Dvar Torah Questions and Answers on Behar

"וידבר ה' אל משה בהר סיני... ושבתה הארץ שבת לה'... ובשנה השביעת שבת שבתון"
G‑d spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai... the land shall observe a Shabbat rest for G‑d... the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land.” (25:1-4)

QUESTION: What is the connection between shemittah and Mount Sinai?

ANSWER: Shemittah is proof that the Torah was given to the Jewish people by Hashem. When the Torah relates the laws of shemittah, it also guarantees that although the fields will be idle in the seventh year, the crop of the sixth year will be blessed so that it will produce enough for three years; the sixth, seventh and eighth years.

Such a guarantee could only be given by Hashem. Thus, the Torah’s inclusion of the laws of shemittah, which were certainly given by Hashem, proves that the entire Torah was given by Hashem on Mount Sinai.

In addition, a human being knows that every year the harvest of the field becomes weaker, so that the first year after shemittah it would yield the most produce, and in the sixth year it would yield the least. A human being would not guarantee that which defies the laws of nature. Only Hashem, who transcends and controls nature, can promise something that is not in accordance with nature. This, then, is proof that Torah was given to us from Hashem on Mount Sinai.

(חתם סופר)

"ושבתה הארץ שבת לה'"
“The land shall observe a Shabbat rest for G‑d.” (25:2)

QUESTION: The word “Shabbat” seems to be superfluous. Could it not have said, “Veshabta ha’aretz laHashem” — “The land shall observe a rest for Hashem”?

ANSWER: The solar calendar contains approximately 365 days, which equals 52 weeks plus one day. Since in every period of seven days there is a Shabbat, during the entire year there are at least 52 Shabbatot with one extra Shabbat every seven years. When the farmer uses his land, in reality it is working continuously every day of the week and not resting on Shabbat. Hence, in a period of six years the land works a total of 312 Shabbatot.

Therefore, the Torah designated the seventh year as shemittah, so that for the 312 days plus the 52 Shabbat days of the seventh year, and the one additional Shabbat which accumulated over the seven year period, the land will rest and totally observe Shabbat for Hashem.

(מטה משה)

"ושבתה הארץ שבת לה'"
“The land shall observe a Shabbat rest for G‑d.” (25:2)

QUESTION: Rashi comments on the words Shabbat LaHashem,, “for the name of Hashem, just as it was stated (in the Ten Commandments, Shemot 20:10) regarding the Shabbat of creation” — the Shabbat throughout the year.

What is the connection between the shemittah year and the Shabbat?

ANSWER: Hashem gave the Jews Shabbat as a time for spiritual rejuvenation. For a person who spends the weekdays immersed in work, Shabbat is to be a day of Shabbat laHashem — devoted to prayer, Torah study, and becoming closer to Hashem, not merely a time of leisure or rest from the hard work of the week.

Rashi is teaching us that the year of shemittah should be like Shabbat — a year devoted to study and prayer, enabling one to come closer to Hashem.

(הדרש והעיון)

"ובשנה השביעת שבת שבתון יהיה לארץ שבת לה'"
“In the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Shabbat for G‑d.” (25:4)

QUESTION: The words “Shabbat laHashem” seem to be superfluous. Would it not have been sufficient to say, “In the seventh year the land shall have a complete rest”?

ANSWER: In Israel, the month of Nissan is the time when the fields are harvested. The month of Tishrei is the season for pressing olives and grapes. The Talmudic sage Rava instructed his students not to come to yeshivah during the months of Nissan and Tishrei so that they would be free to pursue their livelihood and not have to worry about how to sustain themselves throughout the year (Berachot 35b). Thus, while the year was dedicated to Torah study, there was a respite during the months of Nissan and Tishrei.

During a six-year period, there was a total of twelve months (one year) when Torah was not studied with proper diligence. To make up for the time missed in service of Hashem, we have the Sabbatical year of shemittah when the fields are not worked. This entire year must be “Shabbat laHashem” — dedicated to Hashem through Torah study.

(פרדס יוסף)

"ובשנה השביעת... שדך לא תזרע ... יובל הוא... לא תזרעו ולא תקצרו"
“But the seventh year... your field you shall not sow... It shall be a Jubilee Year ... you shall not sow, you shall not harvest.” (25:4,11)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah use singular verbs (tizra) when discussing shemittah, but plural ones (tizra’u) for the yoveil — the Jubilee year?

ANSWER: The laws of yoveil only apply when all the tribes are in Eretz Yisrael. According to the Gemara (Arachin 32b), once Sancherev exiled the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menasheh, the laws of yoveil no longer applied.

Since yoveil applies only when all the Jews are in Eretz Yisrael, the Torah uses the plural. However, shemittah is observed even if there is only one Jew in Eretz Yisrael. Thus, shemittah is discussed in the singular form.

(עיטורי תורה)

"וקדשתם את שנת החמשים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל ישביה יובל הוא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו"
“And you shall make holy the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants; a Jubilee it shall be for you, each of you shall return to his possession and each of you shall return to his family” (25:10)

QUESTION: The freedom proclaimed in the Jubilee year was primarily for the slaves. Why does the Torah say “lechol yoshvehah” — “for all its inhabitants”?

ANSWER: Although being sold into slavery is demeaning, the Torah demands that the master treat his slave with great sensitivity and dignity. Thus, the Gemara (Kiddushin 20a) says, “Whoever purchases a Hebrew slave is actually acquiring a master.” According to the Jerusalem Talmud (see Tosafot ibid.), if the master has only one pillow to sleep on, the slave has priority to it. Consequently, in the Jubilee year, “all inhabitants,” both the slaves and the masters, enjoy a period of freedom.

(פני יהושע)

"יובל הוא שנת החמשים שנה תהיה לכם לא תזרעו"
“A Jubilee shall be that fiftieth year for you: you shall not sow.” (25:11)

QUESTION: On the third day of creation, the plants only grew up to a point immediately below the surface of the ground. On the sixth day, after his own creation, Adam prayed for rain, and plants began to appear on the earth's surface. Why did they only grow up to the surface and not further on the third day?

ANSWER: The first day of creation was the 25th of Elul, with man being created on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei (see Rosh Hashanah 8a). According to the Midrash (Psalms 90:4), “The Torah preceded the world by 2000 years.” In accordance with the Torah command designating every fiftieth year to be yoveil (the Jubilee year, in which farmers in Israel are forbidden to work the land), the 2000th year was the fortieth yoveil year, ending with the first five days of creation.

Our sages explain the pasuk, “He tells His words to Yaakov, His laws and His judgments to Israel” (Psalms 147:19) to mean that He commands the Jewish people to do the things which He does Himself (Shemot Rabbah 30:9). To show how He, too, observes the mitzvah of yoveil, Hashem created the plants on the third day, but didn’t allow them to grow out of the ground as it was still the yoveil year. On the sixth day of creation, the first day of the new year following the yoveil, Adam was allowed to work the fields, and so Hashem answered Adam’s prayers for rain and let the plants emerge.

(נחלת בנימין)

"וכי תמכרו ממכר לעמיתך או קנה מיד עמיתך אל תונו איש את אחיו"
“When you make a sale to your fellow or make a purchase from the hand of your fellow, a man shall not aggrieve his brother.” (25:14)

QUESTION: Why is the emphasis on one’s “brother”; isn’t it forbidden to defraud anyone?

