MAY 11-12, 2007 24 IYAR 5767
DAY 39 OF THE OMER
"Do not subjugate him through hard labor - you shall have fear of your G-d" (Vayikra 25:43)
In the perashah of Behar, the most common idea is that parnassah - one's livelihood - comes from Heaven. This idea is very basic and needs to be constantly reinforced. The most important example is the misvah of Shemitah. In a time when most of Israel was involved in agriculture, the Torah required them to rest the land one year out of every seven years. They did it because they recognized that their livelihood depended solely on Hashem. This idea is also reiterated in the laws of ona'at mammon - financial wrongdoing - such as price gouging. They realized that the business world is not a jungle and Hashem controls everything. A Jew must believe that he can earn his livelihood in an honest and honorable manner without having to resort to illegal means to do so. The prohibition of ribit (usury) from a Jew is also along these lines.
The prohibition to overwork a Jewish slave, "You shall not subjugate him through hard labor," is also a lesson that parnassah comes from Heaven. A master shouldn't feel that in order to get his money's worth out of the slave, he has to wring out every last bit of hard work that the slave can do. The slave may not be given degrading tasks, he should be treated decently like any other human being and in a way that the master himself would want to be dealt with if their situation would be reversed.
Rabbi Bension Abba Shaul zt"l had a way of seeing things that others paid no attention to, specifically in terms of his sensitivity towards the feelings of others. One day the Rosh Yeshivah saw one of his students eating some fruit while he was learning. At that moment Rabbi Abba Shaul's eyes happened to fall on the windowsill, where the student left some peels. "Watch out! That is an issur de'orayta (a scriptural prohibition)!" The student was taken aback, not knowing which law he violated! The Rabbi explained our above-quoted verse, "'You shall not subjugate him through hard labor;'" this includes subjecting him to unnecessary work. Tomorrow morning the janitor will come and will have to clear away the peels that were inconsiderately left behind. This is a violation of that prohibition." The Rabbi added that this issur applies not only to paid janitors, but to anyone who may be cleaning your house. If you leave your clothing or dishes lying around, someone will have to deal with them. Perhaps it's another person's job to do the cleaning, but there are basic things that everyone can do to spare the cleaning help - and especially one's mother and wife - extra work. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"In this Yobel year, you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage" (Vayikra 25:13)
The Jubilee year, the Yobel, came every 50 years of the Jewish calendar. Besides having the same status as Shemittah, the Sabbatical year, where no one may plant or plow, there was also an additional law that all lands and fields and houses must return to their original owner. As the Torah puts it, when one sells a field, it is basically a long-term lease until the year of the Yobel. The Rabbis tell us that the Yobel year must have been an amazing sight, to see everyone moving from property to property. Imagine the turmoil, the frenzy and the tumult! The lesson is to teach us that we are only strangers in the land; we are not here for good. Although this law is not applicable today, the concept is just as relevant as before. We tend to think of ourselves as permanent inhabitants of this world. We build and plan to live as if this is the final stop. Yobel should teach us that we are only guests here, hopefully for our full 120 years, but guests nonetheless. With this in mind, we can plan correctly for the final destination by making our time count with Torah and misvot. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"You shall blow the shofar…and you shall sanctify the fiftieth year…it shall be a Jubilee for you, and you shall return every man to his possession, and you shall return every man to his family" (Vayikra 25:9-10)
On the fiftieth year, the yobel (Jubilee year), there is a misvah to blow the shofar. The reason for this is that on the yobel, the servants were set free. When a master had a servant for a long period of time, it was difficult for him to lose the helping hand. The shofar was blown for the master to realize that he was not the only one freeing his servant. Rather, the same was happening to everyone else who had servants. The knowledge that others are also suffering in the same way makes it much easier to accept hardships.
There are many difficulties in life that people subjectively make worse for themselves because they feel that they are the only ones who are suffering. The more you realize that each person has his own life-problems, the easier you will find it to cope in a positive way with your own. While not everyone will have the same problems as you do, everyone does have hardships and tests. Gain greater awareness of other people and you will be able to put your own suffering in a perspective that will decrease the pain. (Growth through Torah)
"You shall not rule over him with rigor but you shall fear Hashem" (Vayikra 25:43)
Rashi cites a Sifra that this verse is a prohibition against giving a servant work that is not really necessary. For example, a master is forbidden to tell his servant to warm things up when he really does not need it. Perhaps the master will say, "No one knows whether this is really necessary or not, and I will tell him that this is necessary." This is a matter which is given over to his heart, therefore it is stated, "And you shall fear Hashem."
Since the servant does not know that the work the master is giving him is not really needed, why does the Torah prohibit it? The principle we see here is that the Torah wants us to feel an inner respect for others. A master who gives his servant work just to keep him busy is expressing a lack of respect for the dignity of the person who is working for him. People are created in the image of Hashem and have a spark of divinity in them. As such they must be treated with great respect. Even if the other person does not feel that you are treating him with a lack of respect, your inner thoughts and attitude towards him must be respectful. Your inner feelings will be the roots of your actions. When you master an inner respect for others, your entire behavior in dealing with them will be on a much higher level. (Growth through Torah)
"Then the land will appease its Sabbaths, as long as it lies desolate, and you are in the land of your enemies" (Vayikra 26:34)
In the time of galut, the earth rests in order to make up for the years when the Jews did not observe shemittah while living in Eress Yisrael. Why is the punishment for violating the laws of shemittah so harsh that the Jews had to go into galut for it?
According to the Gemara (Sanhedrin 39a) the misvah of shemittah teaches that Hashem is the owner of the land. A Jew who acknowledges this is given the right and privilege of working the land and enjoying its produce. However, a Jew who goes against the will of Hashem by not observing the laws of shemittah implies that he is the owner of the land and not Hashem. Therefore, Hashem has no choice but to send the Jew into galut, in order to prove that He is the owner of the land. (Vedibarta Bam)
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
"He who says: 'What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours' - this is an average characteristic; and some say this is the characteristic of the people of Sedom" (Abot 5:10)
Why such diverse opinions?
Some people have a "favorite charity" and neglect the others. When they are approached for help they respond, "Sheli sheli veshelcha shelcha" - "I devote all my contributions to my favorite charity and you should do the same with yours." This approach is not so praiseworthy because a truly benevolent person should help every cause.
Unfortunately, some people are "yesh omrim" - "sayers." Whenever they are approached for a charitable cause, they excuse themselves, saying, "I have my own charities," while in reality they do not give at all. Such people are practicing "midat Sedom" - the ways of the people of Sedom.
Alternatively, when in a community there is an individual who says he does not want to receive help from anybody nor give to anybody, such a person is of median characteristic and hopefully the one who is in need will find many people in the community to whom to turn. However, when "veyesh omrim" - "this is said by many" - i.e. not just by one individual. but the community members, it is obvious that the community is conducting themselves like the people of Sedom, because the poor will not find anyone to turn to for assistance. (Vedibarta Bam)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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