Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 8   No. 29

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Reb Yosef Boruch ben ha'Rav Pesach Wachsman z"l
whose eighteenth Yohrzeit is on 23rd Iyar
by his children Dr. Eli and Sheryl Prenzlau n.y.
and Family

Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

The Blessings of the Sh'mitah

The Torah refers to the Sh'mitah as 'Shabbos for Hashem' (25:2) almost paraphrasing the expression that it uses in Emor (23:3) with regard to the Shabbos. Indeed, the two are interlinked in a number of places in the Torah (see for example Mishpotim 23:10-12). As the commentaries point out, the Shmitah is to the years what Shabbos is to the week. (See also Rashi on this pasuk).

It is well known that Shabbos is the source of blessing for the entire week. In that case, not only does refraining from work on Shabbos not result in any financial loss, but to the contrary, doing so brings blessing to all one's endeavors during the rest of the week. As Chazal have said, Shabbos blesses the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that precede it, and the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday that follow it. Any apparent losses that one sustains on account of resting on Shabbos are nothing more than an illusion. And this is a tactic that the Soton relishes (see for example how he tricked Yisrael into believing that Moshe was dead, by the sin of the Eigel) by means of creating an illusion.


In exactly the same way it seems, the Sh'mitah-year may appear to cause grave financial losses to those who adhere strictly to its laws. Yet this is nothing more than an illusion. Because the truth is that, the Sh'mitah, like Shabbos, not only does not result in loss, but to the contrary, it blesses the produce of the other six years of those who resolutely observe its laws.

Like the Shabbos, it is a trial of faith for people living in a world that appears to be governed by the laws of nature. However, that is only before one has fulfilled its precepts. After one has kept them, there is no doubt whatsoever, that the land, which spewed out those who spurned its sanctity by sending them into Golus Bavel, will reward handsomely, those who withstand the test and faithfully keep its laws. In the same way as Shabbos always repays those who adhere steadfastly to its principles (like the story told of 'Yosef who honored the Shabbos', and whom the Shabbos repaid for his loyalty).


And perhaps the Torah is hinting at this when it writes at the beginning of the Parshah " ... and the land will rest a Shabbos for Hashem. Six years you shall sow your seeds and six years you shall prune your vineyards, and you will gather its produce". The latter part of the posuk pertains not only to the Sh'mitah-year itself, but to the rest of the years of the cycle. By allowing the land to rest during the Sh'mitah, you will be assured of reaping the full benefit of its produce during the six years that you work on it.

And this message is repeated a little later, when the Torah writes " ... a year of rest shall be for the land. And the resting of the land will be for you to eat, for you, your servants and maidservants, for your hired workers and your sojourners who live with you. All its produce will be for your animals and the wild beasts that are in your land to eat." Here again, the Torah is not referring exclusively to the Sh'mitah-year, but to the other years of the cycle. They too, will receive their blessing from the sanctity of the Sh'mitah-year.


The K'li Yokor first describes the main objective of Sh'mitah as being to counter the dangers of believing in the might of our own hands that was bound to ensue following our entry in to Eretz Yisrael and the economic successes that followed. The Sh'mitah is a gentle reminder that the land belongs to G-d and that He is its Supreme Master, who does not employ the laws of nature in running it. In order to convey this message, says the K'li Yokor, the Torah records three miracles that occurred in each Sh'mitah-year.

1. It was customary to employ a rotation of crops, working the fields for two years, then giving the land one year's rest, to enable it to retain its strength. When Yisrael keep the Sh'mitah however, the Torah writes "Six (consecutive) years you shall sow your seeds ... ". Not four years out of six, but six.

2. At least in the sixth year, after five consecutive years of work, one would have expected the field to show signs of deterioration and to yield a smaller crop. Yet the Torah promises that it will yield a triple harvest to cover the sixth, the seventh and the eighth years (sufficient to last for four years, when the Sh'mitah is followed by the Yovel year). As Hashem promised "And I will command My blessing in that year ... ".

3. And not only that, he says, but Hashem will even impregnate the crops with His blessing, so that the people will eat little and feel satisfied (living healthier lives, as modern health experts will point out).