ANSWER: The famous Chassidic Rabbi, Reb Nachum of Chernobyl was once approached by a distinguished-looking person who offered to teach him secrets of Torah. Reb Nachum said, “I cannot accept your offer until I consult with my Rebbe.” When he sought his Rebbe’s advice, the Mezritcher Maggid replied, “It is good that you came to ask, because that person was a representative of the spiritual forces which oppose holiness.”

“Incidentally,” the Rebbe asked his disciple, “What gave you the idea of inquiring before accepting his suggestion?”

Reb Nachum answered, “When I was young, my mother passed away and my father remarried. My stepmother was very cruel to me. I once came home from yeshivah for lunch when she was not home and noticed that she had left some fried eggs on the stove. Not wanting to waste time, I decided to serve myself and took a portion smaller than what she would normally give me. She returned home while I was eating and abruptly struck me across the face. I began to cry, and pleaded with her, ‘Why did you hit me? I took less than what I normally receive!’ She replied, ‘I am punishing you because alain nemt men nit — One should not take anything alone without permission.’ Since that very day I learned not to take anything without permission, regardless of how good or desirable it may be.”

One may rationalize that it is justifiable to cheat a brother because he should extend his assistance to help family members in time of need. Moreover, as a “brother” he will surely understand and forgive. Therefore, the Torah declared, “A man shall not aggrieve his brother” — it is forbidden to take from anyone, even a brother, without his knowledge and permission.

(שמעתי הסיפור מהמשפיע הרב שמואל הלוי ז"ל לעוויטין)

"ונתנה הארץ פריה ואכלתם לשבע"
“And the land shall yield her fruit and you will eat your fill.” (25:19)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah emphasize “piryah”“her fruit,” rather than say “peirot” — “fruits”?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 5:9), when Hashem created the world, the earth was capable of producing fruit the very day it was plowed and sowed. The trunk of the tree was supposed to taste the same as its fruit, and even non-fruit-bearing trees yielded fruit.

After Adam sinned, the earth was cursed and we no longer enjoy any of these blessings. All these qualities will occur again in the days of Mashiach (Torat Kohanim, Bechukotai 1:3-6).

With the word “piryah”her fruit — the Torah is hinting to us that after the redemption, when we will come to Eretz Yisrael and observe the Torah and all its precepts, the land will produce her fruits according to her fullest potential as it was in the days of creation.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר, י"א אייר תשמ"ט להרבנים הראשיים מאה"ק כשהיו אצלו)

"וכי תאמרו מה נאכל בשנה השביעית...וצויתי את ברכתי לכם בשנה הששית ועשת את התבואה לשלש השנים"
“If you will say, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year?’ I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year and it shall bring forth produce sufficient for three years.” (25:20-21)

QUESTION: Such a question would only be asked by a heretic. Why does the Torah anticipate it and provide an answer?

ANSWER: During the sojourn in the wilderness, Hashem sustained the Jewish people on manna, about which the Torah says, “It tasted like a cake fried in honey” (Shemot 16:31). While one would expect the people to be grateful to Hashem for giving them such tasty food; they were nevertheless unsatisfied and complained, “Our soul is parched, there is nothing, we have nothing to anticipate but themanna!” (Bamidbar 21:6) Why such ingratitude?

A Jewish person is compounded of an earthly body and a soul which descended from Heaven. Our food also contains sparks of G‑dliness. A Jew is supposed to eat not only for physical strength but also lesheim Shamayim — for the sake of Heaven (to have strength to serve Hashem and study Torah) — and by doing so, he elevates the sparks of G‑dliness in the food. This process is known as birur hanitzutzot” (separating and elevating the G‑dly sparks), and is alluded to in the Torah: “Not by bread alone does man live, but rather by everything that emanates from the mouth of G‑d (G‑dliness within the food) does man live” (Devarim 8:3).

Since the manna was a Heavenly food, it was entirely holy, and thus needed no spiritual elevation and there were no sparks mingled with the physical to elevate. Consequently, the Jewish people were unsatisfied, because eating such food was not in itself a spiritual service.

When Hashem gave the Jews the mitzvah of shemittah and instructed them to leave the fields idle, they worried that during the seventh year Hashem would again sustain them with manna, and thus they became apprehensive about the entire mitzvah of shemittah. Therefore, Hashem said, “If you [righteous people] say, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year?’ [apprehensive that it would be manna, do not fear because] ‘I will bless the land to yield a sufficient crop for the three-year period’ and, thus, you will continue to elevate G‑dly sparks by eating earthly food.”

"כי ימוך אחיך ומכר מאחזתו ובא גאלו הקרב אליו וגאל את ממכר אחיו"
“If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his possession, his relative who is closest to him shall come and redeem his brother’s sale.” (25:25)

QUESTION: Why is this law stated in the singular, while the laws stated in the previous pesukim are in the plural?

ANSWER: Often, success and affluence bring great popularity. An affluent person has many friends and associates who enthusiastically greet him and eagerly participate in his celebrations. When the wheel of fortune takes a turn and he is no longer on the giving end, friends and even family suddenly turn down his requests for help, advising him to turn to someone else.

The Torah, therefore, speaks in the singular, to stress that when one is in need, everybody should consider it his responsibility to offer help and to see himself as the sole individual capable of coming to his brother's aid.


"כי ימוך אחיך ומכר מאחזתו ובא גאלו הקרב אליו וגאל את ממכר אחיו. ואיש כי לא יהיה לו גאל והשיגה ידו ומצא כדי גאולתו"
“If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his ancestral heritage, his redeemer who is closest to him should come and redeem his brother’s sale. If a man has no redeemer, but his means suffice and he acquires sufficient means to redeem it.” (25:25-26)

QUESTION: The words “Ve’ish ki lo yiheh lo go’eil” — “If a man has no redeemer” — seem superfluous? Also, the word umatza — and he acquires (finds) — seems unnecessary, couldn’t it just say, “oh hisigah yado kedei ge’ulato” — “or his own means become sufficient to redeem it” — [It may be bought back by dividing the sale price by the number of years from the sale until yovel, and giving the difference to the buyer], as it says in (25:49)?

ANSWER: The wheel of fortune took a turn on a wealthy person and his assets dwindled day after day. As this was happening, he became very sad and despondent. One day, after he lost all his wealth, he visited the public bath house and someone stole his clothing. Upon learning of this, he began to dance and rejoice. People asked him in amazement, “When you were losing only some of your riches you were very downhearted, why are you now so happy when you have lost everything?” He replied, “In the world there is a wheel: some are on top and some on the bottom. When I was on top and started going downward I was very sad, since I did not know where I might end up. Now that I am all the way down and even my shirt has been stolen, I know I cannot go down any further, so undoubtedly, I will start turning upward again from now on.”

The Torah is alluding to this and telling us that when one reaches a state of poverty when he has to sell his ancestral heritage, and he has no redeemer in the entire world to come to his assistance, then Hashem will see to it that “vehisigah yado” — “he will have means [through], “u’matza — “and he will find” — i.e. acquire, “kedei ge’uloto” — sufficient for the redemption.

(עי' מעינה של תורה)

"וכי ימוך אחיך ומטה ידו עמך והחזקת בו גר ותושב וחי עמך"
“If your brother becomes impoverished and his means fail with you, you should strengthen him — whether proselyte or resident — so that he can live with you.” (25:35)

QUESTION: Why are the words “umatah yado imach” — “and his means fail with you” — necessary?

