone told you to close your business for an entire year, every seventh year....How would you survive? If you think about this concept, it’s an unbelievable test that these farmers must pass.

Hashem’s Promise

Now Hashem offers assurances that those who let their land lie fallow will not suffer famine. This parasha guarantees that the year before Shemitta will produce a crop large enough to last for three years (the sixth, seventh, and eighth years), until the crop planted in the eight year is harvested.

We might think that the soil is an inanimate object that doesn’t need rest, but agriculturally it is a known fact that the land needs rest to grow produce properly. Hashem gave us the land of Israel, and He gave us a set of instructions on how to use the land most effectively. Hashem is saying to us, that He gave us this land and it needs to rest for one year every six years in order for it to produce properly for us.

The Or HaHayyim brings down that the sixth year — which should be the weakest because the land produced for six straight years — is the year that’s blessed to produce for sixth, seventh, and eighth years.

According to the Hatam Sofer, the laws of Shemitta prove that only Hashem could be the author of our holy Torah. If a human being invented such a commandment, he would have to be crazy to make such a promise — because if it wouldn’t happen, he would be disproven. Only G-d can make such a statement!

Shemitta and Galut

In perek 25 passuk 19 it says, “The land will give its fruit and you will eat your fill; you will dwell securely upon it.”Rashi says on the words, “you will dwell securely” that in return for observing the Shemitta laws, the Jews would not be exiled.

We were in galut for seventy years between the first and second Bateh Mikdash because of seventy Shemitta years which were not properly observed.

Parnasah Comes from Hashem

Hashem is saying to us: “This is a test just like Shabbat, because your parnasah is not in your hands, although you may believe that it comes from your efforts.” Rabbi Diamond always taught us that our work is muchrach ve’lo moyil, which means, “it’s necessary, but it doesn’t do anything” — a very difficult concept for us to comprehend. Parnasah comes from Hashem, regardless of whether our human logic understands this concept or not.

Chazal explain the reason that the laws of Shemitta are juxtaposed with the subsequent pesukim dealing with a person who descends to the lower levels of poverty. Poverty is a direct consequence for refusing to follow the Shemitta laws. Chazal say that if you try to defy Hashem by keeping your farm going through the seventh year, it will not benefit you. On the contrary, it will take you down a very slippery slope of poverty, to the point where you’ll have to sell everything you own until you ultimately find yourself on the receiving end of charity.

Hashem is simply saying to us: Follow My rules, keep My laws and you’ll have parnasah. Follow the laws of Shemitta, and give tzedaka to the poor people by leaving the produce that falls in the field for them to collect. Do these things and you’ll have parnasah! You must play by My rules, not by what you may think makes sense, because I (Hashem) make the rules, and I (Hashem) run the world!

Rabbi Avraham Bukspan writes in his book “Classics & Beyond” most often we are caught up in worry about our own needs rather than those of our neighbors needs. If my neighbor comes running to me frantic that he won’t be able to pay his rent that’s past due, I console him by saying “ Relax, have Bitachon, Hashem is big and it will all work out.” They are kind words but they’re just words. When it comes to ourselves, however, we’re busy saving money for our newborn infant for college, sometimes at the expense of our spiritual growth. We live in fear and concern, while we tell our friend to have faith and trust.

Rav Yisrael Salantar was quoted as saying, “We worry about our own physical needs and everyone else’s spiritual needs” yet it should be the reverse. Our concern should be for our neighbors physical needs and our own spiritual needs.” I need to strengthen my own bitachon in Hashem, while saving the worry for other people. With this in mind Rav Yaakov Yosef writes that we can explain the positioning of the section of laws of one who becomes poor just after the laws regarding Shemittah. Observing Shemitttah constitutes a yearlong lesson in bitachon in Hashem. It takes courage, but the reward is great; my family is provided for, while my level of bitachon takes a quantum leap. We see firsthand the power of Hashem—that there is really nothing to worry about.

Hashem’s Good Advice...

