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B’HAR-B’CHUKOSAI/CHAZAK - 5769
This Shabbos we read two parshios, Behar and Bechukosai. We also conclude the book of Vayikra and begin reading the book of Bamidbar. The parsha of Behar begins with the words “Hashem spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai and said the following”. The portion Bechukosai ends “These are the Mitzvos which Hashem commanded Moshe transmit to the Bnei Yisroel at Mount Sinai.” Although the entire Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the Torah mentions Mount Sinai in a limited number of instances. From the fact that in both parshios it is mentioned that these are from Mount Sinai, we can infer that the teaching of these Mitzvos include general ideas which apply to the entire Torah which we received on Mount Sinai. It is also understood why we read these portions shortly before Shavuos, when we received the Torah.
The Mitzvah that is discussed in the beginning of Behar is Shemittah. In Eretz Yisroel, every seventh year is the Sabbatical year, during which it is forbidden to perform any agricultural labor. After enumerating all of the prohibitions, the Torah poses a question: “And if you will ask, what will we eat in the seventh year? I will command my blessing in the sixth year and there will be a food for three years.” Often we wonder how we will be able to manage if we live in accordance to the Torah. For some of us, keeping Shabbos seems impossible. Others find other Mitzvos beyond their grasp. The financial, social and emotional pressures of keeping the Torah seem insurmountable. The Torah is teaching us that we must give ourselves over into the hands of Hashem. Hashem is not bound by the laws of nature; He can give a blessing by which minimal efforts produce miraculous results. This pure faith and trust in Hashem is the foundation of the entire Torah.
Meforshim explain that the purpose of the Shmittah year was to dedicate more time to Torah study. This is alluded to in the introductory verse that Hashem said this on Mount Sinai. The purpose of Yetzias Mitzraim was to receive the Torah. The entry into the Eretz Yisroel was a continuation of that goal, fusing the Land and the Torah. Hashem gave us the Shmittah year to give us strength and direction for the other seven years. This is alluded to in the interesting order of the verses. The Torah says when you shall enter the land… the land shall rest. Six years you shall sow… and in the seventh year shall be a Shmittah. Why does the Torah mention the Shmittah before the six years of work? The immersion in Torah is the guiding force of the six years of work. For those of us not engaged in agriculture and outside of Eretz Yisroel, the same lesson applies every Shabbos and every day. Shabbos is a time to learn and gain inspiration and direction for the week. Each day should begin with Torah study to guide the day. This will result in the triple Bracha of Shmittah.
Another Mitzvah that is discussed in both parshios is Yovel, the jubilee year. Every fiftieth year was the Yovel, which was a Shmittah year during which all slaves were freed and all properties were returned to their original owners. The Yovel teaches us that everything in this world belongs to Hashem and we are only using it with His permission. A deeper lesson from Yovel is that since everything belongs to Hashem, even if currently things are bleak, and someone was forced to lose his properties, or even enter slavery, this is only temporary. The Yovel will arrive and he will be freed, and his inherited properties retained. Each of the Bnei Yisroel was freed from bondage at the time of the giving of the Torah. Further, the entire Torah is his inheritance. Sometimes, someone can be enslaved by negative influences, and lose access to his inheritance, the Torah. Yovel teaches us that in truth, he is free, and can always redeem himself. If he doesn’t redeem himself, the time will come when Hashem will free him. Furthermore, his inheritance, The Torah, is always his and can be claimed at any time.
EMOR - 5769
This Shabbos we read parshas Emor, which discusses the Mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer .On the second day of Pesach, a special barley offering was brought in the Mikdosh, the Korban Haomer. This was the celebration of the first new grain crop of the year, and the new harvest was not allowed to be eaten until the Korban Haomer was brought. The word Omer is a measurement of grain. From the day when the Omer was brought, the Torah commands that we count 49 days until the next Yomtov, which is Shavuos when we received the Torah. On Shavuos another special offering was brought, consisting of two Challos from the new wheat crop.
The Midrash teaches that we received the Mitzvah of counting the Omer as a reward for our anxiousness to receive the Torah. When the Bnei Yisroel left Egypt, they were so imbued with anticipation that they counted the days until the Torah was given. In merit of their counting, we were given the Mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer. This teaches us that our feeling of joy towards a Mitzvah should be so great that we should be anxious to fulfill it.
The Mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer has a deep message. The Mitzvah consists of counting days. The Torah teaches us that we must make every day count. Every single day we should reach a level higher and bring the world a step closer to perfection. This is also hinted in the manner in which we count. Rather than counting “this is the thirty-fourth day”, we count “this is thirty four days”. This teaches us that each day we have the accomplishments of the previous days combined with the new heights of today. The word Sefirah has another meaning, which is illumination. By counting the days as we should, we bring illumination into every aspect of the world.
When the Torah describes the counting of the Omer, there is an apparent contradiction. The Torah says count seven weeks and also says to count fifty days. In fact, we count forty-nine days and celebrate the fiftieth day as Shavuos. Chazal explain that there are fifty gates of wisdom, forty-nine of which can be attained through human effort. Through attaining the heights that we can reach through counting forty-nine days, Hashem grants us the fiftieth gate. Since this is connected with our efforts, it is as though we counted and illuminated all fifty gates. The era of Moshiach parallels the fiftieth gate. The revelation will be completely beyond anything we can aspire to through our service of Hashem. Nevertheless, when we do our part, Hashem will do His.