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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Behar - Bechukosai

If you will say, "what will we eat in tThe seventh year......." I will ordain My blessing. (25:20,21)

Rashi explains that the Torah's dual We note that Hashem promises His blessing only after Bnei Yisrael will ask the question, "What will we eat?" This is an unrealistic approach. Why would Hashem not ordain His blessing regardless of whether or not the people were anxious about their sustenance? Do those who observe his mitzvos without question deserve to go hungry? Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, offers a practical answer. If Bnei Yisrael had not asked this question, Hashem would have granted an even greater miracle. Indeed, He would have ordained that the initial output of the sixth year would suffice for three years. Since the people were doubtful of Hashem's ability to provide, they lost the opportunity to experience an even greater miracle. Horav Feinstein adds that quite possibly there were two distinct miracles. Those who did not question survived on the basis of the produce of the sixth year, while those whose bitachon was not as great were granted a miracle of lesser significance.

What powerful words! People are granted miracles, but had they exhibited greater trust in the Almighty, they would have sustained yet an even greater miracle. Moreover, even the miracle/salvation for which they prayed might have been granted more easily -- if they would only have maintained more faith in the Almighty. Perhaps, we should consider this insight and place our entire trust in Hashem.

If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him (25:35)

Rashi says, do not wait until he has fallen and must be picked up. It is difficult to raise up someone who is down -- completely. Rather, one should support him, trying to catch him when he is faltering. Give him sustenance; lend him a helping hand, give him the courage to continue. Horav E. M. Shach, Shlita, comments that chesed, kindness, begins with understanding and forethought. We should look around and study the plight of those around us, and with an intelligent eye try to see what it is our friend needs and how we can be of assistance. First we look, then think, and afterwards act. Our acts of chesed should be the result of "seeing" and "thinking", not simply acting. One who thinks before he acts has a more clear appreciation of his act of kindness.

Horav Schach explains that this is the reason we find the word "vayaar", and he saw; regarding Avraham Avinu's noticing the three "wayfarers", repeated twice. First Avraham saw three men, then he saw once again and ran to greet them. Avraham did not act hastily - he saw, it registered in his mind, and he acted. His act of chesed was not a spontaneous or impulsive act. It was well thought out and planned.

This is the meaning of Chazals' dictum, "He who closes his eyes from charity". One who does not see does not give. The reason/excuse he has for not helping is that because he did not see, he did not know about it, etc. Obviously, if one wears blinders or shelters himself from exposure to other people's tzaros, problems, he will be unaware.

How many of us can say that we do not look away when we see a poor, dirty man in need, or a child that is physically or mentally challenged. We think that if we do not look it will go away. Unfortunately, the only thing that will go away is our opportunity to perform a deed of kindness, to help another person in need.

If your brother becomes shall strengthen him.....Do not take from him interest and increase.......and let your brother live with you. (25:35,36)

The prohibition against paying or receiving interest is beyond comprehension. Why should it be forbidden? If it is normal for one to make use of his tools, his animals and his home, why can he not make use of his money? Logically speaking, "renting out" money should be no different than renting out a house. Moreover, interest should be the logical payment to one who has lent his own money to someone who was unable to use his money. Also, if interest is forbidden, why is it permissible to receive interest from a non-Jew? If it is wrong, it is wrong in all instances.

Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, offers a noteworthy insight. He maintains that taking interest is not a breach in society as we know it, in deed, it might even be good business to "rent out" ones' money. It is not the correct thing to do in regard to a brother. One simply does not take interest from his brother. The framework of business is different. What is permissible and even correct in the context of a business deal becomes reprehensible in regard to a brother.

The Torah wants brothers to act as brothers. Those who demand interest destroy the very fiber of achdus, unity, among Klal Yisrael. That is why the Torah emphasized, "If your brother becomes impoverished"...... and let your brother live with you." Different rules apply in regard to family. It behooves us to take stock every once in a while and reflect upon the way we treat our fellow Jew. Is he like family, or have we lost that type of sensitivity --also?


1) If for some reason Shemittah was not observed, is the Yovel still observed?
2) What difference is there between the blowing of the shofar on Yovel and on Rosh Hashana?
3) To which two types of onaah does the Torah allude?
4) During the sixth year, the field will be blessed and will produce sufficient grain for three years. When does it have to produce enough grain for the fourth?
5) What is the prohibition of even maskis?


