Behar: Climb Every Mountain ~ Tzvi Abrahams

Parshasבְּהַר

Climb Every Mountain

יוֹבֵל: jubilee

יוּבַל: brook

יְבוּלָה: produce

יוֹבֵל: Jubilee

InParshasבְּהַר, Hashem gives us the mitzvah of shemittah. Rashi points out that just like the mitzvah of shemittahwas given on Har Sinai with all of its general principles and details, so too all the mitzvos were given on Har Sinai with all of their general principles and details.

Themeforshim/commentariesask why the mitzvah of shemittahwas chosen out of all the 613 mitzvos to teach this principle. The answer given is that the mitzvah of shemittahis the key to having emunahin Hashem. In order for us to climb the mountain, we need to have a strong sense of emunah.

After commanding the shemittahyear, the Torah then commands the mitzvah of יוֹבֵל/the jubilee year. We are told to count seven shemittahcycles, with each cycle being seven years, totaling forty-nine years, designating the fiftieth year as the jubilee year, where lands go back to their original owners and where Hebrew slaves go free.

The Kli Yakar compares the counting of the jubilee year to the number of years in the life of man. A man lives for around seventy years, the first twenty of which are not counted as he does not yet have a fully developed seichelto be able to lead a straight life and is still liable to err in his ways. The beis din shel ma’alah/the Heavenly Court is therefore lenient in that they don’t hold him liable for punishment until he reaches the age of twenty. Only once he has turned twenty is he considered equipped with the necessary intelligence to decipher right from wrong. From then on he is truly living, grappling with the struggles of life.

We are then given seven cycles, seven full circuits around life’s tracks, until we reach the fiftieth year, around seventy years of age, by which time we should have matured and ripened. (This is a nice kavanahto have in mind when winding the tefillin straps seven times around your arm, where having completed seven cycles, Hashem then crowns us with the tefillin shel rosh). Having ripened, we should now be ready for the picking from the tree of life, and hence we die at a ripe old age. This is the year we go free, as Chazal say the dead go free.1We are נִפְטַרfrom the world, פָּטוּרfrom mitzvos, we are now free. We are commanded to count the years so that we know how much time we have left, in order to keep us focused on the goal.

יְבוּלָה: Produce

אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם,וְנָתַתִּי גִשְׁמֵיכֶם בְּעִתָּם וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ וְעֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה יִתֵּן פִּרְיוֹ

If you go in my ways and guard my mitzvos and do them, I will give your rains in their times and the land will give her produce and the tree its fruit.2

We should not delude ourselves into thinking, like the secular mentality, that you reap what you sow. The lesson of the shemittahis to prove just the opposite — that by letting the land rest and putting our trust in Hashem, He will bless us accordingly. Even when we don’t sow the land, we will still have plenty. The goyimrun according to rules of טֶבַע/nature, where you indeed reap what you sow, so consequently they have noemunahin Hashem and can only trust themselves. By observing shemittah, Hashem has given us the opportunity to live above nature, to break our natural thought that what we reap is what we sow.

The Gemara compares the yetzer harato a very tall mountain, where the tzaddikimat the end of their lives wonder how high they have climbed in overcoming the yetzer.3In order to climb the mountain, we have to have trust in Hashem.

The Kli Yakar compares us to an אָרִיס/a sharecropper who doesn’t actually own the field but is just paid to work the field and is rewarded according to how much the field produces. We are given forty-nine years to work the field and produce, after which time, on our jubilee, we go free and the field returns to Hashem, the original owner. We go free from our formidable opponent, the yetzer hara, and hopefully we have something to show for it. 

We only take with us what the field produces, i.e., our Torah andma’asim tovim. As we say in the שִׁיר הַמַעַלוֹת beforebentching,“Those who sow with tears will harvest with joy,” meaning that life is hard, we are working the field and are thus open to all the elements that Hashem throws at us in order to test us.