The first pasuk in Behukoti begins, "If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them". This pasuk seems a little redundant because it repeats itself three times. "follow My decrees" then "observe my commandments" finally "and perform them". Rashi explains on this that the pasuk is talking about toiling in Torah study. We must know that the study of the Torah is the essence of a Jew and its what separates us from all the other nations of the world. That pasuk is a hint that we must learn Torah and review our learning over and over again until we own it. The toiling in Torah is the highest level of what a Jew must do in this world and we should be involved in the Torah learning day and night as its mentioned in the Shema Yisrael that we read three times a day!

The Ohr HACHAIM Hakadosh wrote 48 different chidushiim on Bechokoti and toiling in Torah. One of them is "Bechokoti Telechu" which he says is to go into great depths of learning and to sink your teeth into your learning not just a superficial review, weather it be in gemarah, chumash, mishnah, or navie.

Did The Goyim Do Anything For Us?

The Ktav Sofer questions why we would be learning Torah in their stadiums and arenas; wouldn’t we have our own venues where could teach Torah? He brings the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 2b), which says that in the future Hashem will say to the goyim, “With what did you occupy yourselves?” They will reply, “We set up marketplaces and bathhouses and amassed gold and silver. And we did it all so the Jews could occupy themselves with Torah – so they can acquire items easily in the marketplace and they can beautify themselves in the bathhouses.” Hashem will respond, “You did all of that only for your own benefit!”

In truth, the evil actions of the goyim can be utilized for good, as well. Someone who fears Hashem can learn to rush to do mitzvot from the goyim who rush to do what they do. They expend so much energy as they rush to sin which adds to the shortcomings of this world. How much more so should we rush to do mitzvot and not be concerned with the expenses and inconveniences involved.

Based on this concept, the Ktav Sofer brings the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Koheles 971) on the pasuk (Kohelet 5:9) “A lover of money will never be satisfied with money.” The Midrash expounds, “A lover of mitzvot will not be satisfied with Mitzvot.” The Ktav Sofer explains that the Midrash is also teaching us that we can learn to channel the good from sinners’ various actions or traits. In the case of silver, which has a finite value, Kohelet tells us that one who loves silver will have a drive and desire for more, and he will never be satisfied with what he has. The Midrash is teaching us that we can direct that same drive – to want more and more.

Hashem’s Beracha!

The next pasuk goes on to describe all the good that Hashem will bestow upon us if we follow His decrees and observe His commandments in order to perform them! Hashem says, He will give us our parnasah by giving us the rains in the right times so that the land will give its produce and the trees of the field will give its fruit. What Hashem is saying to us simply in these pesukiim, is that if we would just learn Torah so that we may understand what's required of us in this world. Follow Hashems decrees, commandments and ordinances, then we will have a good livelihood, we'll have beracha with our family's and we will be protected from our enemies. This is everything a nation would want to have to prosper and grow. So shouldn’t we just follow what these peukiim are telling us and do as the Torah says? After all, it’s for our own benefit!

How can we ignore Hashems instructions and instead follow the pesukiim that begins with pasuk 14 that says, "But if you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments and if you consider My decrees loathsome and reject My ordinances in order to annul My covenant". Then Hashem says He will put panic in our hearts and turn His back against us. We won't have beracha in our livelihood and we will work just so we can see our laboring go in vain. We will watch our enemy's be successful against us as Hashem won't be there to protect us. Eventually we will be sick to our stomachs and despise the Rabbi's and every aspect that reminds us of learning Torah which will lead us down a very steep downward spiral.

Praise To Our Rabbi’s

From reading this parasha, we can now have a greater respect and appreciation for all the Rabbi's and talmidei chachamim especially in these days of seclusion (Baruch Hashem for Zoom), because they made a decision to sit down and learn in order to devote their lives to learning and teaching Torah to all of us. If we would read this parasha with an open heart it will be obvious to us that Hashem through the Torah is helping us to realize what's best for us. We can see from the words in this parasha what will truly make us happy, healthy, content and satiated with everything so that we may live a life of growth in learning Torah. This of course is the essence of what a Jew in this world is all about in order for us to earn the highest levels of Olam Habah!

