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Behar Summaries

Behar-Bechukotai 5780-2020

“Setting a New Standard of Ethical Behavior”
(Updated and revised from Parashiot Behar-Bechukotai 5761-2001)

We’ve reached a point in society where even simple acts of kindness and honesty are considered “extraordinary.” As we learn in parashat Behar, the Torah’s goal is to transform such actions into ordinary actions. Judaism sets a very high standard–-it aims for Utopia.

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Behar 5779-2019

“Wronging One Another, the Torah’s Unique Viewpoint”
(Revised and updated from Behar 5760-2000)

Jewish law maintains that vulnerable people must be especially protected from abuse. Therefore, one is forbidden to say even truthful things to them or to others that may be hurtful to them. These remarkable Torah laws provide many insights and directives that are intended to help others behave with more sensitivity toward one another, and create a more caring society.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5778-2018

“Torah From Sinai”

The revolutionary laws of Shemitah, of allowing the land to lie fallow every seven years, is a prominent example of laws that confirm the existence of G-d and the divinity of the Torah.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5777-2017

“If Your Brother Becomes Impoverished”

The mitzvah to redeem the land of a fellow Jew who has become impoverished has an important metaphoric message for contemporary times.

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Behar 5776-2016

“Bernie Sanders Meets Parashat Behar”

Among many important themes, parashat B’ha’a’lot’cha contains two fascinating stories about the Israelites in the wilderness. Both stories can be seen as a metaphor for contemporary Jewish life: Jews who feel that their “souls are dried up” and that Judaism has little or nothing to say to them, and Jews who love their Judaism and do not want to miss out on the wonderful benefits of living a full Jewish life.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5775-2015

“The Odd Conclusion to the Book of Leviticus”

Rabbi Dr. Hayyim Angel asks why the book of Leviticus ends with the Tochacha, G-d’s fearsome reproof of the Jewish people, and is followed by a series of instructions regarding the redemption of vows and tithes.

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Behar 5774-2014

“So That Your Brother May Live With You”

The verse in Leviticus 25:36, “That your brother may live with you,” plays a key role in one of the most famous Talmudic discussions.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5773-2013

“The Value of a Woman”

As one would expect, in parashat Bechukotai, there is much discussion and controversy regarding the concept of valuing human beings, especially concerning the lower level at which women are valued.

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Behar-Bechukotai, Yom Yerushalayim 5772-2012

“Living Outside the Land of Israel”

Although the Midrash regards the importance of the mitzvah of dwelling in the land of Israel as equivalent in value to all the other Torah mitzvot combined, the debate still rages today regarding the obligation for all Jews to dwell in the land of Israel.

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Behar-Yom Ha’atzmaut 5771-2011

“A State is not Delivered on a Silver Platter”

One of the most moving stories to be told regarding the contemporary State of Israel, concerns a great European rabbi, Rabbi Yisroel Zeev Gustman and a famed professor of economics, Robert J. Aumann.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5770-2010

“Making a Reckoning”

How does the Torah regard the rights and property of non-Jews? In parashat Behar we learn of a remarkable law that protects the rights of a non-Jew even in a situation where the welfare and security of a Jew might be thought to override those rights.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5769-2009

“Impoverishment: In those Days, in these Times”

In parashat Behar, the poor person is described on several occasions as “mach,” crushed. Judaism’s remarkable laws regarding charity not only address the material losses of an impoverished person, but also attempt to heal the emotional losses of those who have lost their life’s possessions.

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Behar-Yom Ha’atzmaut 5768-2008

“The Incredible Yovel–The Jubilee Year”

In parashat Behar, the Torah introduces the revolutionary concept of Yovel, the Jewish Jubilee year, that was celebrated every fiftieth year of the Sabbatical cycle. According to the commentators, the Jubilee was intended to train the Jews in compassion, charity, and justice. However, it was much more than just that.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5767-2007

“Reward and Punishment”

Parashat Bechukotai speaks of the rewards and punishments that the People of Israel will merit or suffer for adhering or not adhering to G-d’s word. The commentators ask why there seems to be an emphasis on only material rewards like rain and peace, rather than spiritual rewards such as coming close to G-d. How does Divine accountability operate?

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Behar-Bechukotai 5766-2006

“The Economics of Torah”

In parashat Bechukotai we learn of the obligation to bring the Second Tithes as well as Animal Tithes to Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? Since Jerusalem served as the center of Jewish religious and educational life, it needed to be properly supported. It was also the Torah’s way of engaging farmers, from distant communities, in the study of Torah when they visited Jerusalem to bring their tithes.

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Behar 5765-2005

“The Torah’s Revolutionary Economic System”

Parashat Behar often gets lost in the shuffle following Passover and before the summer, and yet contains many revolutionary concepts, challenging the prevailing ideas of both capitalism and socialism. The Torah provides its own modified economic system that attempts to insure the humanity of all people in all situations.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5764-2004

“The Revolutionary Nature of Shemita and Yovel

The first of the double portions, Behar, highlights the practice of Shemita–the Sabbatical year, and Yovel, the Jubilee celebration. These revolutionary ideas, from over 3300 years ago, were light-years ahead of their time, guaranteeing rest and rehabilitation for both people and land. Once again, the Torah shows its understanding for the critical need for universal education and the necessity for sacred time for family and for study, as well as the far-sighted vision of a system that provided for a more equitable distribution of wealth among all the inhabitants of the land.

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Behar 5763-2003

“Understanding Hebrew and Canaanite Servitude”

Parashat Behar presents us with two most perplexing and challenging statutes: Hebrew and Canaanite servitude. What seems on the surface to be two very difficult and primitive concepts, are, in reality, rather enlightened, and there is much that we may learn from them.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5762-2002

“The Extraordinary Mitzvah of Tzedaka, Charity”

The word tzedaka that we mention in Parashat Behar does not mean charity, but rather justice and righteousness. It is not an act of charity to be generous, it is the correct thing to do.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5761-2001

“Setting a New Standard of Ethics”

We’ve reached a point in society where even simple acts of kindness or honesty are considered extraordinary. As we learn in Parashat Behar. It is the Torah’s wish to transform such actions into the ordinary. Judaism sets very high standards–it aims for Utopia.

Link to full version

Behar 5760-2000

“Wronging One Another The Torah’s Unique View Point”

Jewish law maintains that especially vulnerable people must be protected from abuse. Therefore, one is forbidden to say even truthful things that are hurtful to others. The Torah provides many remarkable insights and directives that are intended to help people and society become more sensitive to one another.

Link to full version