Parashat Chukat / פרשת חקת

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.

1st Aliya: The laws of the Parah Adumah- the Red Heifer, are detailed.

 2nd Aliya: In Nissan of the 40th year, Miriam died. The well dried up and the nation gathered against Moshe and Aharon to complain. 

3rd Aliya: The “hitting of the rock” occurred and Moshe and Aharon were refused entry into Eretz Yisroel. 

4th Aliya: Moshe requested from Edom permission to travel through their land on the way to Eretz Yisroel. Edom refused. 

5th Aliya: Aharon died and Elazar succeeded his father as Kohain Gadol. They encountered the southern Canaanites (13 miles west of the Dead Sea) and bested them in battle. Following Aharon’s death, the protective clouds departed and the nation began to complain about the living conditions. Hashem sent poisonous snakes to attack the nation and Moshe was instructed to create the “copper snake on a stick” o miraculously save the bitten. 

6th & 7th Aliya: The nation traveled to Yeshimon – northeast of the Dead Sea. In the conclusion of Chukas, the nation was refused access to the lands of Sichon and Og and Moshe led them into victorious battle against them. 


Haftorah Rosh Chodesh 

This week’s Haftorah is from Yishayah Chap. 66 and reflects the fact that today is also Rosh Chodesh. Yishayah describes the ultimate downfall of all our enemies during the war of Gog and Magog. The Navi explains that this world is the manifestation of g-d’s presence and glory. Yet, we are incapable and sometimes unwilling to properly recognize G-d’s manifest presence. Even when the Bais Hamikdash stood the Bnai Yisroel did not appreciate their opportunity to be close to G-d and serve Him. The Navi forewarns that insincere expressions of devotion are tantamount to offering blemished sacrifices and G-d will punish those who lack sincerity and devotion. 

Nevertheless, the institution of the Bais Hamikdash and prayer are our only means for communication love and devotion. Therefore, those who truly mourn for the absence of the Bais Hamikdash and the Temple services will also merit to rejoice in her redemption and reconstruction. When the Bais Hamikdash will be rebuilt the nation will again be able to witness the Rosh Chodesh offering and service, and fully participate in expressing their commitment

Lesson 38

Parashah 38: Korach (baldness) 16:1-18:32

the Israelite people come dangerously close to splitting apart. A man named Korach leads a group of followers to challenge Moshe and Aharon’s leadership.

Yehudah 11 Woe to them, in that they have walked the road of Kayin, they have given themselves over for money to the error of Bil’am, they have been destroyed in the rebellion of Korach.

16:1(i) Korach Rebels

Vayikakh Korach Ben-Yitzhar Ben-Kehat Ben-Levi ve Datan va Aviram Benei EliAv ve On Ben-Pelet Benei Reuven :

And Korach Ben-Yitzhar Ben-Kehat Ben-Levi , and Datan and Aviram Benei EliAv, and On Ben-Pelet Benei Reuven, spoke;

16:2

Vayakumu lifnei Moshe vaanashim mibnei-Yisrael khamishim umatayim nesiei edah keriei moed anshei-shem:

And they rose up before Moshe, with a number of the people of Yisrael, 250 leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men.

16:3 They gathered together against Moshe and Aharon, and said to them,

“You take too much upon yourselves, for Kol haEdah is set apart, every one of them, and ADONAI is among them.

Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of ADONAI?”

Moshe settle the matter : take fire pans (censors)

16:4 וישׁמע משׁה ויפל על־פניו׃

Vayishma Moshe vayipol al-panav.

And when Moshe heard [it], he fell upon his face:

16:5 And he spoke to Korach and to all his company, saying: Even tomorrow ADONAI will show who [are] His, and [who is] set apart; and will cause [him] to come near to Him: That one whom HE chooses He will causes to come near to HIM

16:6 זאת עשׂו קחו־לכם מחתות קרח וכל־עדתו׃

Zot asu kechu-lachem machtot Korach vechol-adato.

Do this: take fire pans (censors), Korach and all his company;

16:7 put fire in them and put incense in them before ADONAI tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom ADONAI chooses is the Set Apart one. You take too much upon yourselves, you benai Levi!”

16:8 And Moshe said to Korach, “Hear now, you benai Levi:

16:9 Is it a small thing to you that the Elohim (אלהים) of Yisra’el has separated you from the congregation of Yisra’el, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the mishkan ADONAI, and to stand before the congregation to serve them;

16:10 and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, Benai Levi, with you? And are you seeking the Kehunah also?

16:11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against ADONAI. And what is Aharon that you complain against him?”

16:12 וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִקְרֹ֛א לְדָתָ֥ן וְלַאֲבִירָ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י אֱלִיאָ֑ב וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ לֹ֥א נַעֲלֶֽה׃

Vayishlach Moshe likro leDatan ve laAviram benei Eliav vayomru “Lo naaleh!”:
And Moshe sent to call Datan and Aviram, sons of Eliav: which said, We will not come up:

16:13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us?

16:14 (ii) Moshe accused :

Rebels approach Almighty with unauthorised fire

Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.”

16:15 And Moshe was very angry, and said to ADONAI, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, and I have not harmed one of them.”

16:16 And Moshe said to Korach: Be you and all your company before ADONAI, you, and they, and Aharon, tomorrow:

16:17 And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring you before ADONAI every man his censer, two hundred and fifty fire pans (censors); you also, and Aharon, each [of you] his censer.

16:18 And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the entrance of the Oleh Moed with Moshe and Aharon.

16:19 And Korach gathered all the congregation against them to the entrance of the Oleh Moed: and the glory of ADONAI appeared to all the congregation.

16:20 (iii) Elohim Defends:

The earth devours the enemies of ADONAI

And Adonai spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying:

16:21

Hibadlu mitokh haeda hazot vaakhaleh otam keraga:

“Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”
16:22 ויפלו על־פניהם ויאמרו אל אלהי הרוחת לכל־בשׂר האישׁ אחד יחטא ועל כל־העדה תקצף׃

Vayiplu al-pneihem vayomeru el Elohei haruchot lechol-basar ha’ish echad yecheta ve’al kol-ha’edah tiktsof.