ANSWER: Helping the poor is one of the greatest mitzvot in the Torah. Sometimes the needy may unknowingly turn for assistance to those formerly wealthy, but currently experiencing financial hardship. The Torah instructs us that when “umatah yado” — “his means fail” — “imach” — “together with you” — that is, you are now also experiencing financial hardship — nevertheless, you must help him as much as possible, with the confidence that Hashem will bless you both.

Hashem promises that “vachai imach” — so that he can live with you — both you and he will merit divine blessings and live comfortably.

* * *

On this pasuk, the Midrash (34:1) quotes from Psalms (41:2): "אשרי משכיל אל דל ביום רעה ימלטהו ה'" — “Praiseworthy is the one who acts wisely for the impoverished; G‑d will deliver him in a time of trouble.” What message is the Midrash imparting to us?

In view of the above explanation, the link between these pesukim is easily understood: The phrase “beyom ra’ah” — “in a time of trouble” — does not refer to the receiver’s trouble but to the giver’s. Thus, King David is saying, “Praiseworthy is the one who acts wisely for the impoverished and extends aid to the needy [even] when he himself is in a time of trouble, that is, experiencing financial difficulties.

(כתב סופר)

* * *

Why does the Torah use the word maskil — “acts wisely” — rather than “notein” — “gives”?

The Hebrew term “dal” — “pauper” — is sometimes written with a kamatz and sometimes with a “patach.” Here it is written with a kamatz.” The “patach” is pronounced with an open mouth and “kamatz” (according to the Ashkenazi accent) is pronounced with a closed mouth.

There are two types of impoverished people. One makes his impoverishment publicly known and openly asks for aid. The other is embarrassed and does not share his problems with anyone else. The talkative one will definitely arouse the concern of people, and many will come to his aid. However, the discreet individual whose state of poverty is unknown may, G‑d forbid, falter.

Consequently, King David praises the person who is “maskil” — “acts wisely” — to the “dal” — the poor man with the “kamatz” — and finds a way to help him, even though he is silent and not beseeching.

(החוזה מלובלין זצ"ל)

"וכי ימוך אחיך ומטה ידו עמך והחזקת בו גר ותושב וחי עמך"
“If your brother becomes impoverished and his means fail with you, you should strengthen him — whether proselyte or resident — so that he can live with you.” (25:35)

QUESTION: “Vehechezakta bo” means, “strengthen in him.” Should it not have said “vehechezakta oto” — “you should strengthen him”?

ANSWER: Tzedakah is often viewed as the rich giving the poor. However, in the Midrash Rabba (Vayikra 34:8), Rabbi Yehoshua says, “More than the rich do for the poor, the poor do for the rich.” The rich man who gives the poor man money is helping him temporarily with his daily needs. In return, through tzedakah, the rich man’s assets become blessed and he is also greatly rewarded in olam haba.

Our pasuk alludes to this by saying “vehechezakta” — “you will find strength for yourself”“bo” — “in him” — that is, through helping the poor man.

(שערי שמחה)

"אל תקח מאתו נשך ותרבית... וחי אחיך עמך"
“Do not take from him interest and increase. and let your brother live with you.” (25:36)

QUESTION: How is the phrase “let your brother live with you” connected with not taking interest?

ANSWER: When a person lends money on interest, he profits with every day that passes. Thus, the lender wants every day to be as short as possible so that more days pass and he will earn more money. On the other hand, the borrower prays that each day should become longer so that he will have to pay for fewer days. Consequently, these two people have a different outlook on time. By giving an interest-free loan, the lender will not pray for a shorter day and the borrower will not pray for a longer day, and thus, “your brother will live together with you” — with the same outlook on time.


* * *

Alternatively, the punishment for one who takes interest is extremely severe, to the extent that he will not arise at techiat hameitim — the resurrection (Shulchan Aruch Harav, Hilchot Ribit). The words “vachai achicha imach” allude to this: We are warned not to take interest so that when techiat hameitim — the resurrection — takes place all Jews will live together again.

When Rabbi Akiva Eiger was the Rav in the city of Pozen, a very wealthy man who often lent at interest passed away. The chevra kadisha (burial society) demanded that the family pay an enormous amount of money for the burial plot. The family refused and complained to the civil authorities.

The Rabbi explained the following to the authorities: “The Jewish people believe that after the coming of Mashiach, the resurrection will take place. Since we anticipate Mashiach’s coming speedily, the deceased will be buried for a very short period of time. Therefore, the fees for burial plots are nominal. Unfortunately, since this man violated the prohibition of lending with interest, he will not arise at techiat hameitim. Thus, he needs a grave for an unlimited period of time. Hence, the chevrah kadisha was just in requesting the seemingly large amount of money from the family.”

(שער בת רבים)

"וחי אחיך עמך"
“Let your brother live with you.” (25:36)

QUESTION: In Gemara (Bava Metzia 62a), Rabbi Akiva says that this pasuk teaches us that, “Chayecha kodemin lechayei chaveirecha” — “Your life comes before that of your friend.” Therefore, if two people are traveling in a wilderness and one has a supply of water sufficient for only one person, he may drink it himself so that he will survive, although his fellow traveler will die of thirst in the interim.

How can this be reconciled with the Gemara (Kiddushin 20a) that says, “He who acquires for himself a Jewish slave is actually acquiring a master over himself,” and Tosafot explains it to mean that if he has only one pillow, the slave has priority to use it?

ANSWER: In the case described by Rabbi Akiva, each one of them is obligated to assure that his friend survives. Since, in this situation, this is impossible (the water is only enough for one) we say that your life comes first. However, in the case of the slave, the master is commanded to assure that, “Ki tov lo imach” — “For it is good for him with you” (Devarim 15:16) — but the slave does not have such an obligation towards the master. Therefore, the master must yield the use of the pillow to the slave.


* * *

Alternatively, the rule of Rabbi Akiva applies only in matters of life and death, and not when the issue is a matter of luxury or comfort. Hence, although a person should keep the water to save his life. In matters of luxury or comfort, however, one should deny oneself the luxuries and give them to his slave or friend.

(מהר"ם שי"ף, ועי' פרדס יוסף, הדרש והעיון)

"אל תקח מאתו נשך... אני ה' אלקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים"
“Do not take from him interest... I am G‑d your G‑d who took you out of the land of Egypt.” (25:36,38)

QUESTION: It is written in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah, Hilchot Ribit 160:2) that he who lends with interest denies the Exodus from Egypt.

What is the connection between the Exodus and lending with interest?

ANSWER: At the Brit Bein Habetarim (Covenant Between the Divided Parts) Avraham was told by Hashem that the Jews would be enslaved in a strange land for 400 years and that “the nation they shall serve I shall judge.” If the Egyptians fulfilled Hashem’s decree, why were they punished?

The Ra’avad (Teshuvah 6:5) answers that although the Jews had to work for the Egyptians, they had no permission to overwork the Jews with hard labor. For taking more than they were allowed from the Jews (similar to taking interest), they were punished with ten plagues, and the Jews left Egypt with great wealth, after being there only 210 years.

A Jew who lends money with interest shows that he believes the Egyptians did nothing wrong and that they did not deserve punishment for the additional hard labor they imposed upon the Jews. Thus, he denies the justification for the accelerated Exodus from Egypt due to the unwarranted hard labor.