Since the inception of the State, there has not been a Sh'mitah when the farmers of Eretz Yisrael did not experience widespread miracles. This only goes to prove that, the Sh'mitah year, like the Shabbos, far from being a liability, is really a source of blessing.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)
The Whole World Trembled - Except for Him!

"And G-d spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying" (25:1).

The Torah juxtaposes Har Sinai to the Mekalel (the son of the Egyptian man) who uttered the Holy Name of Hashem and cursed it. When Yisroel stood at Har Sinai, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, and heard the third Commandment "Do not swear by the Name of Hashem in vain", the entire world heard and trembled (in awe of Hashem's Glory). The entire world that is, except for the son of the Egyptian. He, it seems, remained unaffected by the Majesty of Hashem.


He Will not Live

" ... he will live with you. Do not take interest" (25:35/36).

Someone who does not take interest will live. The inference is clear. Anyone who lends on interest, the Torah is teaching, will not live. And so the Novi Yechezkel writes (18:13) "He gave on interest ... he will not live!"


Before and After

"My Shabbosos you shall guard" (26:2).

The Torah here places "you shall guard" after Shabbos, observes the Ba'al ha'Turim. Elsewhere (in Va'eschanan) he points out, the Torah writes "Guard the Shabbos day to sanctify it", reversing the order, placing the command to guard before Shabbos.

This teaches us, the Ba'al ha'Turim concludes, that Shabbos needs to be guarded (to add a few minutes to it [Tosfos Shabbos]) before it comes in, and then again after it goes out.


Parshah Pearls

The Wild Beasts

"ve'hishbati chayoh ro'oh min ho'oretz" ('and I will destroy wild beasts from the land") 26:6. The numerical value of these words is equivalent to that of 'Eilu arba Malchuyos, Bavel, Madai, Yavan, Edom'.

The moment we observe Torah and mitzvos, G-d in His turn will quickly respond and bring the long and bitter golus to an end (Ba'al ha'Turim).


That's How Long it Lasted

"u'Fonisi aleichem" ('And I will turn to you") 26:9.

'I will ignore all My other occupations to reward you for your good deeds', explains Rashi. And when did this take place?

It is contained in the words, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, because "u'Fonisi aleichem" can also be read "u'Fonai tov yud aleichem" meaning 'And My face will turn to you for four hundred and ten years, which is the number of years that the first Beis Hamikdosh stood. This is in keeping with the posuk "And My eyes and heart will be there all the days" (Divrei Hayamim 2 7:16).


"ve'Nosati Mishkoni be'sochechem, ve'Lo sig'al Nafshi eschem" ('And I will place My dwelling among you, and My Soul will not abhor you' (26:11). The numerical value of "Mishkoni" is four hundred and twenty, hinting at the number of years the second Beis Hamikdosh stood, but where the Divine presence was felt with less intensity.


The Six Exiles

The word "ovon" or "avonom" appears six times in the parshah of the Tochochoh. The Ba'al ha'Turim explains that this hints at the six exiles that took place in the time of the first Beis Hamikdosh, three at the hands of Sancheiriv, and three at the hand of Nevuchadnetzar, culminating with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and the final exile to Bavel.


Ya'akov, Yitzchak and Avraham

"And I will remember My covenant with Ya'akov, and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham I will remember, and the land I will remember (too)" (26:42). The Torah lists the Ovos backwards, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, because it is going back in time to recall our Yichus, which goes back to Ya'akov, then to Yitzchok and finally to Avraham, the founder of our people (See also Rashi and K'li Yokor).


One up for Ya'akov

The word "af" ('also', but with connotations of 'anger') appears with Yitzchak and with Avraham, the Ba'al ha'Turim continues, because all of Ya'akov's children were tzadikim (a tremendous merit, which deflates G-d's) anger. Avraham and Yitzchak on the other hand, each had a child who became a rosho. Granted, Yishmael did teshuvah, but look at the children that he left behind! (the misery and troubles that his descendents, no less than Eisav's, have caused and are still causing K'lal Yisrael).

It seems to me that this is another good reason to reverse the order of the Ovos. Had the Torah listed them in the correct order, then it would have had to write "af" with Yitzchak and Ya'akov, and not with Avrohom, and this would not have been justifiable, as we just explained.


The Avos Forever

The Pasuk begins with 'zechirah' and ends with 'zechirah', comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, to indicate that Hashem in His mercy, will never abandon the merits of the Avos. (See Rashi as to why 'zechirah' does not appear in connection with Yitzchak).


All Those Years

The Tochachah until "go'aloh nafsham" (26:43), the Ba'al ha'Turim observes, contains three hundred and ninety words, corresponding to the three hundred and ninety years during which the ten tribes sinned before being sent into exile. Hashem's Name does not appear throughout, because they declared that they wanted nothing to do with the G-d of Yisrael.

This also explains why in Divrei Hayamim, the word "u'Shevu'oso le'Yitzchok" appears with a 'tzadei', whereas in Tehilim, it appears with a 'siyn' (whose combined numerical value makes three hundred and ninety). Because Hashem swore that provided His children would not sin in excess of three hundred and ninety years, He would not exile them.


Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

159/160 ... not to add to and not to subtract from the Mitzvos of the Torah - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (13:1) "Do not add to it and do not subtract from it".

This applies to the oral Torah as well as to the written one. A Chacham who refers to a Rabbinical mitzvah as a Torah law is guilty of adding to the Torah. But when Chazal added Rabbinical laws by way of institutions, to safeguard the Torah or as a decree, and even if they added mitzvos, such as the reading of the Megilah or the kindling of the Chanukah lights in praise of Hashem, they did not transgress 'Bal Tosif', because they clearly defined them as Rabbinical institutions. It would have been a violation of 'Bal Tosif' had they explained that G-d ordained these mitzvos in addition to the Taryag mitzvos that he gave us at Har Sinai. Should a Kohen add one b'rochoh to the three b'rochos of Birchas Kohanim (as prescribed by the Torah), he transgresses this la'av.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


161. ... not to prepare a stone slab for the purpose of prostrating oneself on it (even if it is to bow down to Hashem) - as the Torah writes in Behar (26:1) " ... and do not place for yourselves a stone slab to prostrate yourselves on it".

If one did prostrate oneself on it to Hashem, with arms and legs outstretched, one receives malkos; without arms and legs outstretched, makas mardus.

Someone who prostrates himself to other gods is sentenced to stoning, irrespective of whether his arms and legs are outstretched or not.

In a Shul that has a stone floor, one should take care to spread out mats or other things to divide between one's body and the floor, when bowing down on Yom Kipur.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


162. ... not to erect a matzeivah (an altar) anywhere - as the Torah writes in Re'ei "and do not erect for yourself a matzeivah" (16:22).

A matzeivah is a construction of stones (according to the Ramban, it is a monument comprising one stone only), where many people would gather. The prohibition is based on the fact that it was customary for idolaters to construct them, and therefore applies even if one builds it in the service of Hashem. Someone who transgresses and erects a matzeivah anywhere, even with the sole intention of serving Hashem there, is subject to malkos.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


163. ... not to write a tattoo on one's skin - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:28) "And do not place a tattoo ('k'soves Ka'aka') on yourselves".

'K'soves Ka'aka' is to make scratches in one's flesh and to fill in the scratches with ink or with other dyes. Someone who transgresses is subject to malkos.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


164. ... not to make a bald patch on one's head in one's anguish at having lost someone to whom he felt close - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (14:1) " ... and do not make a bald patch between your eyes for a dead person". This refers to removing one's hair in anguish.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


165. ... not to be superstitious - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:26) "Do not be superstitious".

Like people who consider the bread falling out of one's mouth or one's stick falling down, to be a bad omen. Or like those who decline to travel to a certain place on a certain day, or who divine and say that should such and such a thing happen, he will react in a certain way.

Someone who abides by such a decision has transgressed this la'av.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


166. ... not to be superstitious concerning time - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:26) - " ... and do not be superstitious concerning time". Like those people who give specific periods and times for doing certain things, such as saying that such-and-such a time or month is good to perform certain things (or vice-versa). Anybody who acts upon such information has transgressed this la'av.

So too, is a conjurer, who mesmerizes his audience and makes out as if he was performing wonders, when really he is not, included in this la'av.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


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