And they fell upon their faces, and said, O Elohim (אלהים), the Elohim (אלהים) of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”

16:23 And Adonai spoke to Moshe, saying:

16:24 Speak to the congregation, saying,

Get you up from about the mishkan of Korach, Datan, and Aviram.

16:25 And Moshe rose up and went to Datan and Aviram; and the Zekenei (elders) Yisrael followed him.

16:26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.

16:27 ויעלו מעל משׁכן־קרח דתן ואבירם מסביב ודתן ואבירם יצאו נצבים פתח אהליהם ונשׁיהם ובניהם וטפם׃

Vaye’alu me’al Mishkan-Korach Datan va’Aviram misaviv veDatan va’Aviram yatse’u nitsavim petach aholeyhem unesheyhem uvneyhem vetapam.

So they got away from around the tents of Korah, Datan, and Aviram; and Datan and Aviram came out and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, their sons, and their little children.

16:28 And Moshe said, “Hereby you shall know that ADONAI has sent me to do all these works; for [I have] not [done them] of mine own mind.

16:29 אם־כמות כל־האדם ימתון אלה ופקדת כל־האדם יפקד עליהם לא יהוה שׁלחני׃

Im-kemot kol-ha’adam yemutun eleh ufkudat kol-ha’adam yipaked aleyhem lo ADONAI shlachani.

If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; [then] ADONAI has not sent me.

16:30 But if ADONAI make a new thing, and the Land open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that [appertain] to them, and they go down quick into the sheol; then you shall understand that these men have provoked ADONAI.

16:31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these Divrei, that the ground clave asunder that [was] under them:

16:32 And the Land opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that [appertained] to Korach, and all [their] goods.

16:33 They, and all that [appertained] to them, went down alive into the pit, and the Land closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.

16:34 And all Yisrael that [were] round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the Land swallow us up [also].

16:35 ואשׁ יצאה מאת יהוה ותאכל את החמשׁים ומאתים אישׁ מקריבי הקטרת׃

Ve’esh yatse’ah me’et ADONAI vatochal et hachamishim umatayim ish makrivey haketoret.

And there came out a fire from ADONAI, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.

16:36 (17:01)

And ADONAI spoke to Moshe, saying:

16:37 (17:02) “Tell El Azar (אלעזר) Ben Aharon hakohen, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are set apart, and scatter the fire some distance away.

16:38 (17:03) The fire pans (censors) of these sinners against their own nefeshs, let them make them broad plates [for] a covering of the mizbe’ach: for they offered them before ADONAI, therefore they are consecrated: and they shall be a sign to the benai Yisrael.

16:39 (17:04) And El Azar (אלעזר) ha kohen took the brasen fire pans (censors), wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad [plates for] a covering of the mizbe’ach:

16:40 (17:05) [To be] a memorial to the benai Yisrael, that no stranger, which [is] not of the seed of Aharon, come near to offer incense before ADONAI; that he be not as Korach, and as his company: as ADONAI said to him by the hand of Moshe.

16:41 (17:06) On the next day all the congregation of benai Yisrael complained against Moshe and Aharon, saying, “You have killed the people of ADONAI.”

16:42 (17:07) And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moshe and against Aharon, that they looked toward the oleh Moed: and, Hinei, the cloud covered it, and the glory of ADONAI appeared.

16:43 (17:08) And Moshe and Aharon came before the oleh Moed.

16:44 (17:09)(iv) Counter-Attack

Korach’s Rebellion

And ADONAI spoke to Moshe, saying,

16:45 (17:10) הרמו מתוך העדה הזאת ואכלה אתם כרגע ויפלו על־פניהם׃

Heromu mitoch ha’edah hazot va’achaleh otam keraga vayiplu al-pneihem.

Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.

16:46 (17:11) And Moshe said to Aharon, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the mizbe’ach, and put on incense, and go quickly to the congregation, and make an Kaporah (כּפר) for them: for there is wrath gone out from ADONAI; the negeph (נגף) is begun.

16:47 (17:12) And Aharon took as Moshe commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, Hinei, the negeph (נגף) was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an Kaporah (כּפר) for the people.

16:48(17:13) And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague (נגף) was stayed.

16:49 (17:14) Now they that died in the plague (נגף) were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korach.

16:50 (17:15) And Aharon returned to Moshe to the entrance of the Oleh Moed: and the negeph (נגף) was stayed.

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 ,13 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36

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The name Korach in Hebrew meaning intentionally tear the frontal hair bald, a type of Ancient Amorites way of expressing terrible grief – Dvarim 14:1 Yah prohibit such practice for His people :-“לא תתגדדו ולא־תשׂימו קרחה בין עיניכם למת ” You are not to cut yourselves or bald your forehead for the dead

Korach was the son of Izhar, grandson of Kohat, great grandson of Levi and leader of the rebellion of the Yisraelites against Moshe and Aharon while in the wilderness. He was also a cousin of Aharon (Shemot 6:18-21), was a Levite but not a Kohen. He apparently resented the fact that the family of Aharon should have exclusive right to the priesthood.

Tehillim 106:16 In the camp they were jealous of Moshe and Aharon, ADONAI’s set apart one.

Tehillim 106:17 The earth opened up and swallowed Datan and closed over Aviram’s allies.

Revision on the genealogy of Kohat

Datan, Abiram, and On were of the tribe of Reuven, and they resented Moshe’ leadership over them.

On is not mentioned after verse 1, and it is impossible to know if he shared the doom of the others.

Two hundred and fifty of the princes— leaders of Yisrael—joined in the rebellion against the priesthood and the civil authority (v. 2). They argued that all the people were set apart and should not be excluded from offering sacrifices (v. 3)

Both Moshe and Korach were descended from Kohat, but by different sons (Moshe through Amram [NBamidbar 26:58-59], and Korah through Izhar).
Plag, Plague (נגע, negha‛, מכּה, makkāh, מגּפה, maggēphāh; μάστιξ, mástix, πληγή, plēgḗ): This word which occurs more than 120 times is applied, like pestilence, to such sudden outbursts of disease as are regarded in the light of divine visitations. It is used in the description of leprosy about 60 times in Lev 13 and 14, as well as in Devarim 24:8. In the poetical, prophetic and eschatological books it occurs about 20 times in the general sense of a punitive disaster. The good news references (Markos 3:10; Markos 5:29, Mar_5:34; Loukas 7:21) use the word as a synonym for disease.

