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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to ParshaHomepage Previous Issues

Vol. 5 No. 30

Parshas Be'Har

Between Man and Man

Perhaps one of the most beautiful facets of our Torah is the integration of the mitzvos pertaining to one's fellow-man into the Taryag mitzvos. Not only does the Torah exhort us to love him and to respect him, not to harm him or his property, not to murder, steal or rape; not only does the Torah command us to help our fellow-Jew bodily and financially, to provide him with his needs or to assist him with interest-free loans, but it actually reserved one of the two luchos for mitzvos between man and man.

And when the Torah instructs us to "love your neighbour like yourself", which R. Akiva explained to mean that what you would not like done to you, do not do unto others, then we cannot help but realise just how seriously the Torah approaches this section of mitzvos. Someone who adheres to the mitzvos 'she'bein odom la'chaveiro' is dealing with an integral part of the Torah which is no less significant than the mitzvos 'she'bein odom la'Mokom', and he will be judged and treated in Heaven by the same standard of moral ethics that he employs in dealing with others (see Rosh Ha'shonah 17a).

Consequently, someone who refrains from transgressing a negative command against his fellow-Jew or who performs a positive mitzvah to assist him in any way, becomes sanctified, no less than if he had davened the Shema, taken a lulav or put on Tefillin - and perhaps even more. ‘Perhaps even more’, because every 'bein odom la'chaveiro' incorporates 'bein odom la'Mokom', due to the fact that, besides affecting one's fellow-man, it is also a divine command.

This lesson is particularly relevant during the days of Sefiras ho'Omer, when 24,000 disciples of R. Akiva died, because they failed to behave with due respect towards one another. In their enthusiastic preparations for the forthcoming 'Z'man Mattan Toroseinu', they seem to have got carried away with their devotions in their 'bein odom la'Mokom' and, in the process, they failed to pay equal heed to their 'bein odom la'chaveiro'. This would be a more refined version of the man who, in his eagerness to get to Shul early on Erev Rosh ha'Shonah, jumped out of bed and knocked over the chair, rattled the neigel-vasser bowl, arousing his son with a shout to 'get ready for Slichos' and slammed the front door shut as he clattered out into the yard.

In the process of his Slichos preparations, he woke up his wife and family - and the neighbours too - at 4.00 in the morning. He would have been deemed more worthy had he stayed in bed. Serving Hashem with zeal, whilst not paying equal attention to our fellow man's needs, be they with regard to finance, health or peace of mind, may often enter into the realm of 'mitzvah ha'bo'oh ba'aveiro' (a mitzvah performed through a sin) and the mitzvah is invalidated (though the sin is not).

This week's Parshah is mainly concerned with the Shmitah (7th) and Yovel (50th) years, two mitzvos which one would consider to be very much 'bein odom la'Mokom' - after all, they are called Shabbos years and serve largely to remind us that Hashem is Master of the world, and not us - an object-lesson in faith. Yet the Torah uses the opportunity to launch a steady spate of mitzvos 'bein odom la'chaveiro' - not to cheat, not to hurt someone verbally, to lend without taking interest, to support financially, not to exploit a servant, etc., all of which are connected directly or indirectly to the mitzvah of Shmittah. And of course, one aspect of the Shmittah itself is markedly 'bein odom la'chaveiro', inasmuch as when we relinquish ownership of our produce and fruit once every seven years, we automatically grant the poor, the widows and the orphans the thrill of collecting their food for the best part of that year, alongside the rich and the aristocratic, from the fields and the vineyards of their choice.

Such are the hidden charms of a mitzvah and such are its mystical powers that, when one mitzvah draws on another, it draws on even mitzvos of a vastly different character. Someone who fulfills a mitzvah 'she'bein odom la'Mokom' will even be afforded the opportunity of fulfilling mitzvos 'she'bein odom la'chaveiro' as well.

Parshah Pearls
Parshas Be'har

Some Dinim of the Shmittah-year

1. The Torah forbids reaping the corn or harvesting the grapes in the regular way. An irregularity (such as picking only small quantities) is required. Source: "Lo siktzor" and "lo sivtzor" (Va'yikro 25:5).

2, When Shmittah terminates, working on the tree becomes permitted immediately, whereas the fruit remains forbidden until (the fruit that grows) after the 15th Sh'vat. Source: "Sh'nas Shabboson" (instead of "Shabbas Shabboson") (25:5).

3. One is not permitted to eat any fruit from a field or tree that was kept guarded, and not made Hefker to the public.
Source: "Ve'hoyso Shabbas ho'oretz" (25:6).

4. Not only are eating and drinking permitted in the Shmittah, but so are annointing and dyeing and other kinds of benefit - provided that that is the primary use of that particular commodity (refer also to 7).
Source: "Vehoyso Shabbas ho'oretz lochem" (25:6).

5. Shmittah-produce is forbidden to non-Jews (refer also to 10). Source: "...lochem" (25:6). * 6. One may use up Shmittah- produce (whilst benefitting from them), provided the benefit that one derives, comes simultaneously with its destruction (e.g. consumption). One may not however, burn wood that grew in the Shmittah, since its destruction precedes the benefit that one derives from it.
Source: "Lochem le'ochloh" (25:6) - to compare other benefits to eating.

7. One may eat Shmittah-produce, but not spoil it - e.g. throw it away, damage it, or even use if for an inferior purpose to the one for which it was originally intended (e.g. annointing or dyeing with something that is fit to eat, or even to use it as a cure).
Source: "le'ochloh" (25:6) - ve'lo lehefsed.

8. Shmittah-produce is meant for eating but not for selling or commerce, nor even for the purchase of sacrifices.
Source: "lochem" (25:6) - and not for buisness purposes. "Le'ochloh" - and not for the purchase of sacrifices.