(הדרש והעיון)

"את כספך לא תתן לו בנשך"
“Your money you shall not give him upon interest.” (25:37)

QUESTION: The Hebrew word for interest is “ribit”; why is “neshech” used here?

ANSWER: Rich and poor alike sometimes need a loan, and a person may feel somewhat depressed when he has to ask for a loan. The word “neshech” can also mean “bite.” The Torah is teaching that when you are approached for a loan, give it with a smiling countenance and a pleasant attitude. Do not make biting comments that will distress the borrower.

The same also applies when giving tzedakah to the needy — give it with a smile, and don’t say anything that would, G‑d forbid, add to the pain of the poor person.

(מלאכת מחשבת)

"את כספך לא תתן לו בנשך"
“Your money you shall not give him upon interest.” (25:37)

QUESTION: Why the emphasis on “kaspecha”your money?

ANSWER: Unfortunately, there are people who only extend a loan when they receive high interest in return. Often, due to high interest rates, the borrower is unable to operate and must declare bankruptcy. Consequently, the lender ends up with nothing. The Torah warns — “et kaspecha”your money — do not lend on interest, because if you do, not only will you not receive the interest, but you will also lose your money.

"או דדו או בן דדו יגאלנו"
“Either his uncle or his uncle’s son shall redeem him.” (25:49)

QUESTION: Why is the word "דדו" spelled without a "ו" after the first "ד"?

ANSWER: There is a question in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) whether King David himself is going to be Mashiach or one of his descendants. The word "דדו" without a "ו" can be rearranged to spell the name דוד"." Thus, the Torah is intimating that either דדו — David himself, or "בן דדו" — a descendant of David — “yigalenu” — shall redeem him — K’lal Yisrael.

(דגל מחנה אפרים)

Dvar Torah Questions and Answers on Bechukotai

"אם בחקתי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו"
“If in My statutes you will walk and keep My commandments.” (26:3)

QUESTION: Why does the parshah start with the word — “im” — (אם) — “if”?

ANSWER: The Jewish people have gone through many difficult experiences, but Hashem has not forsaken us and has miraculously brought about our salvation.

In Egypt, in the days of Pharaoh, it was through Moshe (משה) and Aharon (אהרן) that we were redeemed.

When Haman threatened to annihilate us, Mordechai (מרדכי) and Esther (אסתר) appeared, and the Jews were saved.

The redemption from the Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash occurred thanks to the assistance of King Artachshasta (ארתחשסתא) — Aptaxerxes — son of Queen Esther (see Rosh Hashanah 3b), and the miracle of Chanukah and the redemption from the Greek oppressors occurred through Matityahu (מתתיהו) and his sons, the Maccabbees.

Now, it is the fervent wish of every Jew that Eliyahu (אליהו) and Mashiach (משיח) should arrive speedily.

The first letters of the names of each group of redeemers spell the word אם"." Thus, the opening pasuk of the parshah is hinting that the way to merit the ultimate "אם" — the redemption of Eliyahu and Mashiach — is through “bechukotai teileichu ve’et mitzvotai tishmeru” — “walking in My statutes and keeping My commandments.”

* * *

In Hallel we say “eim (אם) habanim semeichah” — “a joyful mother of children.” Following the above thought, this may be interpreted to mean that "אם" — when we are rescued by the ones whose initials are א"מ, and particularly the last pair — Eliyahu and Mashiach“habanim semeichah” — the children (B’nei Yisrael) will be very happy.

(מנחה בלולה)

"אם בחקתי תלכו"
“If in My statutes you will walk.” (26:3)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that this pasuk is not referring to the fulfillment of mitzvot, but to the study of Torah.

1) The mitzvot in the Torah are divided into three categories: eidut (testimonies), mishpatim (civil laws), and chukim (statutes). Since the pasuk is stressing the study of Torah, why are statutes singled out?

2) Why does it say “teileichu” — “you will walk” — and not “tilmedu” — “you will study”?

ANSWER: The word “bechukotai” (בחקתי) — “in My statutes” — is related to the word chakikah (חקיקה) — “engraved.” When one takes a pen and writes on paper, although the ink now adheres to the paper, it is not actually a part of the paper. However, when one engraves on stone or metal, the letters become one with the stone or metal and can never be removed.

This pasuk not only tells us how to study Torah in order to receive the great rewards promised in this parshah, but also how to study. We must toil in the study of Torah until Torah becomes engraved in us.

In addition, one should not be content with the amount of Torah that he has already studied, but “teileichu” — he should keep going higher and higher, from strength to strength, in Torah study.

(לקוטי תורה, לקוטי שיחות ח"ג)

"אם בחקתי תלכו"
“If in My statutes you will walk.” (26:3)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that this means “shetiheyu ameilim baTorah” — “You shall toil in Torah study.” Why does Rashi use the term “ameilim” — toil — and not “oskim” — “engage” — or “lomdim” — “learn” — in relation to G‑d’s super-rational statutes (chukim)?

ANSWER: In the prayer recited after completing a Gemara, we say that the advantage of the ones who learn Torah over those who engage in worldly matters is that, “We toil and they toil. We toil and receive reward and they toil and do not receive reward.” (See Berachot 28b.) This is problematic because anyone who works usually receives some sort of payment.

The superior reward for toiling in the Torah can be illustrated with the following parable. In a big company there are many employees, from the chief executive officer to the blue collar workers on the assembly line. Usually the chief executive officer receives a large salary and the blue collar worker often only gets minimum wage. While the blue collar employee on the assembly line puts in a full day with sweat and toil, the chief executive officer is often away on vacation or having a leisurely business lunch.

One may reflect on the injustice of it all: The dedicated employee should receive the generous salary while the chief executive officer should receive nominal compensation for his leisurely work. The fact is that the world recognizes and rewards accomplishment, not effort.

G‑d’s system of reward is the reverse. If one learns a piece of Gemara quickly and easily, he receives a smaller reward than one who spends much time and struggles with it. Thus, the famed adage: “G‑d does not count the folio pages but the hours spent studying.”

According to the world’s way of thinking, Hashem’s approach is “bechukotai” — “My statutes” — something incomprehensible. Rashi is teaching us that if “tiheyu ameilim batorah” — “you will toil in Torah” — then you will receive the maximum reward — in stark contrast to the corporations, whose rewards are based only on accomplishments.

* * *

In Pirkei Avot (5:21) Ben Hei Hei says — “Lefum tza’ara agra” — “Commensurate with the effort is the reward.” This is illustrated with the following parable. A king, wanting to beautify his chamber, hired four painters, each to paint a mural on one of the walls. He gave them a month to accomplish this task and told them that upon completion, he would review the paintings and place a sack of gems in front of each wall as a reward. The largest sack would be placed near the most beautiful mural, and the others would have smaller sacks in descending order according to the rank of the painting.

Three of the painters worked diligently while the fourth one wasted his time amusing himself. On the last night before the deadline, when the three painters had finished their works and had gone home, the fourth one arrived in the room. He placed a large mirror on his wall so that it reflected the other three paintings. In the morning the king arrived, and after close inspection of the finished art works, he placed sacks of gems in front of the three painted murals and nothing in front of the mirror. Shocked, the artist who placed the mirror exclaimed to the king, “Where is my reward? My mirror is a composite, merging together the other three paintings!”