One of the latest prophetic mentions of plague is Hos_13:14, where the plague (debher, Septuagint díkē) of death and the destruction (ḳāṭābh, Septuagint kéntron) of the grave are mentioned. From this passage Paul quotes his apostrophe at the end of 1Co_15:55, but the apostle correlates the sting (kéntron) with death, and changes the díkē into níkos.

Yehudah 1:11 Woe to them, in that they have walked the road of Kayin, they have given themselves over for money to the error of Bil’am, they have been destroyed in the rebellion of Korach.

16:48The man they rebelled against is the very man who saved them. He stood between them and Elohim. Likewise, the very ONE whom the human family impale on the tree of suffering is the ONE who saves us. He stands between Elohim and the sinner.

Num 16:4 And when Moshe heard it, he fell upon his face;

Pshat

Moshe did not immediately defensive or angry with the assembled crowd, nor does he assert his authority.
Moshe humbles himself, and asks the rebels about their motivation.
Moshe comes to Aharon’s defense before defending himself.
to ask himself if Korah has a valid point:
Second incident they all fell on their face

16:45 And Elohim spoke to Moshe, saying, “Get up, get away from the midst of this assembly, and I will consume them in an instant.”

And they fell on their faces.

vayiplu = and they fell, and they threw themselves down

penayhem = their faces, their fronts, their surfaces

fire pans censors – ( Shemot 27:3 ; 38:3 ), one of the vessels of the temple service (rendered “snuff-dish” Shemot 25:38 ; 37:23 ; and “censer” Leviticus 10:1 ; 16:12 ). It was probably a metallic cinder-basin used for the purpose of carrying live coal for burning incense, and of carrying away the snuff in trimming the lamps.

Lesson 36

Parashah 36: Be-Ha’alotekha – 8:1-12:16

8:1 (i) And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe, saying:

8:2 “Speak to Aharon, and say to him, ‘When you arrange the nerot (lamps), the seven nerot (lamps) shall give light in front of the Menorah.’ “

8:3 And Aharon did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the menorah, as ADONAI (יהוה) commanded Moshe.

8:4 And this work of the menorah [was of] beaten gold, to the shaft thereof, to the flowers thereof, [was] beaten work: according to the pattern which ADONAI (יהוה) had shewed Moshe, so he made the menorah.

8:5 And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe, saying,

8:6 Take the Leviim from among benai Yisrael, and cleanse them.

8:7 And thus shall you do to them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and [so] make themselves clean.

8:8 Then let them take a young bullock with his Minchah, [even] fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shall you take for a Chatat.

8:9 And you shall bring the Leviim before the Ohel Moed: and you shall gather the whole assembly of benai Yisrael together:

8:10 And you shall bring the Leviim before ADONAI (יהוה): and benai Yisrael shall put their hands upon the Leviim:

8:11 And Aharon shall offer the Leviim before ADONAI (יהוה) [for] an offering of benai Yisrael, that they may execute the service of ADONAI (יהוה).

8:12 And the Leviim shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and you shall offer the one [for] a Chattat, and the other [for] a Olah, to ADONAI (יהוה), to make an atonement for the Leviim.

8:13 And you shall set the Leviim before Aharon, and before his Banim, and offer them [for] an offering to ADONAI (יהוה).

8:14 Thus shall you separate the Leviim from among benai Yisrael: and the Leviim shall be mine.

8:15 (ii)

And after that shall the Leviim go in to do the service of the Ohel Moed: and you shall cleanse them, and offer them [for] an offering.

8:16 For they [are] wholly given to me from among benai Yisrael; instead of such as open every womb, [even instead of] the bachor of all benai Yisrael, have I taken them to me.

8:17 For all the bachor of benai Yisrael [are] mine, [both] man and beast: on the day that I smote every bachor in the Eretz Mitzrayim I sanctified them for myself.

8:18 And I have taken the Leviim for all the bachor of benai Yisrael.

8:19 And I have given the Leviim [as] a gift to Aharon and to his Banim from among benai Yisrael, to do the service of benai Yisrael in the Ohel Moed, and to make an atonement for benai Yisrael: that there be no plague among benai Yisrael, when benai Yisrael come nigh to the sanctuary.

8:20 And Moshe, and Aharon, and all the congregation of benai Yisrael, did to the Leviim according to all that ADONAI (יהוה) commanded Moshe concerning the Leviim, so did benai Yisrael to them.

8:21 And the Leviim were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aharon offered them [as] an offering before ADONAI (יהוה); and Aharon made an atonement for them to cleanse them.

8:22 And after that went the Leviim in to do their service in the Ohel Moed before Aharon, and before his banim: as ADONAI (יהוה) had commanded Moshe concerning the Leviim, so did they to them.

8:23 And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe, saying,

8:24 This [is it] that [belongs] to the Leviim: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the Ohel Moed:

8:25 And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service [thereof], and shall serve no more:

8:26 But shall minister with their brethren in the Ohel Moed, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Leviim touching their charge.

There are three rules which applied to the Menorah in the Sanctuary and the Temple.

Firstly, even a person who was not a kohen could light the lamps.
Secondly, only a kohen could prepare the lamps, setting the wicks and the oil.
Thirdly, the Menorah could only be lit in the Temple Sanctuary.

Parashat Beha’alotcha / פרשת בהעלתך

Torah Portion: Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

After the dedication of the Sanctuary — the portable Temple and repository of the Torah — the Children of Israel were almost ready to start the journey to the Land of Israel. The purpose was to fulfill the mission of Abraham, the founding father: to take the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem so that the light of the Torah would shine from Mount Moriah to the entire world.