Interestingly enough, the word אָרִיס/sharecropper is related to the word אֵרוּסִין/betrothed.4Life is also like an engagement period, in which we prepare ourselves to be a worthy bride to Hashem. So in this time period of אֵרוּסִין, we are just an אָרִיס; only in the World to Come do we rightfully take our place as Hashem’s queen and joint owner of the field, the field of apples, eluded to as the פַּרְדֵס/paradise, i.e., Gan Eden.

The Kli Yakar says that we are considered גֵרִים/strangers in this world, and only in the World to come, if we have passed the test of time, are we considered תּוֹשָׁבִים/full-residents.

We should not be fooled into thinking that we own the land and that we are “independent.” Rather, Hashem owns the land and we are very much dependent on Him. When it comes to money, most people would like to be financially independent, but what they don’t comprehend is that what they are really saying is that they don’t want to be dependent on G-d, but rather want to be secure in the knowledge that they can have whatever they want whenever they want it. By being financially independent, they don’t need to daven to Hashem for what they need, and in effect they lose their relationship with G-d. However, someone with the right ambition will want to be financially dependent. This is one of the lessons of shemittah: that Hashem is saying to us “Be dependent on Me for your livelihood so that we can build a relationship.”

יוּבַל: Brook

Thehaftarahat the end of Behar/Bechukosaicompares us to a tree. If throughout our life we put our trust in man, then we are like a barren tree that has been planted in the arid desert. The one who trusts in Hashem is compared to a tree planted by the יוּבַל/ brook of water who will never go thirsty; he never fears the heat, as he has lush foliage to protect him, and he does not fear the times of drought, because he has full bitachonin Hashem and never stops bearing fruits.5

This is the emunahof life: that whatever the weather, whether we have rain or drought,גֶשֶׁם — גַשְׁמִיוּת — or little גַשְׁמִיוּת, we know that we are here to work the field that Hashem has given us. If we have true emunahin Hashem and follow his ways, then Hashem promises us the rains in our times, the land will produce, and the trees of the field will bear fruit.

When we are planted near the יוּבַל, the מַיִם חַיִים/the life-giving waters of the Torah, we can build our emunahand climb the mountain so that when it comes time for us to go free in our שְׁנַת הַיוֹבֵל/our jubilee year, we will be jubilant in the knowledge that our field has produced a bumper crop, וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ /and the land will give her produce.

יוּבַלmeans to be jubilant because it is the time when we go free and reunite with our Beloved. However, we can only truly be jubilant if we have a relationship with Hashem. Emunahis the key to the relationship. Hashem gives us the shemittahand jubilee years to give us the opportunity to build up our emunah, to build up our dependence on Hashem, so that when we reach the mountain top we are not alone. However, when we are “independent,” we are in effect alone and we become sad and lonely. Emunahis essentially what connects us through the יוּבַל/brook to the living waters of Hashem, and this is the true jubilance of life.

This sense of jubilance that we get from being connected to the living waters of the יוּבַלallows us to carry on to their source, where we can literally reach the mountaintops and climb every mountain. From there we can harvest with joy (בְּרִנָה יִקְצֹרוּ) and enjoy the יְבוּלָה/the fruits of our labor.

Incidentally, the word mobileand automobilecome from the Hebrew word מוֹבִיל, which means to bring/produce/flow, i.e, moveable.6

חַזַק,חַזַק,וְנִתְחַזֵק(applicable when the sedrasare together). חַזַקalso stands for חַרִישָׁה/plowing,זְרִיעָה/planting, and קְצִירָה/harvesting. We should all be strong in life so that we can harvest with joy!

1Shabbos 151b.

2Vayikra 26:3–4.

3Succah 52a.

4Devarim RabbahEikev 7a.

5See Avos 3:17.

6See Rashi to Vayikra26:20.




