Thursday, May 8, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Behar

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts 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. 

This week's parsha contains a sequence of mitzvos which is not coincidental. Initially, the Torah discusses the mitzva of Shemittah - allowing the land to lie fallow for the seventh year. The Torah then progresses to discuss the mitzva of Yovel - the fiftieth year of a cycle which follows the Shemittah and has special rules including the release of slaves and the return of ancestral lands. Following this discussion, the Torah describes at Vayikra 25:35-38 how Jews should act with each other when one is in need. This includes assisting a fellow Jew who is in need and not lending money on interest.

R' Frand quoted the gemara in Erchin which links the topics and states that we see from this how harsh the punishment is for not keeping Shemittah. If a person violates the law of Shemittah and sells Shemittah produce, he will lose his possessions and eventually become a slave.

R' Frand also quoted R' Yaakov Yosef who had a different take on the sequence of topics. He quoted a Medrash Rabbah which links Vayikra 25:35 (Ki Yamuch Achicha) to a pasuk in Tehillim which states praiseworthy is one who is "Maskil" (thoughtful or enlightened) to a poor person on the day that he has troubles. R' Yaakov Yosef asked - why is it that one who helps a poor person is called a Maskil? Tehillim could have used many other terms for one who is kind to a poor person, including calling him charitable or generous or helpful. 

R' Frand answered this by quoting an expression from R' Yisrael Salanter that a person should be a believer for his own issues and a heretic (kofer) for someone else's. When the person has his own issues, he should believe that Hashem will help him. However, when someone else needs assistance, the person should act like Hashem is not involved and he should take action to help the other, rather than telling him that "Hashem will help."

R' Frand observed that during the Shemittah year, the devout person will sit and not work the land and will be confident that Hashem will help him. However, if a poor person comes to him the next year, the farmer should use his intelligence and resist the urge to say - "I had faith and Hashem helped me, you should have faith and Hashem will help you." Instead, the person should use his resources to help the other person.

R' Frand closed the vort by noting that the Haskalah movement believed that they were enlightened and as such they could move beyond the "antiquated" rules from the Torah. He opined that perhaps a person who sees another in a state of need should be "maskil" or enlightened and reject the concept of having faith and instead be proactive to help the other.

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