The opening sections of BEHA’ALOSCHA set forth some final details relating to the Sanctuary and its services (the lighting of the Menorah, the inauguration of the Levites and their service, the law of the Second Pesach). The Torah then relates the miraculous Divine providence visible in the encampment and journeyings of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. The sections dealing with the Sanctuary conclude with the command to Moses to make trumpets, after which the Torah relates the Children of Israel’s momentous first journey from Sinai towards the Promised Land.

THE SECOND PESACH

“The Second Pesach” has two senses in connection with our parshah. In the first sense, so far there had only been one Pesach: the night of the Exodus from Egypt. The celebration of the one-time Second Pesach, a year later, free in the Wilderness, recipients of the Torah, with the Sanctuary newly erected, was itself an event. It showed that the Exodus, as the foundational event of the People, was henceforth to be institutionalized as an annual experience with the slaughter of the lamb on Passover.

The sacrifice could only be offered by those in a state of ritual purity. So central to the attachment of the Individual to the Nation is this annual sacrifice (failure to bring the sacrifice makes one liable to excision) that some provision had to be made for those who were unable to bring it in its proper time on 14 Nissan. This might be because they were far away and unable to reach thTemple, or because of defilement for any one of a number of naturally recurrent reasons (contact with the dead, menstrual impurity, etc.) Accordingly they were given a “second chance” on the annual PESACH SHENI, Second Pesach (in the second sense of the term!) institutionalized now in Torah law.

The Torah narrates in our Parshah how this vital national law, integral to the annual functioning of the Temple as the central focus of the Children of Israel, came to be revealed because when G-d commanded them in the wilderness to observe the one-time “Second Pesach” on 14 Nissan, one year after the Exodus, a number of people in the camp were ritually impure.

Knowing there was no way they could participate in the celebration of this awesome one-time event — institutionalizing for all time the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Exodus with the eating of the Paschal Lamb, they felt they had LOST OUT. They felt denied this central act of communion with fellows because of extraneous natural reasons: they had to attend to the dead.

“Why should we be worse off, not to be able to offer the sacrifice of HaShem in its appointed time among the Children of Israel” (Numbers 9:7). (The offering of the Paschal Lamb in the Sanctuary Temple was accompanied by the full Levitical choir and orchestra singing the Hallel, an awesome experience.)

“Why should we be worse off?” There was no way that they could offer the Sacrifice but they longed to be able to. It was their longing that elicited the commandment of Pesach Sheni, the annual “Second Pesach” that gave a SECOND CHANCE to those who lost out the first time — a tremendous act of love and compassion.

Longing and yearning elicits love and compassion. It is our longing for the Second Pesach, the Pesach of GEULAH, when we too, now impure through contact with the dead etc., will have a SECOND CHANCE and won’t have to feel we lost out because we didn’t experience the Pesach in Jerusalem.

Parshas BEHAR

Torah Reading: Parshas BEHAR, Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Haftara: Jeremiah 32:6-27

THE LAND BELONGS TO G-D

“To G-d belongs the land and its fullness, the earth and its inhabitants.” (Psalms 24:1). “The heavens, the heavens belong to G-d, but the earth He GAVE TO THE SONS OF ADAM. The dead will not praise G-d nor all who go down to desolation. But we will praise G-d from now and forever! Halleluyah!” (Psalms 115:16-17).

Our present parshah, BEHAR, and its “sister”, next week’s parshah of BECHUKOSAI, which in some years is read on the same Shabbat, explain under what conditions the Earth and its treasures are given in trust to the sons of man, and when the trust is taken back by its rightful Owner — if men breach the deed of trust, which is the Torah, G-d’s Covenant.

The social, economic, ecological and environmental lessons of BEHAR are particularly urgent today, when men act as lords of the Earth, owning and controlling vast tracts, depleting and destroying her gifts, despoiling her of her treasures for their own short-sighted gain and pleasure, without ever pausing to consider: Who really owns all this? For what purpose did He make it? On the contrary, the Torah commands us to appoint seasons and special years in which we all reflect on Who owns everything and learn to respect His creation.

BEHAR continues with the theme of the cycle of time, which was also central in last week’s parshah of EMOR in the section dealing with the annual cycle of festivals (Leviticus Ch. 23). The section in EMOR began with the first of all of G-d’s “appointed seasons”, the Holy Shabbat, which is the crown of G-d’s Covenant. BEHAR takes the concepts of “Six days of work, one day of rest” a level higher, dealing with the cycle of years, which is measured in circuits of 7 x 7 Sabbaticals, followed by the fiftieth Jubilee year.

Our parshah of BEHAR thus begins with the Shemittah cycle in which the land is to be worked and tilled for six years, after which it is to be left “fallow” throughout the seventh year. The Torah gives us a picture of an idyllic world in which independent owner-farmers are raising their wheat and grains for bread and tending their vineyards for wine. After all their gifts to the poor and tithes to the priests and Levites etc. during the six years of labor, they are to go a step further in the seventh year, giving their very fields and vineyards back to their true Owner. In the seventh year, they are not allowed to work their own land. Instead, they must open their gates to everyone so that all can have a share in the fruits from the holy Table of G-d — the produce of Israel in the Shemittah year has a special sanctity. Even the animals have their share in the fruits of the Shemittah year — for like us, they too are G-d’s guests on His amazing Earth. The Shemittah cycle is a fundamental rhythm in time designed to help us constantly keep in mind that G-d is the true Owner — of all the world around us and of our very selves.

The fifty-year Jubilee cycle takes us to even higher levels of this awareness. The Jubilee cycle is like a gracious cosmic game in which even the losers eventually get to go back and have a fresh to start all over again — because G-d, the true Owner and Master of all the land and its inhabitants, is truly compassionate. Even in the idyllic world of independent land-owners, one tends to be more successful, while another is less successful. In time, one is forced to sell his land and even his house. Then he falls into debt, and eventually he becomes enslaved. In the Jubilee year, signaled by the trumpeting of the Shofar of Freedom on Yom Kippur of that year, all the slaves go free and all the fields and orchards go back to their original owners.

