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וידבר ד' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר

And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying. (25:1)

Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai concerning the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical/seventh year. Rashi asks: Why Shemittah? How is Shemittah linked to Sinai? He explains that the Torah is teaching us that just like Shemittah is detailed with rules and fine points, likewise, this applies to all mitzvos; their rules and details were taught to them at that time as well. The laws of Shemittah were not repeated again prior to the Jews’ entrance into the Land. As such, everything took place at Sinai, with Shemittah serving as the exemplar, prototype, for all other mitzvos. Is this…

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שש שנים תזרע שדך... ובשנה השביעית שבת שבתון יהיה לארץ

For six years you may sow your field… But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land. (25:3,4)

The mitzvah of Shemittah teaches us that Hashem rules the universe. He is the only force in the universe, not the laws of nature. By allowing his field to remain untended and unguarded, the Jew declares to the world that life is not about material bounty. When Hashem says, “Stop,” we halt our work, our production – whether it is Erev Shabbos or Shemittah. We ascribe to a Higher Power, and we believe with complete faith that Hashem will provide for our needs. During the Shemittah year, all of the produce of that year is hefker, free for all to…

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ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם ונתנה הארץ יבולה ועץ השדה יתן פריו

Then I will provide your rains in their time and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. (26:4)

“Rains in their time” means the time most convenient for people – such as Friday nights when people are generally at home or close by. When we get “wet,” it is for a reason. Hashem defrays anything that might prove to be a nuisance from inconveniencing us. The Midrash, however, adds that, at times, an entire community or even a city might have rain in the merit of one person who needs the benefit it provides. Chazal go so far as to posit that, at times, Hashem may send rain for the benefit of one field, even one blade of…

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או אז יכנע לבבם הערל

Then at last shall their obstructed heart be subdued. (26:41)

Parashas Bechukosai contains within it the first Tochacha, Rebuke/curses, whose purpose is to teach mussar, ethical direction, reproof, in order to inspire them to wake up and repent. This is alluded to by the above pasuk: the rebuke/curses will liberate them from the fetters of the yetzer hora, evil inclination. Additionally, rebuke is a good thing – in that it assures us that Hashem cares. Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, explains that a child who misbehaves knows that he is in for a punishment when his parents become aware of his misdeed. What if they ignore it, ignore him? This implies…

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אך בחמשה עשר יום לחדש השביעי ... תחוגו את חג ד' שבעת ימים

But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month…you shall celebrate Hashem’s festival for a seven-day period. (23:39)

The Festival of Succos, as is the case with all the other festivals, is replete with deep esoteric meaning far beyond the grasp of the average Jew who observes it simply because it is a G-d-given mitzvah. A mitzvah, regardless of the level with which one observes it, and his understanding of its various spiritual facets, have enormous power and incredible influence. Just executing the decree of Hashem, simply because this is the way of a Jew, is powerful, as the following story related by the Tolner Rebbe, Shlita, illustrates. A baal teshuvah, penitent, who had come to the Rebbe…

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ויצא בן אשה ישראלית והוא בן איש מצרי...וינצו במחנה ...ויקב ...ויקלל

The son of a Yisraeli woman went out and he was the son of an Egyptian man …they contended in the camp… and he pronounced the Name … and he blasphemed. (24:10,11)

It was a truly tragic ending to a sinful relationship that had begun years earlier in Egypt. Shlomis bas Divri was a woman of ill repute, whose immoral behavior led to a relationship with an Egyptian that produced a son who later blasphemed the Name of Hashem. It might take time, but a relationship that is prohibited, that is not meant to be, will not bear good fruit unless the poison is expunged. Love conquers all – but Torah. Having said this, we quote Rashi, who explains, Mei heicha yatza, “From where did he (the blasphemer) go out?” Apparently, he…

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ואיש כי יתן מום בעמיתו כאשר עשה כן יעשה לו

And if a man inflicts a wound in his fellow, as he did, so shall be done to him. (24:19)

Kol ha’posel b’mumo posel, “One who finds fault (in others) (he who charges others as being flawed) is (actually) calling out his own blemish (is himself flawed). Chazal (Kiddushin 70a) present for us a psychological appraisal of those who thrive on negativism, especially concerning individuals whom they enjoy criticizing for whatever reason raises their fancy. He who denigrates others should first take a penetrating look at himself and see if, in fact, he has that same flaw. Prior to passing judgment on someone, we should take a stark look at ourselves and ask: “Is that not I whom I am…

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ונתן אהרן על שני השעירים גורלות - גורל אחד לד' וגורל אחד לעזאזל

And Aharon shall place lots on the two goats – one lot “for Hashem” and one “for Azazel.” (16:8)

We all find excuses to justify our chosen way of life. We blame it on an accident of fate – anything to absolve ourselves of our erroneous decisions. Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, applies this idea to the diverse fate experienced by the two Seirei Yom Kippurim, goats used to atone for Klal Yisrael on Yom Kippur: one being used l’Hashem as a sacrifice; and one for Azazel. They were two completely identical goats. Why does one end up as a sacrifice for Hashem, while the other goes to Azazel? Likewise, two people are identical in spiritual background, family lineage,…

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כמעשה ארץ מצרים אשר ישבתם בה לא תעשו וכמעשה ארץ כנען אשר אני מביא אתכם שמה לא תעשו

Like the practice of the Land of Egypt in which you dwelled do not do; and do not perform the practice of the Land of Canaan to which I will bring you. (18:3)

The Toras Kohanim derives from the words, yishavtem bah, “in which you dwelled,” that Egypt was the most morally bankrupt nation (followed by the Canaan), specifically because the Jews lived there. Likewise, the moral turpitude of the Canaanim plunged even lower as a result of its Jewish conquerors/inhabitants. This statement begs elucidation. One would think that the moral standard which the Jews set should have served as an example for these pagans to emulate. Instead, Chazal indicate that they became worse. Why? In his commentary to Toras Kohanim, the Raavad writes: “This means: as a result of the sin of…

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הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך ולא תשא עליו חטא

You shall reprove your fellow and you shall not bear a sin because of him. (19:17)

The Bialystoker Maggid, zl (cited by Horav Gedalya Schorr, zl), posits that we have two forms of tochachah, rebuke. In one instance, the rebuker chastises his fellow, saying, “How could you commit such a sin?” Another scenario has the rebuker challenging his fellow, alleging, “Who are you (who do you think you are) to have the audacity to commit such a grave sin?” In both instances, the rebuker is magnifying the sin and making it greater/larger than the sinner. He is either too small or the sin is too large, but, in any event, the offense is greater than the…

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