The king responded, “Indeed, you have received your reward. Gaze in your mirror and you will see the reflection of the three sacks of gems given to the other artists, who toiled with great effort and sincerity while you have done nothing, and merely reflected the results of their initiatives.”

The lesson for us is that there is great reward for toil and that we can’t fool anyone, especially not Hashem.

(מדרש חכמים על פרקי אבות)

"אם בחקתי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אתם: ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם"
“If in My statutes you will walk, and observe My commandments and perform them, then I will give your rains in their time.” (26:3-4)

QUESTION: According to Rashi, the proper time for rain is Shabbat night. What is the connection between observing Torah and rain on Shabbat night?

ANSWER: The Midrash Rabbah (30:9) relates that a heretic asked Rabbi Akiva, if on Shabbat it is forbidden to transfer something from one domain to another, why does Hashem desecrate the Shabbat and bring rain from heaven to earth?” Rabbi Akiva responded, “The entire world belongs to Hashem, and thus, the concept of different domains does not apply to Him.”

According to a Midrash, Hashem warned the Jewish people that if they do not observe the precepts of the Torah, He will, G‑d forbid, “divorce” them. Commentaries question: For a divorce to be valid, the get (bill of divorce) must leave the domain of the husband and enter the domain of the wife. If the entire world belongs to Hashem, how can Hashem possibly divorce the Jewish people? They answer: To make the get valid, it will obviously be necessary for Hashem to give away the earth to the Jewish people. Thus, the get will be given to them on their property.

Consequently, when Torah and mitzvot are not observed, Hashem will be unable to give rain on Friday night without violating Shabbat by bringing rain from His heaven to their earth. Therefore, the Torah states, “If in My statutes you will walk and observe My commandments and perform them, then the heavens and earth are all My domain, and I will be able to provide your rains in their time — on Shabbat night.”

(בני יששכר מאמרי שבתות ז'-ה')

"אם בחקתי תלכו...ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם...ואכלתם לחמכם לשבע"
“If in My statutes you will walk...Then I will provide your rains in their time...You will eat your bread to satiety.” (26:3-5)

QUESTION: What is the connection between these three things?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Ta’anit 19b) says that a year when it rains in the proper season is compared to a servant who receives his pay on Sunday. Thus, he has ample time to prepare for the coming Shabbat, and the dough can be baked properly and eaten properly. A year when the rains are not in their proper season is compared to a servant who receives his pay on Friday. Thus, he is rushed and the dough is neither baked properly nor eaten properly. The Torah is promising us that, “If you will follow My decrees, I will provide your rains in their time; hence you will eat your bread to satiety.”

(כתנות אור)

"ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם"
“I will give your rains in their time.” (26:4)

QUESTION: Why does it say “gishmeichem”“your rains” — rather than simply “geshem” — “rain”?

ANSWER: The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 27:1) tells us that when Alexander the Great visited a province in Africa, the people came out to greet him with golden apples, golden pomegranates and golden bread. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked, “Do they eat gold in your country?”

They replied: “Is it not so in your country?”

He then said to them, “It is not your possessions I have come to see but your laws.”

As they were sitting, two men came before the king of the country for judgment. One said: “Your majesty! I bought a carob tree from this man and in scooping it out I found a treasure therein, so I said to him: ‘Take your treasure, for I bought the carob tree not the treasure.’ ”

The other argued: “Just as you are afraid of risking punishment for robbery, so am I. When I completed the sale I sold you the carob tree and all that is therein.”

The king called one of them aside and said to him: “Have you a son?”

“Yes,” he replied.

He called the other and asked him: “Have you a daughter?”

“Yes” he replied.

“Go,” said the king to them, “let them get married to one another and thus they can both enjoy the treasure.”

Alexander the Great was surprised. “Why are you surprised?” the king asked him. “Have I not judged well?”

“Yes,” he assured him.

“If this case had arisen in your country, what would you have done?”

Alexander replied. “We would have removed this man’s head and that one’s head and the treasure would have gone to the king.”

He inquired of Alexander, “Does the sun shine in your country?”


“And does rain fall in your country?”


“Perhaps there are small cattle in your country?”


He then said to Alexander: “O, woe to you! It is because of the merit of the small cattle that the sun shines upon you and the rain falls upon you! For the sake of the small cattle you are saved!” as it is written, “Man and animal do you rescue O’ G‑d” (Psalms 36:7). The king’s message to Alexander was, that when the inhabitants of a country conduct themselves improperly, they are devoid of merit to be helped by Hashem. Their animals, however, did nothing wrong and deserve Hashem’s attention. Thus, the inhabitants are helped through the merit of their animals.

Hashem is therefore emphasizing that, “If in My statutes you will walk and observe My commandments, I will provide your rain — the rain you need for your existence — and you will eat your bread — it will be earned in your merit and not in the merit of your animals.”

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' קפ"ג)

"ורדפו מכם חמשה מאה ומאה מכם רבבה ירדפו ונפלו איביכם לפניכם לחרב"
“Five of you will pursue one hundred and one hundred of you will pursue ten thousand and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.” (26:8)

QUESTION: If five Jews can pursue one hundred enemies, a ratio of 1:20, should not the text have continued, “one hundred of you shall chase two thousand”? (See Rashi.)

ANSWER: The word “mikem” is mentioned twice in the pasuk; however, it appears that there is an inconsistency. In the first half of the pasuk the word “mikem” occurs before the number of the pursuers, and in the second half of thepasuk the word “mikem” occur after the number of pursuers.

Therefore, the pasuk can be explained to mean that, “veradfu mikem” — “and they will pursue you”“chamishah mei’ah” — “each five of you, will be pursued by one hundred of them” —“umei’ah mikem” — “and one hundred of you” — “revavah yirdofu” — “will pursue 10,000 of them.” Thus, the pasuk is referring to two separate things: 1) their weakness and 2) our strength.

* * *

Alternatively, the first part of the pasuk is talking about a group of five “of you” pursuing one hundred “of them.” The second part, “umei’ah mikem” means that “one hundred groups [consisting of five people each, a total of 500 people] “revavah yirdofu” — “will pursue ten thousand of them.” Thus, in both cases, the ratio is 1:20.

(הכתב והקבלה)

"ואשבר מטת עלכם ואולך אתכם קוממיות"
“I broke the staves of your yoke and led you upright.” (26:13)

QUESTION: In Birchat Hamazon (Blessing after Meals) we say “HaRachaman Hu yishbor ol galut mei’al tzavareinu veHu yolicheinu komemiyut le’artzeinu” — “May the Merciful One break the yoke of exile from our necks and may He lead us upright to our land.” How does the image of returning — “komemiyut” — “upright” — accord with the Gemara (Kedushin 31a) that says it is forbidden for a person to walk four cubits “bekomah zekufah” — “upright”?

ANSWER: Eretz Yisrael is our holy land, and all Jews yearn to live there. Even those who do not reach it during their lifetime will ultimately come there in the days of techiyat hameitim — the resurrection. However, they will have to roll through the earth until they reach the holy land (see Bereishit 47:29, Rashi).

Our prayer to Hashem that He “lead us upright to our land” asks that we merit to reach Eretz Yisrael happily and healthily during our lifetime and not, G‑d forbid, by rolling through tunnels under the earth to reach it.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

"ורדו בכם שנאיכם ונסתם ואין רדף אתכם"
“And those who hate you shall rule over you; and you shall flee when none pursue you.” (26:17)

QUESTION: This pasuk is part of the tochachah — the curse for not following in the ways of Torah. Would it not be much worse if they were fleeing and someone was really pursuing them?