In our parshah, the Torah sets forth the code of laws applying to ownership of land in particular, and also of other forms of property, and under what conditions. The laws in our parshah include those of sale, and of business honesty and integrity. The forms of property include people’s own selves: under the law of slavery, one person might become the “property” of someone else, whether in the legal or economic sense, or in the spiritual sense, where a person may even fall so low as to sell himself to some form of idolatry.

Rashi on Leviticus 26:1 explains the “moral logic” underlying the sequence of laws set forth in our parshah: “At first the Torah warns about the observance of the Sabbatical year. But if a person is greedy for money and falls under suspicion of violating the Sabbatical year, he ends up selling his possessions. That is why the Torah juxtaposes here the laws of sale, including the sale of moveable articles. If the person still does not repent, he ends up selling his hereditary land. If he still does not repent, he ends up selling his house. If he still does not repent, he has to borrow on interest. in the end he sells his very self, not just to an Israelite, but even to an idol-worshipper.”

Yet even the most degraded goes free in the Jubilee year, in which the blast of the Sinai trumpet of Freedom on the Day of At-One-ment signifies that all the debts have been paid through the redemptive power of Binah, the Fiftieth Gate. This theme of freedom in our parshah is particular relevant to us in the present season, as we count the days of the Omer in the seven-fold count of the days and weeks leading up to the Fiftieth Day, the Day of the New Offering, season of the Giving of the Torah: Freedom.

At the very heart of the entire system of redemption set forth in the Torah through the festival cycle and through the Sabbatical and Jubilee cycles lies the Shabbat, which is the very essence of the Sinaitic code. When Moses first asked Pharoah to free the Israelites, all he requested was that they should go “into the wilderness” (away from the technology of civilization) in order to liberate themselves from slavery to earthly lords of the land like Pharaoh. The commandment of Shabbat was given at Marah (Exodus 15:25), prior to the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. The concept of Shabbat is built into the concept of the Manna, which appeared for six days of the week with a double-portion on the sixth day. Shabbat is the fourth commandment. Immediately after the Ten Commandments in Exodus ch. 20, the Torah begins MISHPATIM with the laws of slavery, which involve the Sabbatical and Jubilee concepts.

Now in BEHAR, as we approach the conclusion of the elaboration of the Sinaitic code (BECHUKOSAI sets the seal on this, while the name of our parshah — “On the Mount” — reminds us of Sinai) the Torah returns to the theme of Shabbat as being at the very center of the Covenant. The concluding verse of our parshah is: “Guard My Sabbaths and have reverence for My Sanctuary, I am Hashem” (Leviticus 26:2). The entire time-scheme set forth in BEHAR — the Shemittahs and Jubilee year — is founded on the concept of Shabbat. Then in the following parshah, BECHUKOSAI, we see that the vengeance of the Covenant is built around a structure of seven-fold punishments for the spiral of sin caused by the violation of the Shabbat.

It is a strange irony that the observance of the Shabbat as set forth in the Shulchan Aruch, the practical Code of Jewish law, is something that most of the contemporary world finds impossible to accept. While the entire world accepts the concept of the Work and Leisure cycle, the world is unable to accept that a person may voluntarily take upon himself to abstain from all kinds of activities on the Sabbath day, and so too in the Sabbatical year, in order to show that he takes upon himself the Kingdom of Heaven, the world of the true Sabbath.

No serious political or intellectual commentator today would take seriously the idea that the complete observance of Shabbat and Shemittah, including abstinence by Israelites from the 39 prohibited labors on Shabbat and all the prohibited labors of Shemittah, could be the key to the redemption of Israel and saving the world ecology.

This contemporary neglect of the concept of Shabas a serious concept is in stark contrast to the centrality of the Shabbat in the prophetic vision of the world of the future, in which the Sanctuary in Yerushalayim is at the very center.

“For so says HaShem to the castrated who will guard My Sabbaths and chose what I desired and who hold by My Covenant. And I have given them in My House and within My walls a place and a name better than sons and daughters, I will give him an eternal name that will never be cut off. And the sons of the strange people who will be attached to HaShem to minister to Him and to love the name of HaShem, to be to Him as servants — all who keep the Shabbos and do not transgress it, and who hold by My Covenant — I will bring them to My holy Mountain and make them rejoice in the House of My Prayer, their whole-offerings and peace-offerings will be for favor on My Altar, for My House will be called The House of Prayer for all the peoples. Thus says HaShem, Who gathers the scattered of Israel — more will I gather upon him and those of his who have already been gathered.” (Isaiah 56:7).

In other words, in the world of truth, where everything belongs to G-d (as opposed to the world of the lords of the land, where everything is falsehood) the pride of place goes to those who weekly take on the discipline of Shabbat, abstaining from every form of the 39 forbidden labors as explained by the sages, in order to receive the holiness of the day.

It is in strange contrast that the observance of Shabbat and the Shemittah in the Land of Israel are today matters of contention, with a majority of the population apparently not against blatant violation and defiance of the Shabbat, which is publicly favored by leading judges, politicians and commentators.

In order to save Israel, there needs to be a full-scale international program to explain to Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths that the observance of Shabbat and Shemittah by true Israelites, with the support of gentiles, is in fact the very key to bringing prosperity and blessing into the entire world.

The observance of Shabbat and of Shemittah is an art-form, in which man submits himself to a code which focuses his mind on the ways we interact with and manipulate the environment on the days of the week and during the non-Sabbatical years.

It is through abstinence from manipulating the environment for one day of the week that we learn how to elevate our activities on the other six days, and we turn our daily work into the work of building a sanctuary of holiness around us here in this world. Observance of Shabbat and Shemittah enhance our respect for the natural world around us and for the various grades and levels of life and being. The Shemittah teaches respect for the environment and ecology.

Shabbat is the key to the entire redemption: “If Israel will keep two Shabbosos, the Son of David will come immediately.”