Behar: Words of Redemption ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

Holman_Death_of_the_Firstborn

The end of Leviticus speaks about different forms of redemption in the legal sense. It mentions the rights — or even commandments — of the impoverished and their extended family to “redeem” property sold out of desperation, and bring it back to the family. This applies to a field, a house of residence, or a person sold as a slave (Lev. 25:25-55). Moreover, the Torah also teaches us about the halachic mechanisms for redeeming consecrated animals, houses, or fields (Lev. 27:9-34). The word used for redeeming in these contexts is sometimes goel and sometimes podeh.*The noun forms of those verbs are geulah and pedut/pidyon, respectively. What is the difference between these two different words for redemption and what can we learn from these words?

To better understand the words for redemption, we look to the quintessential act of redemption: the Exodus from Egypt. The Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer of Vilna (1720-1797), explains that the Exodus consists of two parallel redemptions. The pidyon (which occurred on the night of Passover) was a form of salvation whereby G-d traded Jewish firstborns for the Egyptian firstborns, saving the former and annihilating the latter. Almost concurrently, the geulah was G-d’s way of saving the Jews by way of sheer brute force. In this way, pidyon implies salvation which comes about through an exchange, while geulah connotes a form of rescue which is done without any type of remuneration.

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk (1853-1918) explained the difference between pidyon and geulah by using the classical Yeshivish cheftza-gavra (object-person) construct. He explains that the term pidyon focuses on the object of redemption, and denotes a change in the object’s personal status, while the term geulah focuses on the owner of the object, and denotes redemption as a change in the ownership of said object.

Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839), known as the Chatam Sofer, writes that pidyonrefers to negative redemption — that is, simply being saved from whatever calamity confronts him — while geulah refers to positive redemption — that is, not just being saved from something bad, but being raised above one’s circumstances and becoming greater. A similar explanation is recorded by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager of Kosov (1768-1825) who writes that pidyon offers temporary relief for whatever ails him, while the term geulah implies a more comprehensive, everlasting form of deliverance.

Along these lines, Malbim explains that the term pidyon denotes redemption as the fact of salvation. On the other hand, the word geulah denotes redemption that is born of closeness between the redeemer and redeemed. That closeness serves as the impetus for the redeemer’s feeling of responsibility in saving the redeemed. When one’s relative is murdered, one has a status that may, under certain circumstances, perhaps allow avenging the death. The relative who is named as having this status of carrying out this act is called by Numbers 35:19, goel hadam (“redeemer of blood”). In this context, the word goel alludes to the avenger’s kinship with his murdered brethren.

Rabbi Shmuel Tuvia Stern (1920-2004), the late Rabbi of Miami Beach, explains that pidyon refers to taking something which is holy and redeeming it from its holy status by transferring the holiness, effectively consecrating something else instead. Geulah, on the other hand, applies to the idea of taking something that is of the unholy/non-holy and redeeming it by shaking off those non-holy associations, allowing it to enter the domain of the holy. Alternatively, Rabbi Stern explains that pidyon refers to redemption on a case-by-case basis (i.e. the redemption of the individual), while geulah refers to mass redemption (i.e. redemption of the public, or nation, at large).

*NOTE: While the word podeh is generally spelled PEY-DALET-HEY, in one place (Iyov 33:24), the Bible replaces the HEY with an AYIN. Rashi (there) and Nachmanides (to Ex. 21:14) explain that the AYIN and HEY are interchangeable letters, so this word is the same as podeh. However, Rabbi Yonah Ibn Janach, Rabbi Menachem ibn Saruk, and Radak, in their respective lexicons of roots in the Hebrew language, have separate entries with a HEY and with an AYIN, implying that they understand the latter is a separate word from the former.To this effect, Malbim writes that podeh with an AYIN may be related to a similar-sounding Arabic word which means “removal”.




Behar: Melted Heart – Yehoshua Steinberg

Derivatives of the root מוך appear only in בהר בחקותי:

Lev. 25:25 – If your brother ימוך (becomes destitute) and sells some of his inherited property, his redeemer who is related to him shall come forth and redeem his brother’s sale.