Hashem wants us to learn every day but we're not expected to become Rabbi's, that's reserved for a select few. Many years ago our synagogue's were used primarily for prayer and the doors of our Shuls were all shut at night. Through the great Rabbi's of our community since we settled on the shores of America over 100 years ago until today, our community has changed drastically for the better. Our Shuls are opened from very early in the morning and again until late at night and they are overflowing with men and women learning and growing in Torah. There's a great thirst today for Torah as we see in recent weeks the popularity of Chavrutah Night in many of our shuls and we have to know that this has brought and continues to bring tremendous beracha to our community.

As Long As The Candle Still Burns...

The pasuk in (Iyov 5:7) says– For man is born to weariness. Naturally, we love rest and relaxation. We look forward to taking it easy. Our real job here, however, is to work. Very often, when we are pressed, it brings out the best in us. Each day of life provides countless opportunities for growth. A person can still flourish even at an advanced old age.

Rav Yisrael Salanter passed the home of a cobbler late one night and he noticed through the window that the candle was still lit and the cobbler was diligently working. Intrigued that a shoemaker would still be toiling late at night, Rav Salanter knocked on the door and asked him why he was working at that late hour. “As long as the candle is still burning,” the cobbler replied, “there’s still time to make repairs.”

Hearing these words from the shoemaker filled the Rabbi with excitement. The human soul is compared to a candle, he thought. And as the shoemaker taught, as long as the light still burns, as long as a person still has life, he can still make repairs and improve himself.

There's a famous story that was told over by Rabbi Frand at the last Siyum Hashas at Met life stadium 7 years ago, about a man who never learned Torah. His son on the other hand became a baal teshubah and grew to become a Talmid Chacham. After many years the father approached his son and asked him if he can learn with him because he said that he see's the enjoyment that his son gets from his learning Torah. Of course the son agreed and they began learning one page of Gemarah. They reviewed that page many, many times without moving forward. The father owned that page of Gemarah because he really toiled in it until he knew it by heart. He was so elated by his accomplishment that he decided to made a siyum on that one page of Gemarah. Rabbi Frand continued that unfortunately not long after that, the father had passed away suddenly. It was said over at the mitzvah that in Hashem's eyes completing that one page of gemarah for this man was considered in heaven as if he had mastered all of Shas!

A word about the Coronavirus…

Do We really appreciate the Air that’s free to us all our lives? After a 93 year old man in Italy got better in the hospital, he was told to pay for the ventilator for one day, and the old man cried. The doctor advised him not to cry over the bill. What the old man said made all the doctors cry.

“I don’t cry because of the money I have to pay. I can pay all the money. I cry because I have been breathing GOD’s air for 93 years but I never paid for it. It takes $500 Euro to use a ventilator in a hospital for one day. Do you know how much I owe GOD? I NEVER thanked GOD for that before!”

The truth of the news can not be verified, but the old man’s words are worth our reflection. When we breathe the air feely without pain or illness, no one takes the air seriously. Only when we enter the hospital can we know, that even breathing oxygen with a ventilator costs money!

May we always continue to learn Torah and make it a priority of our days and nights. May we also have the greatest respect for our Rabbis who devote themselves to studying and teaching Torah selflessly to our community for our benefit. Amen!

Discussion Points:

· How would you feel if Hashem commanded you not to work for a whole year every seven years? Today we’re getting a taste of it through this lockdown by having trouble not working for just a few months!

· How good is our Shabbat observance and how can we make it better?

Le’ilui Nishmat...

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah L'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at jrahmey@rahmeyfinancial.com.

Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”)

Anyone interested in past parshiot please go to the website ParashaPerspective.org

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah L'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or

In Honor of someone, can email me at jrahmey@rahmeyfinancial.com.

Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”)

Anyone interested in past parshiot please go to the website ParashaPerspective.org