Shabbat Shalom!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum


ISRAEL TORAH READING FOR SHABBAT MAY 11: BECHUKOSAI

Universal Torah commentary
By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: Parshas BECHUKOSAI, Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Haftara: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

IF YOU WILL GO IN MY STATUTES

Our parshah, BECHUKOSAI, puts the seal on the book of Leviticus, which is the “heart” of the Torah (Genesis being the “head”, Exodus the “arms”, Numbers the “legs” and Deuteronomy the “mouth”, Malchus). BECHUKOSAI marks the conclusion of G-d’s revelation to Moses in the Sanctuary in the camp at Sinai and the sealing of the Sinaitic Covenant, while the coming book of Numbers recounts the journeying of the Children of Israel on their way to the Promised Land.

As the seal on Leviticus, the book of the “heart”, BECHUKOSAI addresses the two sides of the heart: love and fear. Our love of G-d is aroused by the promises of blessing if we will GO in His statutes, while our fears are aroused by the dire punishments for failure to do so.

What does it mean to GO in His statutes? This is explained by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:

The life of Torah and mitzvos should be one of constantly striving to move forward from level to level in our fulfillment of the actual commandments. In every commandment that we carry out, there is a level of meaning that we can grasp within our minds, yet at the same time, the mitzvah has profoundly deeper meaning that is now beyond our grasp. These two levels are those of NA’ASEH (“we will do”) and VENISHMA (“we shall hear”) respectively. NA’ASEH applies to that which is within our grasp now, the physical mitzvah with its plain intention — WE WILL DO. We must go ahead and do it now on the simple level even if as yet we do not have deeper understanding, even if the level of VENISHMA, WE SHALL HEAR — understanding — is still beyond us. To GO in G-d’s statutes means to strive constantly to turn that which is as yet beyond us — our VENISHMA — and make it into our NA’ASEH, something that we CAN meaningfully accomplish. This is brought about when we pray to G-d to help us in our practice and to give us deeper understanding. Deeper understanding also depends upon deeper study.

When we thus turn what was our VENISHMA into a new level of NA’ASEH — because we now incorporate our newly attained, deeper insight into our practice — we thereby discover that a new level of VENISHMA opens up ahead of us. It is this higher level of VENISHMA that we must now strive to attain and turn into a new, higher level of NA’ASEH for ourselves. We must continue this way striving to go from level to level, constantly integrating new levels of understanding into our practice. Thus we constantly GO from level to level in our practice (Likutey Moharan Part I, Torah 22).


AND IF NOT.

Rashi in his commentary on BECHUKOSAI explains how the terrible penalties for failure to follow the path of the Torah are built upon a seven-fold schema, because the essential cause of the exile was the violation of the Sabbath and the Sabbatical years. At the very core of the sins that invoke the terrible cycle of punishment are seven basic sins, each of which drags the next in train: (1) Neglect of study. (2) Neglect of practice. (3) Despising others who practice. (4) Hatred of the sages. (5) Preventing others from practicing. (6) Denial of the divine origin of the commandments. (7) Denial of the existence of G-d.

Graphic illustrations of the fulfillment of all of the terrible penalties described in our parshah in actual Jewish history are recounted in the Midrash. The infringement of the seven basic sins causing the exile has been a recurrent theme in all of Jewish history from biblical times until today. The rebellion of the Ten Tribes under Jereboam son of Nevat against the House of David under Rehav’am represented a craving for greater license than was permitted by the House of David, whose royalty depends upon constant study of the Torah and in particular the oral tradition. Under the northen king Ahab [whose influence is said to have been worldwide], hatred and persecution of the sages — the prophets — became institutionalized. Later on, the Assyrian King Sennacharib’s chief spokesman marching against Jerusalem under Hezekiah was a renegade Jew, Ravshekah.

After the end of the Babylonian exile, the return to the land and the building of the Second Temple, new challenges to the authority of the Torah arose, such as from those who denied the afterlife or the oral law, or denied the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Among the most notorious enemies of the Torah were those who hellenized in the Second Temple period, when it was “politically correct” to be Greek. The festival of Chanukah commemorates the miraculous saving of the authentic Torah pathway from the assault upon it by Greek culture.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam (Maimonides) wrote a letter known as IGERET TEIMAN encouraging the Jews of Yemen to remain faithful to the Torah and give their lives if necessary rather than submit to forced conversion by their Moslem rulers. In this letter, Maimonides explains the difference between the assault upon the Torah by Greek thought and the assault upon the Torah by Christianity and Islam.

The Greek philosophers denied the existence of G-d (Level 7) and the revelation at Sinai (Level 6) and accordingly provided justification for preventing Jews from practicing the Torah, e.g. Shabbos, circumcision, etc. (Level 5). leading to open violation and vilification of the Torah by the Hellenists. Greek philosophy was a direct assault upon the Torah, leaving the Jews of the time with a choice — whether to go after the Torah or after the Greeks.

On the other hand, Christianity and Islam did not blatantly repudiate the entire Torah of Moses. What they did was to establish alternative Torah’s that were more acceptable to non-Jews, leaving the Jews of their respective periods with a different kind of choice: whether to remain faithful to the traditional Torah of Moses or to follow an alternative “Torah”.

Hatred of the sages of Israel is deeply entrenched in Christianity, because the claims of its founder and his followers about his divinity were a direct assault upon the authority of the sages and an attempt to steal the Torah from its true guardians, the House of David under Hillel (as later handed down in the Mishneh and Talmud). The adherents of the new religion wrote their own “Torah” openly mocking the Torah of Moses, as when their leader is displayed licensing the plucking of grain on the Sabbath for charitable reasons against the protests of the “Pharisees”, who are depicted as being mean. In the writings of the new religion, the Pharisees (i.e. the rabbis of the Mishneh) are characterized as the evil face of institutionalized religion. The new religion drew all of its teachings from the Torah, but detached them from the accompanying stringencies of the Law, while attaching them instead to its own devotional system focussing on its own saints and heroes. Particularly after the conversion of Saul (Paul), who was a Pharisee, the new religion institutionalized the systematic vilification of the Torah tradition of the rabbis, turning the written Torah (Torah, Nevi’im & Kesuvim, TaNaCh) into a mere introduction to its own new “Torah” or “Testament”, which was meant to replace the Sinaitic Covenant.