1) Yes.
2) Tekias Shofar on Rosh Hashanah does not supersede Shabbos except by Bais Din. Tekias Shofar of Yovel is permitted on Shabbos -- anywhere.
3) A) Onaas mammon, cheating people in business, i.e., over pricing; B) Onaas devarim, deceiving people with words or hurting their feelings, i.e., giving people the wrong advice or making fun of their lineage
4) If Yovel follows after Shemittah, the field would have to produce for the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth years.
5) One is not permitted to bow down, spreading out his hands and legs, on a stone floor -- even l'shem Shomayim. It is only permitted in the Bais Hamikdash.


And five of you will pursue one hundred and one hundred will pursue ten thousand. (25:8)

Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of mathematics understands that the ratio presented above is inconsistent. If five Jews can pursue a hundred enemies, then the ratio of one to twenty should translate into a hundred Jews pursuing two thousand. The pasuk, however, does not say that. It writes that one hundred Jews will pursue one thousand of the enemy! Rashi cites the Sifri that infers that when people work as a group, when more people are united in serving the Almighty, the consequences of their actions are much more significant.

A mitzvah, when performed by a large group, has a greater impact than one which is observed by an individual. The Chofetz Chaim proves this from the mitzvah of zimun, the introductory blessing recited before Bircas HaMazon, grace after meals. When three men bentch together, they say, "Nevareich," "we will bless". When ten men bentch together, they say "Nevareich le'Elokeinu", "we will bless to our G-d." When one thousand bentch together, the blessing changes to "Nevareich l'Hashem Elokeinu Elokei Yisrael", " we will bless Hashem, Our G-d and the G-d of Yisrael." The aggregate power of a multitude of Jews is remarkable. There is no fixed ratio for correlating the effect of a few Jews who observe mitzvos to the combined effort of many. Consequently, one should always seek to include himself in the tzibbur, communal effort of mitzvah performance.

There is a story told about a scholarly meshulach, fund-raiser for the Slutzker Yeshivah, who came to the Chofetz Chaim regarding his desire to change vocations. It seems that his financial situation at home had improved. Now he wanted to retire and take a position as rav in a smaller community, enabling him to study Torah on a more consistent basis. He explained to the Chofetz Chaim that while he did find time to study Torah, because his mind was so involved in his overwhelming responsibility to the Yeshivah, he found it difficult to concentrate on his learning and even on his daily tefillos. Instead of concentrating on his prayers, he was thinking of the best manner in which to approach a specific wealthy donor. In a different setting, in a more relaxed atmosphere, he would be able to study Torah and daven to Hashem on a much loftier plane.

The Chofetz Chaim wished the fund-raiser success in his new endeavor and bid him farewell. Just as he reached the door, the Chofetz Chaim called to him, "Would you by chance know the price of a pair of shoes?" The man, taken aback, responded, "I really have not purchased a pair of shoes in quite some time, but I would venture that they are about ten rubles." Just before he opened the door to leave, the Chofetz Chaim asked him, "How much profit do you think the shoemaker makes on a pair of shoes?" Dumbfounded by the Chofetz Chaim's behavior, the meshulach responded, "I really do not know; I never was a shoemaker."

It was not over --- yet. "Let us attempt to calculate the shoemaker's profit." After factoring in the cost of leather, labor and various overhead expenses, they arrived at a handsome profit margin for the shoemaker. Just as the meshulach was about to leave for the third time, the Chofetz Chaim turned to him and asked, "Are these the only shoes available for the consumer, or are there other types of shoes?" "Well, there are custom made shoes and factory made shoes." "Which are more expensive?" "The custom made shoes are more expensive, since much more meticulous labor is involved in making them."

"If this is the case, the shoemaker must do quite well, even better than the owner of the factory." "No, rebbe, on the contrary," the fund-raiser responded, "it is the factory owner who is really wealthy. True, his profit margin is reduced in comparison to the shoemaker, but he produces thousands of shoes, many more times the amount made by the shoemaker."

