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MAY 14-15, 2004 24 IYAR 5764

Rosh Hodesh Sivan will be celebrated on Friday, May 21.

Pop Quiz: How many of every 50 years must a farmer in Israel leave his field fallow?


"If you will say 'What will we eat in the seventh year?'" (Vayikra 25:20)

The Torah commands the Jewish people to keep the laws of shemitah (sabbatical) and to refrain from planting or harvesting during the seventh year. Hashem promised that if they kept the laws properly, they would be blessed with an abundance of crops during the sixth year which would provide for them until the next planting.

The question is, if so, why will the Jews ask "what will we eat on the seventh year" if they already saw the blessing during the sixth year? One of the commentaries answers that this question will be posed before the sixth year, even during the times of plenty, because it is not really a logical question , but rather, it reflects anxiety and worry by the Jewish people. It is possible for many of us to have abundance for the present and lack nothing, and still we will worry about the future to the extent that we don't even enjoy what we really have. It is OK to prepare for the unknown but we should differentiate between logical concern and irrational worry and anxiety.

The way to overcome these kinds of feelings is through faith and trust in G-d, which the misvah of shemitah helped to instill in the Jews. There are many other commandments which also teach us this very important lesson of faith, such as closing our businesses for Shabbat and holidays, and the monetary laws which demand that we act in a very scrupulous manner. One who tries to strengthen his faith in Hashem will not only have peace of mind about the future, but will enjoy the present as well. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter with you" (Vayikra 25:35)

Our perashah uses a word that is not used very often to describe the financial situation of a person. The word is "yamuch," which means impoverishment. It is used three times, each in a different situation. The first case is if a person is impoverished and needs to borrow money. The Torah warns us not to take interest from him. The second case is if he declines further and must sell himself as a slave to a fellow Jew. In the third case, which is even a greater tragedy, he is forced to sell himself to a non-Jew who is residing in our land. Here the Torah speaks of the ultimate degradation of a Jew in the land of Israel, when he is reduced to being sold as a slave to a non-Jewish resident. Our Sages wonder what caused this Jew to become so poor that he wound up in this terrible situation. Rabbi R. Pelcovitz explains that Rashi provides the answer. The key lies in the words "he becomes impoverished with him" (25:47). Rashi explains that it is due to "his cleaving to the non-Jew and following his ways." The Jew had opted for the company of the non-Jew and was moving away from his people.

What now? One might think that he has forfeited his right to the mercy of his fellow Jews. Nonetheless, the Torah writes (25:48), even after he has been sold, "geulah tihyeh lo - he shall have a redemption." One of his family is urged to pay and redeem him out of his slavery.

We have here a very important lesson. On one hand, the Torah points out that this person was wrong. He had the wrong type of relationships. But, at the same time, the Torah indicates that, regardless of a Jew's foolish actions, he still deserves redemption. Of course, one must first determine that the help given doesn't lead the person to further corruption. After realizing that it doesn't, one should help, never saying that he got himself into this mess, etc. The Torah tells us: redeem him. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"You shall not hurt the feelings of one another and you shall fear G-d" (Vayikra 25:17)

In this verse the Torah commands us to be careful not to say anything to another person that will cause him emotional pain. Rabbi Shlomo Kluger commented: Some people are careless with the feelings of other people and think that they only have to be careful to observe those commandments which involve man's obligation to Hashem. But the truth is that if a person is not careful with his obligations to his fellow men and speaks against them and hurts their feelings, he will eventually be careless with the commandments between man and Hashem. Therefore in the same verse that the Torah warns against hurting the feelings of other people the Torah adds "and you shall fear Hashem." Failure to observe the first half of the verse will lead to failure to observe the latter half of the verse.

Since verbal abuse can cause so much suffering, much care must be taken not to say things to people that will hurt their feelings. The more sensitive a person is, the greater care we must take when speaking to him that we do not cause him pain with our words. Not only is it important to watch what you say to someone, but also your tone of voice is crucial. If you shout at someone or speak in an angry voice, this causes hurt feelings and is included in the prohibition of this verse of the Torah. Every time you speak to someone, you have a choice of saying things that will make him feel good, which is the fulfillment of an act of hesed, or you might say something that will hurt him, which is a violation of this prohibition. Utilize your power of speech to build people up, not to tear them down. (Growth through Torah)


Question: Why is Sidkatecha (in Minhah of Shabbat) not said on days of happiness?

Answer: Since Sidkatecha has a similarity to Sidduk Hadin, which is said upon a death (and, in fact, Sidkatecha itself commemorates the death of three righteous people), it would not be fitting to say it on days of happiness. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"You shall blow the shofar on the tenth day of the seventh month." (Vayikra 25:9)

Every fifty years, on the year of the yobel, anyone who owned a slave was required to set him free. On Yom Kipur, the shofar was blown to announce that it was now time for the slaves to be set free. It also served as a reminder to each slave owner that he was not the only one who would be releasing his slaves. Rather, all Jewish slave owners would be doing the same thing. This knowledge would serve as a consolation to him, and make it easier for him to free his slaves.

Every person has his share of problems. Sometimes one may feel like he is the only one who is being burdened by hardships. It is helpful to remember that everyone, in their own way, has their own set of concerns and troubles. The awareness that "you're not in it alone" will help you to put everything into perspective so that you can more easily cope with whatever difficulties may come your way. In fact, most people, if given the choice to exchange their problems for anyone else's, would elect to keep their own problems. Question: Does the knowledge that others are also suffering help you to cope with your own pain? If you could put all your problems in a sack and trade it with someone else, would you do it?


This Week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 16:19-17:14.

The second perashah of the week, Behukotai, contains promise of prosperity for those who follow the Torah, and rebuke and punishment for those who transgress the Torah. Similarly, the prophet, Yirmiyahu, rebukes the people for their sins, and gives blessing to those who trust in Hashem and follow His ways.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Eight. Seven shemittah years and one yobel.

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