9. Shmittah-produce is Hefker to all, rich and poor alike.
Source: "Lecho, u'le'avdecho ve'la'amosecho" (25:6).

10. Shmittah-produce may be eaten by your workers - even non-Jewish workers.
Source: "u'le'soshovcho ha'gorim imoch" (25:6).

11. As soon as any particular commodity becomes obsolete in the fields, it becomes totally forbidden (even what still remains of it in the house), and must be destroyed. For this purpose, Eretz Yisroel is divided into three regions, North, South and Transjordan.
Source: "ve'li'vehemtecho ve'la'chayoh" (25:7).

12. It is forbidden to remove Shmittah-produce from Eretz Yisroel.
Source: "asher be'artzecha" (25:7).

13. Shmittah-produce never loses its sanctity (and it therefore becomes forbidden at the time mentioned in 11). Consequently, if a garment was washed with peels of Shmittah-produce, it must be burned.
Source: "tihye kol tevu'osoh" (25:7).

14. Similarly Shmittah-produce cannot be redeemed. It always retains its sanctity.

About the Mitzvos

A basic principle of Judaism is that all Jews are responsible for one another - 'Kol Yisroel areivim zeh bo'zeh'.

This has dual connotations of the tremendous individual responsibility that each Jew must bear with regard to every sphere of action on the part of his fellow-Jew, and the subsequent right, and even duty, of the one Jew to rebuke his friend should he fail to live up to his obligations. And it is precisely on account of that responsibility (which binds Jews together as if they were one collective entity), that nobody can say that what he does is his business and is no concern of his fellow-Jew.

This principle is derived from the possuk in Bechukosai (26:37) "and one man will stumble because of (for the sins of) his 'brother'" - note the term ‘brother’. We, as a nation, rise together and we fall together, as illustrated in the powerful parable of the man on the sinking ship, who explained to the captain that he was knocking holes in the walls of his own cabin, and that it was nobody else's business.

And it is precisely on account of that responsibility, that your personal responsibilities are no less my responsibility to fulfill, and of course,vice-versa.

Consequently, the concept of shlichus (the possibility of one Jew executing a mitzvah on behalf of another, provided it is done with his consent and [when applicable] on the body of the person who is obligated), takes on new proportions.

One Jew is able to recite a b'rochoh - Kiddush, shall we say - and enable another Jew to fulfill his duty at the same time (either by answering 'omein' or through the principle of 'hearing is like saying it oneself') - that is a regular branch of 'shlichus'.

But that he is able to do so, even when he has already discharged his own personal obligation (e.g. he already heard kiddush or blew the Shofar), and even to recite a b'rochoh again ( although, under different circumstances, this would be considered a b'rochoh recited in vain), is not a regular branch of shlichus, but the direct result of 'Kol Yisroel areivim zeh bo'zeh'!

(The Mitzvos Asei)

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

31. To desist from work on Yom Kippur - as the Torah writes in Emor (Va'yikro 33:22) "It is a day of complete rest ("Shabbos Shabboson", exactly as the Torah writes by Shabbos) for you". Anyone who works on Yom Kippur has nullified a positive mitzvah, and transgressed a negative one (see mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh 151). One is chayov koreis for working deliberately on Yom Kippur, and a sin-offering for transgressing inadvertently (forgetting that it was Yom Kippur or that that particular act was forbidden on Yom Kippur).

'Chayav koreis' means premature death at the Hands of G-d (though there are different opinions as to what exactly this entails).

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

(Please note that Mitzvah 31 ["To fast on Yom Kippur"], quoted in Parshas Kedoshim, should have been Mitzvah 32.)

33. To repent from one's sins and to confess at having sinned - before Hashem (alone) - as the Torah writes in Noso (Bamidbor 5:5-7) "A man or a woman . . . and they shall confess their sins". This is the verbal confession before Hashem. One should say from the depths of one's heart 'Please Hashem, I sinned (inadvertently), I was iniquitous and I sinned out of rebelliousness before you; I did the following (and here he should specify the sin or sins that he transgressed). I regret my misdeeds and am ashamed of them. Never will I do this again.' The most important thing however, is genuine remorse for the past, and a firm undertaking never to repeat the sin in thr future, a major issue in the mitzvah of teshuvah. The more one confesses, the better it is. Even death and the confession of Yom Kippur will not atone for one' s sins, unless they are accompanied by teshuvah.

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

34. To desist from work on the first day of Succos - as the Torah writes in Emor (Va'yikro 23:35) "On the first day is a holy calling". The din is the same as that of the first day of Pesach (Mitzvah 25).

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

35. To dwell in a Succah during the seven days of Succos - as the Torah writes in Emor (Va'yikro 23:42) "You shall dwell in huts for seven days". Throughout the seven days of Succos (referred to by Chazal as 'Chag') one eats, drinks and lives in the Succah, both by day and by night. (Of particular importance is sleeping in the Succah, so much so, that the halochos of sleeping are even more stringent than those of eating and drinking.) On the first night of Succos, one is obligated to eat at least a kezayis of bread in the Succah; from then onwards, the obligation is restricted to someone who wishes to eat bread - and sometimes cake. Other food may be eaten outside the Succah (though it is preferable to eat them in the Succah, if a Succah is available).

A child who has reached the age of Chinuch (who is no longer tied to his mother's apron strings) is obliged Rabbinically, to eat in the Succah.

This mitzvah applies everywhere, at all times, to men but not to women. (A woman may however, volunteer to perform it - and Ashkenazi women may even recite a b'rochoh over it.)

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to ParshaHomepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel