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Shalom and Bracha!

This Shabbat we read the portion of Behar. The portion begins with the words “Hashem spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai and said the following.” Although the entire Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the Torah mentions the connection to Mount Sinai in a limited number of instances. Introducing the portion by mentioning Mount Sinai teaches that the lessons of this portion are relevant to the entire Torah that was given on Mount Sinai.

The Mitzvah that is discussed in the beginning of the portion is Shemittah. In Israel, every seventh year is the Sabbatical year, during which it is forbidden to perform any agricultural labor. This year is a Shemittah year. 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 Shabbat seems impossible. Others find other Mitzvot beyond their grasp. The Torah is teaching us that we must give ourselves over into the hands of Hashem. For Hashem, the bounds of nature pose no challenge. He can give a blessing by which minimal efforts produce miraculous results. This faith is the foundation of the Torah.

Commentaries explain that the purpose of the Sabbatical 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 the Exodus was to receive the Torah. The entry into the land of Israel was a continuation of that goal, fusing the Land and the Torah. Hashem gave us the Sabbatical 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 that when you shall enter the land… the land shall rest. Six years you shall sow… and in the seventh year shall be a Sabbatical. Why does the Torah mention the Sabbatical 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 Israel, the same lesson applies every Shabbat and every day. Shabbat 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 same triple Bracha as keeping Shemittah.

Another Mitzvah that is discussed in the portion is Yovel, the jubilee year. Every fiftieth year was the Yovel, which was a sabbatical 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 Jew 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.

The Yovel parallels the coming of Moshiach, when Hashem will break the bondage of our negative side and reveal the true depths of our inheritance, the Torah. May we rejoice in Moshiach’s coming in these days of the preparation for Shavuot.

Shabbat Shalom,

 Rabbi Biggs

In memory of Reb Dovid Ben Yaakov Yosef Raskin

May his soul rise from height to height

B"H

Pesach Sheini-Never Too Late

 This Wednesday (May 18th) is Pesach Sheini, the second Pesach. We do not say Tachanun on Pesach Sheini. It is customary to eat a piece of Matzah. After the Jewish people built the Tabernacle in the desert, Hashem commanded them to bring the Pesach sacrifice. A group of Jews came to Moshe with a complaint. “We are impure, and therefore we cannot bring the Pesach offering. Why should we be excluded from offering Hashem’s sacrifice in the appropriate time?” Moshe responded that he would ask Hashem. Hashem responded that if someone was impure of far away at the time of Pesach, a month later they could bring the Passover sacrifice and it was to be eaten with Matzah and bitter herbs the following night.

 This story has a powerful lesson. Pesach Sheini teaches us that we are never lost. The Torah uses two terms; impure and distant. The Torah adds the term Lachem, which means of your own volition. Sometimes we feel as though we have defiled ourselves, and Hashem will no longer accept us. Sometimes we fell estranged and ignorant of Judaism. The Mitzvah of Pesach Sheini teaches us that however distant and impure we are, and whatever the cause is, Hashem wants us to participate in Judaism and creates a second chance for us.

Another poignant lesson is in our attitude to Mitzvot. Some people seek to absolve himself from Mitzvot. If they must, they will do a Mitzvah, but if they can get out of it, great! This leads to constantly seeking leniencies (heterim) rather than doing Mitzvot the proper way. This is the antithesis of love for Hashem. If we love Hashem, any opportunity to come closer to Him becomes our goal. If there is a Mitzvah to be done, we must seek with our whole hearts to participate. This is exemplified by the Jews who asked to be included in the Pesach offering. According to Halacha, they were Patur (exempt) from Pesach. Rather than taking the easy way, they begged to be included.

This teaching amplifies our yearning for Moshiach. Most of the Mitzvot cannot be performed today, either because they are connected to the Temple or they apply in Israel when the entire Jewish are there. We are missing out! Other generations witnessed the glory of Hashem’s revelation and the miracles in the Temple. We are missing out! We are in the imminent throes of Moshiach’s coming. We must whole heatedly cry out to Hashem “Why should we be excluded!” Just as Hashem answered then, He will surely answer us now!!

Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to David Burman on the occasion of his birthday. May Hashem grant him a successful  and blessed year.

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