Tuesday, May 24, 2016

527 - Behar

The second half of this week's parsha deals with numerous laws that pertain to a fellow Jew who becomes impoverished. If you lend him money, "Do not take from him interest." If he sells himself to you as a slave, "You shall not work him with slave labor." If the situation is such that he sells himself as a slave to a Non-Jew, we must make an effort to extract him from his undesirable environment. As the Torah instructs us, "He shall have redemption; one of his brothers shall redeem him" (Vayikra 25:36, 39, 48).

The final two pesukim in the parsha seem to be totally out of place. There the Torah commands us not to make idols or erect statues and it exhorts us to observe Shabbos. What do these mitzvos have anything to do with what was mentioned beforehand?

Rashi explains (ibid. 26:1) that these commandments are specifically directed to the Jew who sells himself to the gentile. When this slave observes his master's behavior, he should not look to imitate him. He should notsay, "Since my master engages in forbidden relationships, so will I. Since my master worships idols, so will I. Since my master desecrates the Shabbos, so will I." The Torah wrote a condensed book of the most basic prohibitions tailored specially for the Jew that finds himself in spiritually challenged circumstances.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) comments that the Torah does not give up on anybody. A Jew can never reach a situation of total spiritual despair. His situation could be so bleak that he even sold himself to chop wood and draw water for a house of idol worship (see Rashi 25:47). Nevertheless, the Torah reaches out to him with a "Kitzur Shulchan Aruch" exhorting him to keep at least the basic tenets of Judaism.

The early twentieth century brought many Jews from Europe to America. At the time, America was a spiritual wasteland and many Jews lost any vestiges of Judaism. At that time the Chofetz Chaim wrote a condensed book of laws to aid his brethren in their newfound surroundings. Likewise, he wrote a special sefer geared specifically for those who had been drafted into the army for years on end and had limited access to anything religious.

It doesn't make any difference where the Jew finds himself for the Torah is always holding his hand and guiding him. Thus, there is no room or reason for despair since Hashem cares about every Jew even in the most depressing and bleak situations. So pick your chin up and smile, since the Creator of the world sees you, knows what you're going through, and is relating to you in your very situation!

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