Monday, April 29, 2013

One Body United

Parshat BeHar – Be’Chukotai
Vayikra 25:1 – 27:34

24 Iyar 5773 / May 3-4, 2013

One Body United
by Tanya Gutsol, NY-RSJ Alumni
Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: 'Speak to the entire Community of Israel and tell them You must be Holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am Holy.'" [Vayikra 19:1-2].
The Medrash comments on this verse, that it was said to all the Jewish people together. Where as most of the Torah was taught to Moshe, who taught it to Aharon, then to his sons, then to the Elders, then to the rest of the people (Talmud Bavli Eiruvin 54b), here however, Moshe taught this parsha initially in everyone's presence.
What is unique about this parsha? The Medrash answers that this parsha is different because most of the fundamentals of Torah are dependent on this parsha. Simply understood since there are so many mitzvos taught in so few verses, it was said in the presence of everyone.
Behar begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded not to plant their fields or tend to them in the seventh year. Also included in this portion are: the ability to redeem land which was sold; to strengthen your fellow Jew when his/her economic means are lacking; not to lend money to your fellow Jew with interest; the laws of indentured servants. The portion ends with the admonition not to make idols, to observe the Shabbat and to revere the Sanctuary. The second portion for this week, Bechukotai, begins with the many blessings we will receive for keeping the commandments of the Torah. It also contains the Tochachah, words of rebuke, "If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments..." There are seven series of seven punishments each.
Perhaps we can explain this in another fashion as well. 
The Medrash Vayikra Rabbah states that this parsha contains a rephrasing or allusion to each of the Aseres Hadibros, the Ten Commandments.
The Medrash links the tenth commandment, Thou shall not covet, with the pasuk "Love your neighbor as yourself." [19:18]
As if there is a positive and negative commandment to "not coveting". Not only don't be jealous but be happy that HE has!
Rabbi Akiva says "Love your neighbor as thy self" is the great rule of Torah! (Toras Kohanim 4:12)
Hillel says: “This is all of Torah, all else is just commentary!”(Talmud Bavli Shabbos 31a)
Perhaps this is why this parsha is so imperative to be said to all at once.....A lesson of happiness for another’s success. If we understand that the Jewish people are one unit, there is no reason for one organ to be jealous of another organ. Rather I should be happy for what my "other organ" has!
As Moishe House residences we open our homes daily to strangers without thinking twice. We provide food, time and hospitality. We create an environment where everyone is welcomed and it’s safe to share failures without being judged or successes followed by cheering. We visit one another in different states or even countries and enjoy seeing nice and cozy houses, successful programs, large communities built by our peers. We don’t feel any competition, more than that we are proud to be a part of a big global family. One unity with the same goal for all: “to provide meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults.”  So as Moses taught this Torah portion to all the Jewish people together, this week let’s try to pass this message on our community members worldwide and remind them that in the compassionate and sensitive way we are required to relate to all humankind - it is not dependent on how we feel today but on the degree of commitment we make to the obligation the mitzvot placed upon us. It is not an easy task, but it will only make us greater and help to repair and enrich the world.


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