ANSWER: A pursuer who intends harm is called a “rodeif.” The one being chased is called a “nirdaf.” King Shlomo in Ecclesiastes (3:15) says: “veha’Elokim yevakeish et nirdaf” —”G‑d always seeks the pursued.” According the Midrash Rabbah (27:5) this is true even when a righteous man is running after a wicked man.

Consequently, if the enemies of B’nei Yisrael are really chasing them, G‑d forbid, they retain the hope that even if they are wicked Hashem will come to their defense. The curse is that “Those who hate you shall rule over you” and you will be fleeing. However, inherent in the curse is the fact that Hashem will not defend you against them because you are not in the category of “nirdaf,” since nobody is actually pursuing you.

(ר' יוסף שאול ז"ל נתנזון)

"ונתתי שמיכם כברזל ואת ארצכם כנחשה"
“I will make your heaven like iron and your land like copper.” (26:19)

QUESTION: Why in the admonition (tochachah) in Devarim does Moshe say the reverse: “Your heavens over you will be copper and the land beneath you will be iron (28:23)?”

ANSWER: This admonition refers to the sins that led to the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash, and the one in Devarim is for the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash (see Ramban).

The first Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because the Jewish people worshipped idols, and the second one was destroyed because of (sinat chinam) unwarranted hatred. Thus, the sins committed in the time of the first Beit Hamikdash were between man and Hashem in Heaven, and the sins in the time of the second Beit Hamikdash were between man and man on earth.

Iron is much stronger than copper. Since the crimes perpetrated during the first Beit Hamikdash were primarily against Heaven, Hashem warned, “I will make your heaven like iron.” However, in the second Beit Hamikdash — since the sins were against man on earth, the earth would receive the main blow and “the land beneath you will be iron.”

(כלי יקר)

* * *

QUESTION: The Gemara (Berachot 6b) says, “The reward for one who makes a chatan rejoice is very great; it is as though he rebuilt one of the destroyed homes of Jerusalem.” What is the meaning of this analogy?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Yoma 9b) says that the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and Jerusalem occurred due to sinat chinam — unwarranted hatred. Consequently, to merit the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, ahavat chinam — love without any ulterior motive — is a prerequisite.

One who participates in a wedding and makes the chatan happy demonstrates ahavat Yisrael, the opposite of sinat chinam. He thus offsets the effect of the sinat chinam which caused the destruction, and is credited as though he rebuilt one of the destroyed homes of Jerusalem.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

* * *

QUESTION: Why is it that someone who makes a chatan happy is considered as having rebuilt one of the destroyed homes of Jerusalem?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Yoma 9b) says that the Beit Hamikdash and Jerusalem were destroyed due to “sinat chinam” — unwarranted hatred among the Jewish people.

However, the Gemara elsewhere (Shabbat 119b) gives many other reasons for Jerusalem’s destruction: desecration ofShabbat, failure to recite Kriat Shema in the designated time, disruption of young children’s Torah study, lack of respect for talmidei chachamim, etc.

When the sages say that bringing happiness to thechatan is like rebuilding one of the destroyed homes of Jerusalem, they do not literally mean one home, but rather that one of the causessinat chinam — for the destruction of Jerusalem has been removed, thus hastening its rebuilding.

(שמעתי מאחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי)

"ואם באלה לא תוסרו לי...והכתי אתכם גם אני שבע על חטאתיכם"
“If despite these you will not be chastised towards Me...and I will strike you, even I, seven ways for your sins” (26:23-24).

QUESTION: The words “gam ani” — “even I” — seem to be superfluous. Should it not have just said, “I will strike you seven ways for your sins”?

ANSWER: When a child is not behaving properly, it is incumbent on the father to admonish him, and at times it is even necessary to hit him. In fact, King Shlomo says, “One who spares his rod, hates his child” (Proverbs 13:24). Nevertheless, regardless of how true this may be, the father who truly loves his child experiences more pain than the child when he has to hit him.

The Jewish people are Hashem’s children, and He loves them as much and even more than any father loves his only child. However, He is saying, “Your behavior may compel Me to have to strike you, but, when vehikiti etchem — I shall need to strike you — not only will you feel it, but gam ani — I too — will cry from the pain which will be inflicted on you, for your hurt is My hurt, and your pain is My pain.”

(ר' לוי יצחק זצ"ל מבארדיטשוב)

"ואפו עשר נשים לחמכם בתנור אחד והשיבו לחמכם במשקל ואכלתם ולא תשבעו"
“Ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread by weight; you will eat and not be sated.” (26:26)

QUESTION: According to halachah, (Orach Chaim 507:6) on Yom Tov it is permissible to fill up an oven with loaves of bread even though only one loaf is needed. The reason is that the bread bakes better when the oven is full. If so, what curse is contained in this pasuk?

ANSWER: It is known that when the loaf is still dough, it weighs more than when it rises and is thoroughly baked. Hashem is saying that for failing to follow in the path of the Torah, even when ten women will fill an oven with dough, expecting that the bread should come out well baked, “they will bring back your bread by weight,” meaning the loaf will be as heavy as it was when it was originally put in and not baked well at all.

(פנים יפות)

"אז תרצה הארץ את שבתתיה כל ימי השמה ואתם בארץ איביכם"
“Then the land will appease its Sabbaths, as long as it lies desolate, and you are in the land of your enemies.” (26:34)

QUESTION: 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 Eretz Yisrael.

Why is the punishment for violating the laws of shemittah so harsh that the Jews had to go into galut for it?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Sanhedrin 39a) the mitzvah of shemittah teaches us 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.

(עיטורי תורה)

"וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב"
“I will remember My covenant with Yaakov.” (26:42)

QUESTION: Rashi writes, “In five pesukim the name Yaakov (יעקב) is written with an extra 'ו' and Eliyahu (אליהו) is spelled without its usual 'ו'. Yaakov took a letter from the name of Eliyahu as a pledge that he will come and announce the redemption of his children — the revelation of Mashiach.” Why did he specifically take the letter "ו" as a pledge and not any other letter?

ANSWER: In Hebrew the word vav means “a connecting hook,” as we find in the Torah: “vavei ha’amudim” — “the hooks of the pillars” (Shemot 27:10). The curtains were attached by “vavim” — “hooks” — to the poles that supported them and in Hebrew a "ו" serves the grammatical function of attaching and connecting one word with another. Thus, the "ו" symbolizes unity. Our present galut was caused by sinat chinam unwarranted hatred and dissension — (Yoma 9b), and it will be ended when true ahavat Yisrael and unity will prevail in the Jewish community.

The last Mishnah in Eduyot (8:7) says that Eliyahu’s purpose is only to make peace in the world, as the prophet Malachi proclaims: “Behold I will send you Eliyahu the prophet, and he shall turn the heart of fathers to the children and the heart of children to the fathers” (3:23-24). Therefore, Yaakov specifically took a "ו" from Eliyahu’s name as if to symbolize that he should “hook together,” that is, speedily reunite the Jewish people, and thus they will merit the immediate coming of Mashiach.

(קול דודי – הרב דוד שי' פיינשטיין)

"וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב ואף את בריתי יצחק ואף את בריתי אברהם אזכר"
“And I will remember My covenant with Yaakov and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham I will remember.” (26:42)

QUESTION: How is this pasuk consistent with the tochachah — admonition?

