Torah Weekly - Parshat Acharei Mot/Kedoshim

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Parshat Behar/Bechukotai

For the week ending 26 Iyar 5761 / May 18 & 19, 2001

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    The Torah prohibits normal farming of the Land of Israel every seven years. This "Shabbat" for the land is called "shemita". This year, 5761, is a shemita year in Israel. After every seventh shemita, the fiftieth year, yovel (jubilee) is announced with the sound of the shofar on Yom Kippur. This was also a year for the land to lie fallow. Hashem promises to provide a bumper crop prior to the shemita and yovel years. During yovel, all land is returned to its original division from the time of Joshua, and all Jewish indentured servants are freed, even if they have not completed their six years of work. A Jewish indentured servant may not be given any demeaning, unnecessary or excessively difficult work, and may not be sold in the public market. The price of his labor must be calculated according to the amount of time remaining until he will automatically become free. The price of land is similarly calculated. Should anyone sell his ancestral land, he has the right to redeem it after two years. If a house in a walled city is sold, the right of redemption is limited to the first year after the sale. The Levites’ cities belong to them forever. The Jewish People are forbidden to take advantage of one another by lending or borrowing with interest. Family members should redeem any relative who was sold as an indentured servant as a result of impoverishment.


    The Torah promises prosperity for the Jewish People if they follow Hashem’s commandments. However, if they fail to live up to the responsibility of being the Chosen People, then chilling punishments will result. The Torah details the harsh historical process that will fall upon them when Divine protection is removed. These punishments, whose purpose is to bring the Jewish People to repent, will be in seven stages, each more severe than the last. Sefer Vayikra, the book of Leviticus, concludes with the details of erachin – the process by which someone vows to give the Beit Hamikdash the equivalent monetary value of a person, an animal or property.



    WHAT THE H...!

    Once in a while you read a newspaper article that makes your blood run cold.

    The chairman of one of the largest Jewish organizations in the world while addressing the young leadership of a large American city was asked for his views on intermarriage.

    He responded by describing a wedding that he been to the previous week. A Jewish clergyman had co-officiated with a Catholic priest. It was, he said, "one of the most beautiful weddings I ever attended." He emphasized how it important it was that the non-Jewish bride be accepted by the community. Intermarriage is inevitable, he said, so "What the h…, we might as well accept them in the community."

    What the h…. This was the message broadcast to those future leaders of the Jewish People. What the h…. Judaism is trivial. Judaism is unimportant. What the h….

    But that’s not what made by blood run cold...

    In a fundamental essay, Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, known as the Mesech Chochma, writes that wherever the Jews find themselves in exile, be it Babylonia, North Africa, Spain, Germany, or Eastern Europe (and we might extrapolate or the United States of America), they try and re-establish the greatness of the Jewish life that they left behind when forced into exile. The Jews are an industrious people and they build fine institutions and rise to high levels of Jewish scholarship. They cannot, however, hope to equal the spiritual achievements or their forbears.

    Human nature being what it is, they desire to excel in some area and thus turn to the cultural milieu of the host nation in which they find themselves. Quickly they rise to the pinnacle of commerce and the arts. Naturally this familiarity with the host culture breeds a climate of freedom which inevitably leads to assimilation and intermarriage.

    The community is threatened by inexorably increasing intermarriage.

    At this point, the Divine Wisdom may decree that the only way to preserve the Jews as a people is to force them into another exile where they will have no choice but to be thrown back on their original identity, forced to once again re-build the infrastructure of a Jewish life.

    "But despite all this, while they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them - for I am Hashem, their G-d." (26:44)

    G-d tells the Jewish People that the reason He has rejected and been revolted by us to the extent that He has exiled us from one country to another in the lands of our enemies is not because He wants to destroy us or annul His covenant with us. To the contrary. He is our G-d. He is always our G-d.

    Sometimes, however, exile and oppression are the only way to prevent us vanishing as a nation.

    When we say "What the hell" - aren’t we inviting the ‘hell’ of exile on ourselves?

    Isn’t that’s enough to make anyone’s blood run cold?


    Yirmiyahu 16:19-17:14




    There was a wealthy trader who lived in Spain. During the Inquisition he was forced to leave his native Cordoba and flee to Morocco with his wife and two daughters. They arrived penniless after a nightmare journey. Shortly after their arrival, his wife sickened and died. Then one of his daughters died. Then the other.

    "Hashem!" He cried. "You have taken everything from me. You have taken my home. You have taken my livelihood. You have taken my wife. You have taken my beautiful children. But there is one thing you can never take from me: My faith in You."

    When a person puts his faith in Hashem, even when it is difficult, he receives help from Heaven. He will find that he comes to a complete trust in Hashem. As the verse states in this week’s haftara: "Blessed is the man who places his trust in Hashem, and Hashem will become his trust." If a person trusts Hashem — Hashem will become his trust.

    Shir Maon in Mayana Shel Torah

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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