Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshios Behar - Bechukosai

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Rabbi Frand started his parsha vort by citing to Parshas Behar where the Torah states (Vayikra 25:39) that if a fellow Jew becomes so poor that he sells himself into slavery, you should not make him do "avodas aved." Rashi asks what is Avodas Aved - it means that he should not do demeaning tasks for you. Rashi gives examples that if you go to the bathhouse, he should not be made to bring your clothes to you there. Similarly, he should not be made to tie your shoes for you.

It is curious however that according to the Sifri, a person may ask an employee to bring his clothes to the bathhouse or tie his shoes for him in public. This of course begs the question - what is the difference between them?

Rabbi Frand then quoted a pasuk in Bechukosai (Vayikra 26:16) where the Torah enumerates four kinds of illness which will come upon the person who is subject to the punishments of the tochacha. These include shachefes (swelling lesions), kadachas (burning fever), michlos eynayim (causing the eyes to long) and midivos nafesh (causing the soul to suffer).

Rashi explains that the four illness are actually a progression as the person goes from being bedridden and his flesh is wasting away (lesions) to being worn out and feverish (fever) to being feverish and thinking that he will not survive(causing the eyes to long) and then being aware that all around think that he will not survive (causing souls to suffer).

Rabbi Frand then asked - why is the level of where others think that he can't make live the lowest level?

Rabbi Frand answered these questions by developing a shmooze from the Tolner Rebbi. He first cited to a gemara in Yoma 18 where the mishna states that part of the preparation of the kohain gadol for the avodah included asking the kohain gadol to recite the steps - either because he might have forgotten them, or because he may never have learned them. The gemara then asks - how could he have gotten to be the kohain gadol without having learned these steps? The gemara answers that the kohain gadol who forgot was in the times of the first Bayis, while the one who never learned them was serving in the second Bayis when the position was bought rather than earned. The gemara then said in the name of R' Assi that Marta Bas Baisus bought the kohain gadol position for Yehoshua Ben Gamla.

The problem with the example of Yehoshua Ben Gamla is that he is praised in Bava Basra 44 for having saved the Jews from forgetting the Torah as he instituted schools and mandated that children go there and learn Torah.

The Sfas Emes harmonizes the two gemaros by analyzing the persona of the kohain gadol. The Sfas Emes writes that the kohain gadol was hagadok me'echav - which we learn means that he must be the greatest from among the kohanim in many categories incuding wealth and that if he lacked money, the others would loan it to him. The Sfas Emes writes that not only would they help him financially, the others would pray for him to succeed and would ask him many halachic questions. These were done not only to raise his public persona, but also to raise his self esteem so that he felt like he was truly the kohain hagadol me'echav. In this way, Yehoshua Ben Gamla grew from being a person whose position was bought for him, to being the man who saved Torah for the Jews.

We see the opposite of this concept by the tochacha - the most severe level of the development of the sickness is when he sees that his friends no longer think that he can recover. When he becomes aware of this concept he will give up hope of recovery and his prospects become very bleak.

Similarly, the slave must not be allowed to do degrading tasks in public such as carry the clothes to the bathhouse or tie the master's shoes. Everyone knows that the man is a slave and he will feel that the eyes of the world look down on him. However, this concept would not apply to the employee who is known to be drawing a salary and has the option to quit rather than perform the task.

The Tolner Rav then asked about the Jews who left Egypt. It is well known that the Jews were on the 49th level of tumah and had been engaged in idol worship. So how were they able to receive the Torah only a handful of weeks later?

The Tolner Rav answers that it is related to Hashem addressed the Jews at Har Sinai. In Shemos 19:6, prior to the Jews receiving the Torah, Hashem instructs Moshe to tell the Jews that they will be for him a mamleches kohanim and a holy nation. With this kind of injection of confidence, the Jews believed in their ability to become holy and their worthiness of receipt of the Torah.

Rabbi Frand finished by stating that this lesson is applicable all across life and especially in child rearing. If a parent looks at a child and the child knows that the parent believes in him and has confidence that he will succeed - the child will be much more likely to succeed. If the child thinks that the parent believes he is hopeless, he may g-d forbid turn out to be that way.

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