 

Onkelus renders the word מך “מסכן” (poor, indigent) in all occurrences (Lev. 25:25, 35, 39, 47, 27:8). Derivatives of a similar root, מכך, appear elsewhere in Scripture (Ps. 106:43, Eccl. 10:18, Job 24:24), explained by Rashi to mean lowliness, poverty, downtroddenness[1]. These two roots are therefore paradigmatic of a phenomenon often called “two roots with one meaning.” [2]In contrast, Menachem, per his usual practice, groups all these verses in a single root entry: מך, and so too writes Yerios Shlomo (1:58a, hereafter YS), following Menachem’s lead as usual. According to all opinions though, this root is the source of the common Rabbinic word [3]נמוך (low, short).

 

Yerios Shlomo suggests that the core meaning of מך is הכאה in the sense of ניכוי: reduction/diminution. While the term ניכוי itself is found regularly in the Talmud, according to one opinion cited by Rashi, its source is Scriptural[4]. From this core meaning YS (2:47a) connects other words with similar meanings, such as כהה (usually interpreted as dull/dark, but which can also connote weak), as in: and his eyes  ותכהיןbecame too dim to see (Gen. 27:1). YS further suggests a connection to נכה, a cripple (e.g. IISam. 4:4, Ps. 35:15).

 

YS’s approach is based on the fact that the letter מ in the root מך is a “weak” letter (a phenomenon called a “disappearing foundation letter” by Rashi)[5]. The letter מ belong to a group of seven such letters called האמנתי”ו, which appear and disappear in many words. According to his approach, the מ itself is therefore not a real root letter, and the only permanent radical is the letter כ. So YS explains in the introduction to his root dictionary, Cheshek Shlomo, regarding the word אך: “the root of the word אך is the כ alone, which means הכאה ” (denoting both hitting and reduction/diminution, as above). אך therefore means an exception, something that had been “reduced”/”subtracted”/”diminished” from the rule.

 

YS (1:81b) therefore connects the word כויה/מכוה (burn, e.g. Lev. 13:24, Is. 43:2) as well, in that a burn is nothing but a type of wound, weakening and reducing the robustness of the affected area. This suggestion finds some support in the Talmud (Chul. 8a), which seeks to distinguish between two types of wounds, שחין being defined as a non-burn wound and מכוה being a burn. I suggest connecting an Aramaic word along these lines, namely the weakening, wounding snake bite, rendered by the Targum as נכית (e.g. Num. 21:9)[6].

 

Regarding the word מכה (v. blow, n. wound) itself, The author of Hakesav Vehakabbala suggests that the word מכה in Parshas Ki Savo (Deut. 27:24) is directly connected to מך.  The verse there states: “Cursed be he who strikes his fellow in secret”; Rashi comments that this refers to evil speech, gossip. Hakesav Vehakabbala explains that such talk weakens and reduces the status of the victims, rendering him a מך.

 

Among the words cited above as derivatives of מכך is the word וימכו בעונם (Ps. 106:43). It is interesting to note that an almost identical phrase appears in our portion: וימקו בעונם (Lev. 26:39). While the former (meaning destitute, a weakened state) is spelled with a כ and the latter (meaning melting) a ק[7], we find “melting” elsewhere as a metaphor for weakness and faint-heartedness (e.g. Deut. 20:8). RSRH (Lev. 25:25) points out the similarity in the meanings of these phonetically related words, along with parallels to two other words of the גיכ”ק group, מים[8] and מגג[9], suggesting that they all share the broad meanings of softening, melting, dripping, diminution of strength.

