This week we have a double parsha: Behar and B’Chukosai. With those two parshiot we conclude the Book of Leviticus and proclaim “Chazak Chazak–Be strong and of good courage” for it is through the steadfast study and observance of Torah that we are infused with strength.
We are now in the count-down for the sacred holiday of Shavuos, when G-d gave us the Torah. Most appropriately, this parsha imparts commandments that teach us how we may best prepare ourselves for this holy day. Not only are we called upon to intensify our faith and place our trust in the Almighty G-d through the laws of Shmita – the Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:1) but we are also reminded that “we are in charge of our lives” … “We can choose blessing or curse–it’s all in our hands” (Leviticus 26:1 and 26:14). Among the many and varied commandments in this parsha are the laws that teach us how to be more sensitive toward our fellow man: “You shall not aggrieve your fellow man” (Leviticus 25:17), meaning that we must be very careful with our words and with our comments so as not to embarrass or hurt, not to use derogatory language or offensive nick-names, not to remind people of their past misdeeds, even if we rationalize our behavior by claiming that we are just joking.
In our society, where “ranking out people” and “telling it like it is”, regardless of how much pain is inflicted, has become acceptable, these reminders are vitally needed if we are to retain our human compassion
In this parsha, we also learn that we are not permitted to subjugate anyone through hard labor.. ”For the children of Israel are servants to Me…” (Leviticus 25:53). From this verse we learn that we have to be careful not to burden anyone to the point where they no longer have any energy for the service of G-d.
The eminent sage, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, expounded in this commandment and taught that if we must be cautious not to impose tasks on others that would inhibit them from living a life of mitzvoth, we must apply these same concerns to our own lives. We live in a culture that is obsessed with the pursuit of success, and in doing so, we all too often compromise our observance of mitzvos and our responsibilities to our families. We must live with the priority of remembering that, first and foremost, “we, the children of Israel, are the servants of G-d”.
How can we accomplish this? Here too, the answer is given in the parsha. “If in My statutes you shall walk…” The use of the word “walk” is rather odd. It would have been more appropriate to say “observe”. But the Torah is teaching us how to maintain our spiritual lives. “Walking”–connotes constant movement. Thus, we never graduate from Torah study; we must always be moving and growing in our Torah commitment.
Walking also implies that to be a Jew is to follow the well-trodden path of our ancestors, for it is only by following that path that we can realize our responsibilities as Jews.
By: Rabbi Osher Jungreis
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