Denial of the pathway of the Torah of Sinai — the written Torah and the oral Torah — is thus deeply built into the very structure of Christianity, which became the dominant religion in the western and many other parts of the world and one of the main foundations of its culture, together with that of Greece and Rome. As Christianity gained strength, persecution of Torah-observant Jews together with burnings of Torah scrolls and Talmuds became a regular occurrence.

Denial of the Torah given to Moses at Sinai is also inherent in Islam, the founder of which claimed to have supplanted Moses as the ultimate Prophet. The founder of Islam was initially enamored of the Torah of Moses, but wanted to adapt it in his own way. Angered at the stubbornness of the Jews in resisting his changes, he established his own new “Torah” as an alternative to the “old” Torah. Islam saw itself as the stick with which to beat the recalcitrant Jews who despised and neglected their own Torah. In the writings of Islam the “People of the Book” are depicted as renegades to their own teachings.

During the long exile since the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jews who have remained faithful to the Torah of Moses have been surrounded until today by a most formidable cultural assault against their own tradition from the two younger sister religions, Christianity and Islam. This two have gained the ascendancy and taken all the glory, parading their own alternative Torahs in the face of the Torah of Moses.

It is understandable that over the generations, many Jewish souls, subject to this cultural onslaught, have fallen victim to the allurements of the surrounding religions. In addition, since the time of the European renaissance and the “Age of Reason”, secularism has become a new alternative to religion of any kind, creating yet another allurement from the stringent code of Judaism, which looks more irrelevant than ever in the modern world.

In this way the Torah of Sinai has been apparently completely marginalized by almost the entire world. The Sinai tradition is guarded by seemingly powerless networks of rabbis and their students, sitting in the Yeshivahs, daily studying the oral tradition as brought down in the Talmud, and by the numerically tiny proportion of the world’s population who are Torah-observant.

What is it about the real Torah that makes those who love her cling to her even in the face of adversity on every side? Throughout the generations until today, those who keep the Torah of Moses and abstain from the 39 forbidden labors on the Sabbath have been the butt of every jester and jeerer. Meanwhile Christianity, Islam and every other religion are on the ascendant, including the religion of Satanism and the universal religion of self-indulgence and material consumption.

What love is it that makes those who strive to follow the authentic Torah of Moses continue day after day in the face of all this? How do we keep on GOING in the Torah, even though her face is shrouded in a dark cover — for in this upside down world, the deeper meaning of the Torah is not revealed?

But if we keep studying the Torah, she will reveal her face to us. The way to keep GOING in the Torah is to GO ON STUDYING the Torah!

In the merit of our study of the book of Leviticus and our on-going study of all the Five Books of Moses, may we be blessed with all the blessings of our parshah: “If you will GO in My statutes.”

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

Lesson 31

Parashah 31:Emor (Speak) 21:1-24:23

21:1 (i)

Vayomer ADONAI el Moshe:

Emor (אמר) el ha Kohenim Benai Aharon, ve amarta alehim lenefesh lo-yitama bamav

There shall none be tamei (defiled) for the dead among his people:

21:2 But for his kin, that is karov (near, קרב) to him, [that is], for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother,

21:3 And for his sister a betulah (virgin), that is nigh to him, which has had no husband; for her may he be tamei (defiled).

21:4 [But] he shall not defile himself, [being] a chief man among his people, to profane himself.

21:5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

21:6 They shall be kodesh to their Elohim (אלהים), and not profane the Name their Elohim (אלהים): for the offerings of ADONAI (יהוה) made by fire, [and] the lechem of their Elohim (אלהים), they do offer: therefore they shall be kodesh.

21:7 They shall not take a wife [that is] a zonah, or khalalah; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he [is] kodesh to his Elohim (אלהים).

21:8 You shall sanctify him therefore; for he offers the lechem of thy Elohim (אלהים): he shall be kodesh to you:

for Ani ADONAI (יהוה), which sanctify you, [am] kodesh.

21:9 And the daughter of any Kohen, if she profane herself by playing the zonah, she profanes her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

21:10 And [he that is] Kohen haGadol among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;

21:11 Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;

21:12 Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his Elohim (אלהים); for the crown of the anointing oil of his Elohim (אלהים) [is] upon him: ANI ADONAI (יהוה).

21:13 And he shall take a wife in her betulah (virginity).

21:14 An almanah, or a gerusha woman, or khalalah, [or] a zonah, these shall he not take: but he shall take a betulah (virgin) of his own people to wife.

21:15 Neither shall he profane his zera among his people: for I ADONAI (יהוה) do sanctify him.

21:16(ii)

And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe, saying:

21:17 Dvar (Speak) to Aharon, saying:

Whosoever [he be] of thy seed in their generations that has [any] blemish, let him not approach to offer the lechem of his Elohim (אלהים).

21:18 For whatsoever man [he be] that has a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that have a flat nose, with mismatching limbs.

21:19 Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,

21:20 Or hunchback, or a dwarf, or that has a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or has his stones broken;

21:21 No man that has a blemish of the zera of Aharon the Kohen shall come nigh to offer the offerings of ADONAI (יהוה) made by fire: he has a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the lechem of his Elohim (אלהים).

21:22 He shall eat the lechem of his Elohim (אלהים), [both] of the most kodesh, and of the kodesh.

21:23 Only he shall not go in to the poreket, nor come nigh to the altar, because he has a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries:

for Ani ADONAI (יהוה) do sanctify them.

21:24 And Moshe told [it] to Aharon, and to his sons, and to all the benai Yisrael.

Keyword : Say – Emor, Dvar – speak, Tzav – command chp 24

Emor rma – to say, speak, utter; Dvar rbd -to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing

Regulations for conduct of Kohanim

(Ezekiel 44:15-31)

Instruction of the types of prohibition of the Kohen – summary outline.