 

May Hashem lift up Israel’s downtrodden and destitute. May He bring our Peoples’ enemies crashing down, leaving them burnt and crippled. May the wicked Gog and Magog melt and wither away before they ever reach Jerusalem; may we merit to see her physical and spiritual rebuilding speedily in our times!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]  [וכן פירשו ז”ל את שמות האישים במקרא המכילות אותיות ‘מך’, כגון]: סוטה לד: – סתור בן מיכאל… מיכאל – שעשה עצמו מך; רש”י – שעשה שונאו של הקב”ה מך – חלש. סנהדרין קא: – מיכה – שנתמכמך בבנין; רשי – נתמכמך בבנין – של מצרים, שנתנוהו בבנין במקום לבנה. מדרש אגדה (בובר) בהעלותך-שלח פרק יג:טו – גאואל בן מכי. על שגאה לומר דברים אשר לא כן על הקדוש ברוך הוא, לפיכך על כן נעשה מך שופטים יז:ה – והָאִישׁ מיכָה לוֹ בֵּית אֱלֹהִים; מלבים – והאיש מיכה. מאז; עבירה גוררת עבירה, ויצא מדחי אל דחי (לכן כינה שמו מיכה לרוע).

[2]  [ראה רד”ק בענין בעלי הכפל בערכים אבב, אכף, גוד, הלה, זכה, סלה, צרר, רנה, וראה גם ריב”ג, ערך בוק].

[3]  [כגון]: ברכות י: – אל יעמוד אדם במקום גבוה ויתפלל, אלא במקום נמוך ויתפלל.

[4]  במדבר כב:ו – אָרָה לִּי… אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה בּוֹ וַאֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ; רשי – נכה בו – אני ועמי נכה בהם. דבר אחר לשון משנה היא: מנכה לו מן הדמים (ב”מ קה:), לחסר מהם מעט. [וכן משמע ממיוחס יונתן, שתרגמה מלשון הקטנה]: תמ”י במדבר כב:ו – לוֹט בְּגִינִי יַת עַמָא הָדֵין… לְוַואי אֵיכוֹל לְאַזְעוֹרֵיהּ וְאִתְרְכִינֵיהּ מִן אַרְעָא. [והמלה מופיעה בצורות והטיות שונות בדבריהם ז”ל, כגון]: ירושלמי דמאי א:ג – עורבן וערבון ולא אנכון; פני משה – ולא אנכון. ולא אירע להם אח”כ שום נכוי והפסד מן העכברים.

[5]  [כגון]: רשי ויק’ כו:לו – והבאתי מרך – פחד ורך לבב. מ’ של מרך יסוד נופל הוא, כמו מ’ של מועד ושל מוקש. [וראה עוד רש”י לישעיה לג:א, יר’ מג:ט, נחום ג:יז].

[6]  [מלה נוספת בלשון חז”ל הקשורה לניכוי/החלשה/הפחתה היא “ניכוש” (הסרת עשבים שוטים)]: כלאים ב:ה – תִּלְתָּן שהֶעֱלָה מִינֵי צְמָחִים… אִם נִכֵּשׁ אוֹ כִסַּח, אוֹמְרִים לוֹ, עֲקֹר… חוּץ מִמִּין אֶחָד. [ובענין הש’, הרי לשיטת מחברת מנחם (פתיחת המחבר דף 1), אותיות השימוש הן ג”כ נוספות לפרקים, וסימן הנוספות הן: שמלאכת”ו בינ”ה].

[7]  [‘מקק’ תמיד מתורגם  המסה; ראה גם ישע’ ג:כד, ה:כד, לד:ד, יחז’ לג:י, זכ’ יד:יב, תה’ לח:ו. וע’ גם שבת ט:ו].

[8]  [ששרשה ‘מיי’ לדעתו (בחילוף אותיות גיכ”ק). וע”ע ‘מגג’, ‘מיי’ (בהערה הראשונה), ‘מקק’.

[9]  [שמורה על  המסה, חולשה וזעזוע. ראה רש”י שמ’ טו:טו, תה’ מו:ז, סה:יא, איוב ל:כב, עמוס ט:ה, ט:יג, יחז’ כא:כ, ש”א יד:טז (וע”ש בתרגומים שפעמים תרגמוהו בענין  שבירה, והכל קשור לענין  החלשה ואי-יציבות)].