Torah Study

Torah Portion (Parasha) of the Week - Behar

VIDEO: Parasah Behar - Emunah in Action

Everything comes from Mount Sinai

By Rabbi Chaim Coffman

"And the L-rd spoke to Moshe on mount Sinai saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, 'When you come to the land which I give you then shall the land keep a sabbath to the L-rd. Six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruit; but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest to the land, a sabbath for the L-rd". (Leviticus 25:1-3).

The parsha begins with the command to keep the sabbatical year, Shemittah by leaving the land fallow for one year, not pruning the field or taking in its fruit. Shemittah is observed only in the land of Israel and with great sacrifice as well.

Farmers who earn their livelihood through their produce sacrifice a great deal by observing Shemittah. There is a promise the Torah makes that even if you are observing Shemittah in the seventh year, you will have enough food to eat by having a bumper crop in the six year that will provide for the seventh as well.

It is interesting to note that those who deny authorship of the Torah by G-d, i.e. it was written by a committee of men or that some were divinely inspired or even that they all ate the same hallucinogenic mushroom in the desert to explain the exodus from Egypt...will have a hard time explaining the verses that describe Shemittah. The reason is that if the Jewish people were not allowed to work the land in Israel on the seventh year and did not have great crops the year before, this could never have been transmitted.

Not only that but if that didn't happen in their own generation, then the Torah would have looked like a fraud which the people would have no interest in keeping! If that is true, then as Rashi brings in the first verse that just as G-d gave the laws of Shemittah and all its details on mount Sinai, so too He gave us all the laws of the Torah on mount Sinai!

We sometimes lose sight of this idea and certainly the detractors of Torah coming from G-d will attest that what proof is there that any of this happened? Maybe it was all a big game of telephone and that is how we our Jewish laws and customs!

There are various proofs, historically and socialogically that can prove a lot of things that the Torah tells us but it is by no means 100%. The reason could be because G-d still wants us to have free will and keep His Torah and mitzvos because we believe it is the right thing to do.

He therefore made it that we don't have all the proof that the Torah is true but we have enough evidence to make a strong case for it. The point we have to remember is that we have a rich heritage that has been passed down to us generation to generation and the Jewish people have only survived through Torah and the adherence to mitzvos.

As we see from the so called "Jewish movements" within Judaism, that the more you are attached to His laws and will, the more likely you will have the ability to pass it down to the next generation. With rampant intermarriage (in some places up to 85%) and assimilation, Judaism doesn't stand a chance to survive unless we keep to it's laws.

We say when we return the Torah to the ark, during the week, on shabbos and festivals that the Torah is a tree of life to those that grab it. This means that if I grab the Torah, it will have a positive influence on me which tells me it is not how much I put in to understand the Torah but it is how much of the Torah I put into myself!

If we would live our lives with this ideal, that everything comes from G-d and He runs the show (even if we don't understand why He does what He does) nonetheless our observance would be different, our lives would be transformed and we would all be doing G-d's will which will bring moshiach speedily in our days.

Rabbi Chaim Coffman

G-d Runs the World

"Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel and say to them when you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem, For six years you may sow in your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard and you may gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune'" (Leviticus 28: 1-4)

The Torah tells us in the land of Israel we are allowed to work the land for six years and the seventh year we are obligated to leave it fallow. This is a tremendous test for the farmer! How will he make a living and survive during this year? The command to keep Shabbos is no different. After all, we are allowed to toil six days a week and the seventh day we have to keep shabbos. Many feel this is too difficult because it gives the competition an unfair advantage since they can stay open and run their businesses while this poor soul is closed and seemingly will lose out.

The answer to both these claims is the same. The Jew who closes his business for shabbos is stating to the world that G-d is in charge. He is able to sustain me six days a week and even if I don't work on shabbos, I will still be compensated and won't lose out. The Jew living in the land of Israel has exactly the same claim. G-d sustains him for those six years and will compensate him for not working the land in the seventh year. Both are a tremendous test but they give us the ability to show the world that G-d is in charge.

This gives us the ability to flex our spiritual muscles in our belief in how He runs the world. Not only that, if we try and take what we don't deserve, then we will lose out in other ways. For example, G-d has decreed how much a person will make during the year on Rosh Hashana. If we work more and try and take what we don't deserve we will lose out in other ways. This means that if the decree was that a person should make $50,000 for that year then that is what they will make no matter how much overtime they put in. How is that?

Even if they net $70,000 they will lose out in other ways where they will still end up with $50,000. They could have medical bills to pay, appliances could need to be replaced or there could be issues with a person's car…When you add all these things together, you get back to the original number which you were supposed to make. This shows that yes we have to put our best foot forward in trying to make a living but we should remember that if we try and take what is not ours, we will lose out in other ways.

This is a tremendous lesson for all of us. We are given many opportunities to flex of emunah (belief in G-d) muscles. This helps us realize our special purpose in this world and keeps us focused on this reality!

                                                                                                                         Rabbi Chaim Coffman