The Chofetz Chaim now turned to the meshulach and said, "You would do well to heed your own words. You would like to retire from what truly is a demanding job, so that you will no longer be distracted from Torah study and tefillah. You are probably right in assuming that your personal growth will be enhanced. Your work on behalf of the Yeshivah benefits hundreds of young men who will be enabled to study and pray as a result of your efforts. Can you compare your personal achievement to the incredible benefit you avail Klal Yisrael?"

While this thesis in no way is meant to encourage one to sacrifice his personal learning for every communal endeavor, it simply demonstrates the extreme importance of communal work and the overwhelming benefit of koach ho'rabim, the power of a multitude of Jews.

But if you will not listen to Me......and if you despise My laws (26:14,15)

Rashi explains the phrase, "and if you despise My laws," as meaning, "if you despise the performance by others of My laws." In his commentary on Rashi, the Mizrachi gives further meaning to this statement when he says this refers to one who, although performing mitzvos himself, resents others who do the same. This explanation is striking. It is also a condemnation of so many of us who do not tolerate the spiritual achievements of others, especially if we think they are plagurizing our own efforts. For instance, one organization has succeeded in building up a following. Suddenly, another well-meaning group attempts to do their own thing and also reach out to others. The reactions are regrettably the same throughout most of our community --- indignation, and resentment! Instantly, the righteous l'shem Shomayim attitude that seemed to have prevailed until now disappears.

This is the underlying meaning of the pasuk. If we are all working for the sake of Heaven to glorify Hashem's Name, can there be any reason for not encouraging others to follow suit?

And if you will not listen to Me....and I will set My face against you. And you shall be smitten before your enemies.....and I will bring a sword upon you executing the vengeance of the Covenant....and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. (29:14,17,25)

The main feature in Parashas Bechukosai is the Tochachah, admonition, the curses to befall Klal Yisrael as a result of their transgressions. The Torah speaks in a sharp tone as it describes in detail the terrible calamities to strike us for our iniquitous behavior. Destruction, havoc, terrible illness and devastation are the main topics of these curses. Did the Torah have to go into such detail? Could the punishments not have been tempered, expressed in milder language? Such strong words could really frighten someone!

Horav Moshe Swift, zl, feels that this specifically was the Torah's intention. Tell it like it is! Let the people see the results of their behavior. People always seem to find excuses for dismissing Shabbos, kashrus, taharas ha'mishpacah, purity of family life. It has almost become the battle cry of those who have chosen an alternative to the Torah way of life: "The Torah is archaic. Its laws and admonitions do not apply in today's progressive society." They have the audacity to dismiss the Torah.

To these skeptics, the Torah responds in a language that is not ancient, a language that everyone can understand. If you keep the Torah, if you choose mitzvos as a way of life -- you will be rewarded. If you choose to ignore the Torah, to desecrate its laws, to abolish its commandments, then you may expect the tochachah. You can look forward to the dreadful details, to the curses all described in detail. No cover up - just plain, simple terms. If you comply, then Hashem is near you. You will reap the benefits of your commitment. If you are determined to rebel--well; you may look forward to desolation, destruction and misery. Can it be stated any more simply?


1) What is the meaning of the brachah, "And you will eat your bread to satisfaction"?
2) Which phrase alludes to the Churban Bais Hamikdash?
3) The Torah says that Hashem will remember the merit of Avraham and Yaakov. Why does the Torah not mention Yitzchak Avinu?
4) When one redeems kodoshim he must add a fifth. Is that really equivalent to a fifth?
5) Do the Kohanim partake of the meat of Maaser Beheimah after the blood has been sprinkled upon the Mizbayach?


1) Even a lesser amount of food will suffice to give one satisfaction.
2) "And I will break the pride of your might (26:19)" alludes to the churban Bais Hamikdash.
3) The concept of "remembrance" does not apply, since the "ashes" of the Akeidah are piled upon the Mizbayach before Hashem.
4) No. It is actually twenty percent of a fourth, which when added to the total constitutes a fifth.
5) No. The owner may now eat it in Yerushalayim.

In Loving Memory of Our Daughter & Sister

Seliga Ahuva Schur Mandelbaum k"z

Her life was a lesson in the middah of chesed


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