A Kohen must not make himself ceremonially unclean by touching the dead body of a relative, – vs 1 Hashem is Holy no death can come to his presence. death is the result of sin.
The only exceptions are his immediate family such his mother or father, son or daughter, brother, or his virgin sister who depends on him (kohen) because she has no husband. -vs 2-3
Thhe kohenim must not shave their heads or trim their beards or cut their bodies. They must be set apart as kadosh to Hashem and must never bring shame on the name of Elohim.- vs 5-6 set apart differ than those of Kenan
The Kohenim can only marry a betulah (virgin) who has no sexual relation with any man and not to marry a woman defiled by prostitution, woman who is divorced – vs 7
A KKohen’s daughter must be modest and maintain her purity in not becoming a prostitute because she defiles her father’s holiness, and on that account she must be burned to death. – vs 9
Thee Kohen haGadol is highest rank of all the Kohenim who has the special anointing with anointing oil poured on his head, and he has been ordained to wear the golden garments. He must be neat tidy in physical appearance and never leave his hair uncombed or tear his clothing.
All the Aharonic kohenim’s descendants must not have any physical defect such as blind, lame, disfigured deformed, broken foot or arms, hunchbacked, dwarfed, defective eye, have any skin disease, scabs, damaged testicles infertity are not qualify to offer food, present special gifts and not to approach the altar to offer food to Hashem and he is not allowed to enter the room behind the inner curtain or approach the altar, for this would defile Hashem Kadosh places, however he may eat from the food offered to Hashem, including the kadosh offering and the most kadosh offerings.
Compare with the instruction Kohen of Benai Tzadok in Ezekiel 44:15-31

Brit Hadashah reading – Mattiyahu 5:38-42; Galatians 3:26-29

KEDOSHIM

DIASPORA TORAH READING FOR SHABBAT MAY 11: KEDOSHIM

Universal Torah commentary
By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: Parshas KEDOSHIM, Leviticus 19:1-20:27
Haftara: Amos 9.7-15 (Sephardi ritual: Ezekiel 20.2-20).

BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY

This week’s parshah, KEDOSHIM TIHYU, “Be holy.”, was specifically addressed by G-d through His prophet Moses “to all of the assembly of the Children of Israel” (Leviticus 19:2). In the words of the Midrash: “This parshah was addressed to all of the assembly because most of the main bodies of Torah law depend upon it. ‘Be holy’ — be pure (PERUSHIM), separate from the world’s vanities. ‘For Holy am I, HaShem your G-d’: This teaches that if you sanctify yourselves, I consider it as if you had sanctified Me. And if you do not sanctify yourselves, I consider it as if you have not sanctified Me. Could it mean that if you sanctify Me then I am sanctified but if not, then I am not sanctified? No – because it says, ‘.for I am Holy’ — I am in My holiness whether they sanctify me or not.” (Sifra, Kedoshim 1:1).

The code of conduct whose foundations are laid forth in the present parshah gives practical expression to the challenge addressed to the Children of Israel when they assembled at Sinai to receive the Torah. “If you will surely listen to My voice and guard My covenant, you shall be a precious treasure out of all the nations, for the whole earth is Mine. And you shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a HOLY NATION: these are the words you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6).

Following the account of the Giving of the Torah in YITRO, parshas MISHPATIM laid down many of the basic laws governing man’s behavior with his fellows including the prohibitions of murder, robbery and theft, the laws of restitution for damages, etc. Many of the laws in MISHPATIM are somewhat specialist in the sense that they apply particularly to Dayanim, Torah judges.

However the code laid forth in the present parshah, KEDOSHIM applies to everyone, as it is the basic Torah code for everyday life, starting with the respect due to parents and the observance of the holy Shabbos — which overrides even the former, should any conflict arise.

The next Mitzvah in the parshah — to eat sacrificial portions within their appointed time — cannot unfortunately be observed today in the absence of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. However, it is worth noting that correct timing is an important part of G-d’s code. Things should be done at their appointed time and not dragged on until all the taste goes out of them. The entire Oral Torah begins with an extensive discussion about the exact time for reciting the evening Shema (Berachos, Chapter 1). It is unfortunate that at times SJT (“Standard Jewish Time”) strays somewhat widely from precision timing. Every moment in life should be treasured, and people’s time should not be wasted for no reason.

The Mitzvos that follow in our parshah are those of giving gifts of produce to the poor, and of basic integrity: “Do not steal, do not deceive and do not lie to one another. Don’t impound your friend’s money, don’t delay payment for services rendered. Don’t unjustly favor either the poor or the rich. don’t hate your brother in your heart, give due reproof, do not take vengeance or nurse a grievance against the children of your people, and love your friend as yourself, for I am HaShem”.

The code of Holiness contained in our parshah is not one that requires its followers to separate from the material world and live apart in ascetic communities such as in monasteries and the like. On the contrary, true KEDUSHAH comes to a person precisely through living his or her life with family, friends and associates, within the wider community and in the workaday world. Making a living within the boundaries of the halachah, taking into account the needs of the needy, dealing correctly in business, abstaining from all theft and corruption, from hatred, vengeance, etc. etc. It is precisely through keeping these commandments in our everyday material lives, while actually dealing with all that we have to deal with each day, that we become purer.

This “purity” is the KEDUSHAH, the “holiness” which is the defining attribute of the path of life set forth in our parshah. In mystical writings, KEDUSHAH is particularly associated with the mental and spiritual faculties of CHOCHMAH, BINAH and DA’AS, while the very foundation for their healthy functioning is the purity of YESOD, moral purity.

In giving us a code of “holiness” that governs the way we do business with one another, how we talk to and about one another, as well as so many other details in our lives in the world, the Torah is teaching us to constantly activate our CHOCHMAH, BINAH and DA’AS powers in everyday life. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov, “An everyday barter exchange also involves the Talmudic law of ‘exchanging an ox for a donkey’.” In other words, everything we do, including in our business lives, is a G-d-given opportunity for discovering buried “sparks” of holiness within the very situations that confront us. We need to activate our minds to recognize the holy potential contained within everyday affairs. Nothing is more evanescent than today: the day is quickly gone. But if we are alert to the mitzvahs we can perform every day, particularly in the realm of “love your friend as yourself” — which includes all forms of kindness — we gather great treasures day by day, all of them stored in G-d’s memory, where nothing is forgotten.