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Behar 5765

Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   Last week I wrote about gratitude and honoring one's parents.

I wrote, "The Torah tells us, 'Honor your father and mother.' It does not tell us 'Honor your father and mother ONLY if they are the perfect parents,' but to honor them because they made your life possible." I thought it would be worthwhile to share some thoughts on the topic. I am sure there will be those who will respond, "Thank God, this is just what I needed to give to my kids to read!" No! This is meant for you. This is just what your parents are excited about for you to read!


What difference does it make if a child learns this principle as a commandment from God or he picks up his attitude towards parents from his society?

A rabbi was sitting next to an atheist on an airplane. Every few minutes one of the rabbi's children or grandchildren would enquire if they could bring him something to eat or drink or if there was anything they could do for him. The atheist commented, "It's wonderful the respect your children and grandchildren show you; mine don't show me that respect." The rabbi responded, "Think about it. To my children and to my grandchildren, I am one step closer in a chain of tradition to the time when God spoke to the whole Jewish people on Mt. Sinai. To your children and grandchildren -you are one step closer to being an ape."

The Torah teaches us our obligations to our parents and our elders. It teaches us that we must stand up for our parents, a person with Torah knowledge or a person over 70 (if one lived 70 years he has wisdom about life just through living). Our society's attitude? Perhaps the bumper sticker I mentioned last week is indicative: "Be good to your children. They choose your nursing home."

In the Torah perspective on the world, a parent is a paradigm for relating to God. A parent loves his child unconditionally, sets boundaries, reproves, feeds his child though the child did wrong, wants only the best for his child. A parent is not always understood or appreciated and is sometimes suspect of not having the child's best interest at heart. (Mark Twain once commented how at 17 he could not believe how ignorant his father was and how at 21 he was amazed how much his father had learned in 4 years.)

If one does not show gratitude and respect to his parents who gave him life, how is he expected to show gratitude and respect for God who not only is a partner in giving him life, but who has given him the whole world? The Torah helps us train our children in how to relate to their parents.

The Torah instructs on the topic:

"Honor your father and your mother as the Lord your God has commanded you in order that your days may be lengthened and that it should be good for you upon the Land which the Lord your God gives to you." (Deuteronomy 5:16)


"Every man shall revere his mother and his father and you shall observe My Sabbaths; I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:3)

(It is interesting to note that the Torah commands us to observe the Sabbath in the same sentence as the commandment to honor one's father and mother. This is to clarify that the same Source which commands you to honor your father and mother commands you NOT to listen to them if they tell you to violate the Shabbat or any other mitzvah.)

We see from these two verses that there are two mitzvot (commandments): (1) to honor your parents, and (2) To revere your parents.

Some basic halachot (Jewish laws) instructing us how to treat our parents:

  1. A child should consider his parents distinguished, even if others do not consider them so.
  2. We must always speak to our parents with a soft and pleasant tone.
  3. A child must not contradict his parents. (Yorah Daiah 240:1 - The Code of Jewish Law)
  4. A child must not call his parent by name. (Yorah Daiah, 240:1)
  5. A child must not sit in a place where his parent usually sits.
  6. A child should fulfill his parent's requests with a pleasant facial expression.
  7. You are obligated to stand up before your father and your mother. (Yorah Daiah, 240:7)
  8. A child has no right to humiliate or embarrass his parents, regardless of what they do to him.
  9. If a parent tells a child to violate either a Torah law or rabbinical law, he is forbidden to comply.
  10. A child must be careful not to awaken his parents.

Parents should make sure that their young children show respect towards them and others. If a young child forms the habit of being disrespectful to his parents or others, he will also lack respect when he grows up. (This is why I never let my children call adults by their first names even if my friends introduce themselves to my kids using just their first name.) The reward for honoring parents is long life. Therefore, if a parent sincerely loves his children, he should make sure that they fulfill this commandment.

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Shabbat Shalom Audio

Torah Portion of the Week

The Torah portion begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded not to plant their fields or tend to them in the seventh year. Every 50th year is the Yovel, the Jubilee year, where agricultural activity is also proscribed.

These two commandments fall into one of the seven categories of evidence that God gave the Torah. If the idea is to give the land a rest, then the logical plan would be to not plant one-seventh of the land each year. To command an agrarian society to completely stop cultivating all farm lands every 7th year, one has to be either God or a meshugenah (crazy). No sane group of editors would include such an "insane" commandment in a set of laws for the Jewish people; only God could command it and ensure the survival of the Jewish people for following it.

Also included in this portion: redeeming land which was sold, to strengthen your fellow Jew when his economic means are faltering, not to lend to your fellow Jew with interest, the laws of indentured servants. The portion ends with the admonition to not make idols, to observe the Shabbat and to revere the Sanctuary.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"You shall not rule over him (your servant) with rigor, but you shall fear the Almighty." (Leviticus 25:43)

Why does the Torah need to add the proscription "you shall fear the Almighty"?

Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Sifra (the Midrash on Leviticus) that this verse is a prohibition against giving a servant work that is not really necessary. For example, a master is forbidden to tell his servant to warm things up when he really does not need it. Perhaps the master will say, "No one knows whether this is really necessary or not, and I will tell him that this is necessary." This is a matter only he will know in his heart. Therefore, it is stated, "And you shall fear the Almighty."

Since the servant does not know that the work the master is giving him is not really needed, why does the Torah prohibit it? The principle we see here is that the Torah wants us to feel an inner respect for others. A master who gives his servant work just to keep him busy is expressing a lack of respect for the dignity of the person who is working for him. People are created in the image of the Almighty and have a spark of divinity in them. As such they must be treated with respect - especially parents!

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Jerusalem  6:58
Chicago 7:49  Guatemala 6:05  Hong Kong 6:39
Honolulu 6:45  J'Burg 5:09  London 8:33
Los Angeles 7:33  Melbourne 4:54  Mexico City 6:51

Miami 7:43  Moscow 8:25  New York 7:52
Singapore 6:49  Toronto 7:21


When you were born, you cried
and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die
the world cries and you rejoice.

In Loving Memory of
Gail Willinger
Steven Willinger & Leslie Abelson


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