ANSWER: Two people once committed a serious crime together. One belonged to a prominent family and had received an excellent education and a good upbringing. His partner was an orphaned village boy who had grown up in poor surroundings and received inadequate schooling. The judge punished the first one very severely and was extremely lenient with the other. “Why are you so harsh only with me?” the first one asked. The judge answered, “Considering the family you come from and the upbringing you received, your crime is much greater.”

Hashem is telling the Jewish people, “I remind myself of your great ancestors: Avraham who went into the furnace to sanctify My name, Yitzchak who was ready to offer himself as a sacrifice, and Yaakov who went into galut for Me. Thus, when I think of your pedigree and see you violating Torah, I will hold you responsible to a greater extent and punish you severely.”


"ואף גם זאת בהיותם בארץ איביהם לא מאסתים ולא געלתים לכלתם להפר בריתי אתם"
“But despite all this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them.” (26:44)

QUESTION: The words “ve'af gam zot” — “but despite all this” — seem extra, should the pasuk not have started, “ubeheyotem” — “And while they are”?

ANSWER: The Jewish people have two things working in their favor: One is zechut Avot — the merits of their forefathers; the other is brit Avot — the covenant which Hashem made with them, that He would not destroy their children (see 26:42).

According to the Gemara (Shabbat 55a, see also Tosafot) zechut Avot is no longer available. We have used up whatever credit we can claim on their behalf. However, brit Avot — the covenant Hashem made with our forefathers — can never cease.

The word “zot” (זאת) is an acronym for "זכות אבות תמה" — “the credit of our forefathers merits is exhausted.” The Torah is telling us: “ve’af gam zot” — even when we can no longer draw on the merits of our forefathers’ — Hashem will not obliterate the Jewish people, because He does not want “lehafeir briti itam” — to annul the brit — covenant — He made with them — our forefathers, the Patriarchs.

(ידי משה)

"אם בחקתי תלכו ... ואולך אתכם קוממיות ... ואם לא תשמעו לי ... ביד משה"
“If in My statutes you walk ... And I led you erect ... And if you will not listen to Me ... By the hand of Moshe.” (26:3,13-14,46)

QUESTION: Why do the berachot start with an "א" (אם) and end with a "ת" (קוממיות) while the admonition starts with a "ו" (ואם) and ends with a "ה" (משה)?

ANSWER: The Hebrew alef-beit starts with "א" and ends with "ת", and is the basis for the language of our Torah. The letters "ו" and "ה" are the last two letters of the Tetragrammaton — Hashem’s holy four-letter name. The Torah is hinting that for studying and observing the entire Torah from "א" to "ת", we will merit the greatest material and spiritual blessings.

On the other hand, by starting the tochachah with a vav and concluding it with a “hei” the Torah is hinting, that even when the Jewish people may, G‑d forbid, violate Torah, Hashem will not forsake them. His Divine presence will continue to be with them and watch over them. As it is written, “imo Anochi betzarah” — “I will be with him (the Jewish people) in trouble” (Psalms 91:15), waiting patiently for them to do teshuvah.

(תולדות יצחק)

"איש כי יפלא נדר בערכך נפשת לה'"
“If a man articulates a vow to G‑d regarding the valuation of living beings” (27:2)

QUESTION: Why does the parshah of human valuations (arachin) follow the tochachah — the listing of calamities which will happen to the Jewish people for not observing Torah and mitzvot?

ANSWER: One who reads through the tochachah may, G‑d forbid, become very discouraged. He may conclude that Jews who transgress are indeed worthless. To negate such a thought, the Torah places the parshah of arachin — valuation of humans — immediately after the tochachah, to emphasize that, regardless of a Jew’s behavior, he always has value in Hashem’s eyes.

(הרב מאיר ז"ל שאפירא מלובלין)

"וכל מעשר בקר וצאן כל אשר יעבר תחת השבט העשירי יהיה קדש לה'"
“And any tithe of cattle and sheep, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to G‑d.” (27:32)

QUESTION: During the days of the Roman government, ten sages were put to death. The Roman King had seen in the Torah that the punishment for kidnapping and selling a person is death (Shemot 21:16). He asked the sages, “If a man kidnapped and sold one of his brothers of the Children of Israel, what is the law?” They replied, “That thief shall die.” The Roman King then sentenced the sages to death for the kidnapping and selling of Yoseph.

When Yosef was sold, only nine brothers were present (Reuven had returned home and Binyamin did not participate). Why were ten sages killed?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash the brothers had agreed not to reveal to Yaakov the whereabouts of Yosef and had made Hashem a party to the agreement (see Rashi, Bereishit 37:33). The Roman King thus calculated that ten (counting Hashem) had cooperated in the kidnapping; and therefore he killed ten sages.

Commentaries ask why was Rabbi Akiva among the ten sages killed since he was a descendant of converts and his ancestors had taken no part in the kidnapping.

The answer given is that Rabbi Akiva was punished on behalf of Hashem, who participated in the kidnapping by not revealing to Yaakov the whereabouts of Yosef.

The words “Vechol ma’asar” (וכל מעשר) are an acronym for "וידעו כולם" — “let it be known to all” — "למה מת עקיבא" — “the reason for the death of Akiva,” — "שהיה רועה" — “who was a shepherd of — “bakar vatzon” — “cattle and sheep.” The pasuk continues “kol asher ya’avor” — “all those who died” (literally “went under”) — “tachat hashavet” — “represented one of the tribes (the shevatim).” But Rabbi Akiva had no relationship to the tribes, so why was he killed? We must conclude that “ha’asiri” — “the tenth” sage, that is, Rabbi Akiva — was “kodesh laHashem” — martyred on behalf of Hashem.

(ר' שמשון זצ"ל מאסטראפאלי)

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QUESTION: Why was Rabbi Akiva selected to be the one martyred on behalf of Hashem?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Pesachim 22b) says that Shimon Ha’amsuni had a practice of interpreting every occurrence of the word “et” in the Torah to mean a reference to something additional. When he reached the pasuk, “Et Hashem Elokecha tira” — “Hashem, your G‑d, shall you fear” (Devarim 10:20), he stopped because what could there be in addition to G‑d? Rabbi Akiva interpreted the word “et” as including talmidei chachamim — Torah scholars. Since it was Rabbi Akiva who equated Torah scholars with Hashem, he was the one selected to represent Hashem.

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The Gemara (Berachot 61b) says that while Rabbi Akiva was being put to death, he recited the Shema, and when he said the word echad he expired. A voice emanated from heaven and said, “Lucky are you Rabbi Akiva that your soul ‘went out’ with ‘echad.’” In light of the above, we may say that the voice also meant, “Lucky are you Rabbi Akiva that your soul went out on behalf of ‘echad’ — Hashem — the One and only One.”

(אר"י ז"ל)

"והיה הוא ותמורתו יהיה קדש... אלה המצות אשר צוה ה' את משה...בהר סיני"
“It and its exchange shall be holy... these are the commandments which G‑d commanded Moshe... on Mount Sinai.” (27:33-34)

QUESTION: What is the connection between the laws of temurah (an exchange animal) and Mount Sinai?

