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ונסתם ואין רדף אתכם

You will flee, though none chase after you. (26:17)

Fear of an unknown enemy (or demons, in today’s vernacular) is a terrible curse. It is a miserable way to live. To be beset by imagined fears and phobias takes a toll on a person. His life comes to a halt, his cognitive lucidity off balance, because he is afraid to do anything out of fear of consequences. The systems upon which a person’s basic needs are built are interrupted, often taking down the “victim” and those who have the misfortune to be in his proximity. A modern-day term for describing fear of an unknown enemy which one has convinced…

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והיה ערכך חמשים שקל כסף

The valuation shall be fifty silver shekels. (27:3)

Chazal (Megillah 23b) distinguish between arachin, valuations, which are a set amount established by the Torah, and damim, money/assessments, which are based upon a person’s worth (on the slave market). Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, posits that the Torah is teaching us that two variant circumstances, conditions, determine how to view a person. First is a person’s established level – as expected of him, based on standards. This is similar to an established expectancy that at (for example) age 20, an individual should be proficient in various disciplines. At age thirty, he should have progressed beyond this to a different level….

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וזכרתי את בריתי יעקב ואף את בריתי יצחק ואף את בריתי אברהם אזכר

I will remember My covenant with Yaakov, and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham will I remember. (26:42)

Rashi observes that zechirah, remembering, is mentioned concerning Avraham Avinu and Yaakov Avinu – but not in connection with Yitzchak Avinu. He explains that Yitzchak’s “ashes” (His ashes are considered to be as they would have been if the Akeidah had occurred, and Avraham had offered his son, Yitzchak, on the altar as a korban, sacrifice, to Hashem) are piled up on the Mizbayach. Remembering applies to something which is no longer extant. Yitzchak’s ashes are present. Thus, the term “remembering” does not apply concerning him. Anyone reading this should immediately wonder how the concept of forgetting applies to Hashem….

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ואם תלכו עמי קרי ולא תאבו לשמע לי ויספתי עליכם מכה

If you will behave casually with Me and refuse to heed Me, then I shall lay a further blow upon you. (26:21)

Rashi explains keri, casually, as applying to one who is observant, yet his performance of mitzvos is, at best, erratic and haphazard. His attitude toward mitzvos is not one of obligation, but rather, of convenience and choice, sort of being in the “mood” of performing a mitzvah. Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, writes that when his Rebbe, Horav Moshe Schneider, zl, would read this pasuk, he would weep. He remarked that this pasuk refers to the Jew who fulfills mitzvos, who studies Torah, but it is not an obligation for him. He learns when he wants, attends a shiur at will….

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אם בחוקתי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו

If you will go in My statutes and observe My commandments. (26:3)

Rashi comments: One might be able to think that this (teilechu, you will go) refers to the fulfillment of mitzvos. Then, when it follows with “And (you will) observe My commandments,” that the fulfillment of mitzvos has been stated. (There is no reason to reiterate the enjoinment of mitzvah observance). There is no interpretation for Im b’chukosai teilechu, other than shetiheyu ameilim baTorah, that you should be laboring in Torah. Much has been written concerning Rashi’s well-known commentary; if one values Torah study, then he is more than happy to exert himself to master it. Torah achievement is granted by…

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העשירי יהיה קדש לד'

The tenth one shall be holy to Hashem. (27:32)

According to halachah, the tenth animal to pass through the pen is designated as maaser beheimah, tithe of animals, and becomes holy – even if the owner does not actually verbalize the words, Kodesh l’Hashem, “Holy to Hashem.” Nonetheless, the Torah demands that one articulate the words. Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, derives an important lesson from here, which can – and should – be applied not only to educating and raising our children, but, indeed, to all interpersonal relationships. Even if something is already holy, its kedushah, sanctity, must be maintained. If not – it will lose its sanctity. Likewise,…

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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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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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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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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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