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Home » B'Har

Behar: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on May 11, 2008 – 4:02 amNo Comment | 2,704 views

Sunday: Three-Fifty-Four

Why are we obligated to let our fields lie fallow once every seven years? Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz offered the following explanation. There are fifty-two Shabbats in a year, amounting to 312 Shabbats over the course of six years. Seven annual Biblical holidays, the first and last of Pesach, the first and last of Sukkot, the days of Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, add forty-two days to the total number of rest days in a six year period. Even as the farmer rests on these days, the field itself does not; it continues to grow its crop. To make up for these missed rest days, the field lies fallow for one full year, or three-hundred and fifty-four days (the average number of days in a lunar year). Tiferet Yonatan

Monday: Soft Tongues

Rabbi Yehudah the Prince invited his students to a feast and presented them with platters of roasted tongue. There were soft and tough tongues on the platters and the students selected the soft tongues.  Whereupon Rabbi Yehudah exclaimed, Understand the meaning of your actions. Just as you select the soft tongues and eschew the tough ones so should your tongues be soft toward each other. This is the meaning of the verse, “Do not aggrieve one another.”  Midrash Rabbah

Tuesday: Two of a Kind

Strangers are alone in their world. No one understands them or relates to them, until, that is, they happen upon each other. In ordinary circumstances they might have nothing in commong, but being alone in a strange land they have reason to bond. In each other, strangers find kinship; they understand and empathise with each other.

G-d is alone in this world. No one understands or knows Him. Israel is also alone, we have no peer or partner. We are not closer to G-d than other humans are, but we share a special bond with G-d. He is alone and we are alone and in our isolation we find kinship. This is what G-d meant when He told us, “You are strangers and kinsmen with me.” Degel Machine Efraim

Wednesday: A Hidden Language

Beyond their literal meaning, words of Torah communicate multiple messages on a variety of levels. Thus when the Torah speaks of ancestral properties sold by impoverished Jews that were redeemed by the poor Jew’s close relatives, we seek interpretation beyond the literal.

A Jew who is spiritually poor, lacking in Torah observance, might sell or exchange his or her ancestral loyalties to Torah in exchange for transient pleasures. When this occurs it becomes the obligation of those who are closely related to this Jew (since the Jewish nation is like one large family it becomes the obligation of every Jew) to help this Jew redeem his or her lost Jewish spark. This can only be accomplished by close relatives (a fellow Jew) because such transformation can only be accomplished through empathy and love. Or Pnei Moshe

Thursday: He Lives with You

All humans seem equal on the surface, yet we we’re not born with equal destinies. Some are destined for wealth; others for poverty. Why does G-d distribute His blessing unevenly? Our sages tell us this is done to give the wealthy opportunity to share their wealth. Now consider, if you are wealthy and your fellow Jew suffers poverty only to give you opportunity to fulfill the Mitzvah of charity, do you not owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude, not to mention a monetary debt?

This is what the Torah means when it says, “You should support him and your brother shall live with you.” You should support him because he is your equal and, by rights, should live with you meaning on your level. The only reason he is poor is to give you opportunity to raise him up so raise him up and allow him to live with you. Maharam Shik

Friday: Acquiring a Master

Our sages taught that one who leases the services of a Jewish servant has acquired a master rather than a servant. Strict laws govern the treatment of indentured Jewish servants. A master may not assign them tasks that are not in keeping with their dignity or that they are not accustomed to performing. He may not eat his own meal before he has provided for his servants. He may not even ask his servant to walk behind him on the street and carry his belongings. At all times, an effort must be made to preserve the servant’s dignity. Why? Because every Jew, even an indentured servant, is a Divine Prince.

Saturday: A Divine Contract

Another reason we may not drive an indentured servant to backbreaking labor is because the Divine contract takes precedence. Every Jew is indentured to the service of G-d and is thus required to preserve his strength for Divine worship. Should the servant expend all his energy in service of his human master his original contract with G-d would suffer.

Today, slavery is no longer practiced, however, today we indenture ourselves to the almighty dollar. We enslave ourselves to our work for many hours on end and come home exhausted. By the end of the day we have no energy to study, pray, or even assist with domestic duties. The laws of the indentured servant should serve as our guidepost. Our Divine duties precede our careers duties. An extra hour of work during the day that costs us an hour of study in the evening is simply not worth the time. Drash Moshe

Edited by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, Director of Chabad at La Costa

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