ANSWER: Hashem originally gave Moshe the ten commandments engraved on two tablets of stone. When Moshe came down from heaven and saw the golden calf, he broke the tablets. Hashem told Moshe to hew out a second set of tablets in exchange and bring them up to Mount Sinai. Thus, the second set of tablets were like a temurah (exchange) for the first set of tablets. According to the Gemara (Bava Batra 14b), both sets of tablets were holy and placed together in the Ark.

From the holiness of the two sets of tablets given on Mount Sinai, we can also learn that both the animal originally sanctified and the exchange animal are holy.

(מאיר עיני ישרים)

"אלה המצות אשר צוה ה' את משה אל בני ישראל בהר סיני"
“These are the commandments that G‑d commanded Moshe to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai.” (27:34)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 2b) derives from the words “eileh hamitzvot” — “these are the commandments” — that a prophet cannot add anything to Torah. If so, the Gemara asks, what right did the prophets have to add to the alef-beit the final letters מ,נ,צ,פ,ך? The Gemara answers that this is merely the reinstating of something forgotten. Why did they find it necessary to reinstate the five letters מ,נ,צ,פ,ך?

ANSWER: According to the Yalkut Shimoni (Bereishit 12:64) there are five letters which are used twice in a phrase or word to indicate an expression of redemption.

With a double "כ" Hashem redeemed Avraham from Ur Kasdim and said to him "לך לך מארצך" — “go for yourself from your land” (Bereishit 12:1).

With a double "מ" Yitzchak was redeemed from the hands of the Philistines who said to him, "לך מעמנו" — “Go away from us [for you have become mightier than we]” (Bereishit 25:16).

With a double "נ" Yaakov was saved from the hands of Eisav when he prayed "הציליני נא" — “Rescue me, please, [from the hands of my brother from the hand of Eisav]” (Bereishit 32:12).

With a double "פ" the Jewish people were redeemed from Egyptian bondage, as Hashem said "פקוד פקדתי" — “I have surely remembered you [and what is done to you in Egypt]” (Shemot 3:16).

With the double "צ" Hashem will ultimately redeem the Jewish people through Mashiach, as the prophet says, "הנה איש צמח שמו ומתחתיו יצמח" — “Behold there is a man whose name is Tzemach and he will flourish in his place [and he shall build the temple of G‑d]” (Zechariah 6:12).

After many years of exileand oppression by the nations of the world, the Jewish people started to forget about the coming of Mashiach and began to think that they were destined to remain in exile forever. Therefore, to awaken them, the prophets reinstated מנצפ"ך to make them aware that He redeemed our ancestors in the past and He will speedily send Mashiach and the complete redemption.

(הדרש והעיון)

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The prophet says "מכנף הארץ זמרת שמענו צבי לצדיק" — “From the uttermost part of the earth, have we heard songs, glory to the righteous” (Isaiah 24:16).

In light of the above, the prophet’s message can be explained as follows: The word "מכנף" has all the letters of "מ,נ,צ,פ,ך" except the ".צ" From the four redemptions alluded to by the letters of the word "מכנף" which the world has already experienced, we hear songs that there will also be “tzvi” — glory — “Latzaddik” — to the redemption alluded to in the letter "צ" — the coming of the righteous Mashiach speedily in our time.

(הדרש והעיון)

"אלה המצות אשר צוה ה' את משה אל בני ישראל בהר סיני"
“These are the commandments that G‑d commanded Moshe to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai.” (27:34)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 2b) derives from the words “eileh hamitzvot” — “these are the commandments” — that a prophet cannot add anything to Torah. If so, the Gemara asks, what right did the prophets have to add to the alef-beit the final letters מ,נ,צ,פ,ך? The Gemara answers that this is merely the reinstating of something forgotten.

Why does the Gemara list the letters מ,נ,צ,פ,ך in that order and not in their proper order according to the alef-beit (כ,מ,נ,פ,צ)?

ANSWER: In Hebrew the prophets are referred to as “tzofayich” (צופיך) — “Your watchmen” (Isaiah 52:8). Since it was the prophets who reinstated these letters to the alef-beit, they are listed in this way so that the word “tzofayich” is alluded to by the last three letters.

(מס' מגילה ב' ע"ב תוד"ה ועוד)

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Alternatively, according to this order, the "מ-נ" together add up to 90, which is also the value of the ",צ" and the "פ-ך" add up to 100. Thus, these five letters have the same numerical value as "[ה'] מֶלֶך" — “G‑d is the King” — 90 — "[ה'] מָלָך" — “G‑d was the King” — 90 — and "[ה'] יִמְלֹך" — “G‑d will be the King [for ever]” — 100.


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The "צ" is for “Tzemach,” which refers to the redemption through Mashiach. According to the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) his name will be Menachem (מנחם), which has the same numerical value as of “Tzemach” (צמח) — 138. (See Ibn Ezra, Zecharia 3:8.) It is common practice for the most venerable person in a group to be seated in the middle (see Gemara Megillah 21b). Therefore the redemption through Mashiach, the greatest redemption of all, is in the middle, flanked by the other redemptions.

* * *

In the alef-beit the letters א-ט correspond to the numbers 1-9, and י-צ correspond to 10-90. The letters ק-ת correspond to 100-400 and the final letters ך, ם, ן, ף, ץ correspond to the numbers 500-900, forming a complete sequence of 100’s (see Sukkah 52b Rashi). Thus, with these letters, the cycle of the alef-beit is complete and comes back to "א", which represents “Alufo Shel Olam (אלופו של עולם) — “the One and Only Master of the Universe” — alluding to “Ani rishon ve’Ani acharon — “I am first and I am last” (Isaiah 44:6).

(ר' שמשון זצ"ל מאסטראפאלי)

"אלה המצות אשר צוה ה' את משה אל בני ישראל בהר סיני"
“These are the commandments that G‑d commanded Moshe to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai.” (27:34)

QUESTION: To show that the Torah never ends, it is customary to connect the end with the beginning. In Chumash Vayikra, what is the connection between the concluding words, “behar Sinai” and the beginning words, Vayikra el Moshe”?

ANSWER: One of the reasons that the opening word of Chumash Vayikra is spelled with a small "א" is the following: Hashem’s prophecy to Bilaam begins with “Vayikar” — without an א' — implying a chance encounter. While Hashem had a reason to speak to him, He did not do so lovingly (see Bamidar 23:4).

In his profound humility, Moshe wished to describe Hashem’s revelation to him with the same subdued word (“vayikar”) used for Bilaam — without an "א" — but Hashem instructed him to include the "א" as an expression of affection. Too humble to do so wholeheartedly, Moshe wrote a small "א" (Ba’al Haturim).

One may wonder how Moshe reached his great humility. The opening statement of Pirkei Avot is: “Moshe kibeil Torah miSinai” — “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai.” The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks that, grammatically, it should have stated, “Moshe received the Torah al Sinaion Sinai,” and explains that the word “Torah” is derived from the word “hora’ah” — teaching and guidance (see Zohar Vol. 3, 53b), and the Mishnah is conveying the message that Moshe received Torah — a guiding lesson — from Sinai on the subject of humility.

As Hashem was preparing to give the Torah, the big mountains conceitedly exclaimed, “Due to our prominence, the Torah should be given on us!” Hashem disregarded them and chose Sinai, which was the lowest of all the mountains, thus emphasizing humility, a necessary prerequisite for Torah. (See Sotah 5a.)

Consequently, because of “behar Sinai” — the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai — Moshe surmised the importance of humility and wrote “Vayikra” with a small "א".