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Bechukotai 5767

Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25-27 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! The story is told of an honor-seeking man who envied the Cohanim being called first to the reading of the Torah. He longed to have that k'vode, honor, and finally devised a plan! Since the Torah is also read on Monday and Thursday in addition to Shabbat, he would travel across town to a synagogue where he was not known. When the gabbai (sexton) calls out, "Is there a Cohen present?" he'll indicate his presence and get the first aliya to the Torah! One Monday he drives across town to a distant synagogue. When the gabbai asks for a Cohen, he raises his hand. Then the gabbai comes over to him and says, "Would you mind stepping out of the synagogue for a few minutes? We want to give the aliya to someone important!

___ While this story is a great springboard to talk about honor seeking and humility, today I am going to share some history of the Tribes of Israel with particular emphasis on Cohanim and Levi'im.

___Our forefather Jacob (Ya'akov) had 12 sons and 1 daughter by 4 wives. Leah gave birth to: Reuven, Shimon, Levi and Yehuda. Then Bilha gave birth to Dan and Naphtali. Next Zilpah gave birth to Gad and Asher. Leah gives birth to Issachar, Zevulon and a daughter, Dina. Finally, Rachel gives birth to Yosef and Binyamin..

___Because of a famine in the land of Israel, the family moved to Egypt where Jacob was reunited with Yosef who was now the viceroy of Egypt. They resettled in Goshen. On his deathbed, Jacob blesses each of his sons. However, before blessing his sons, he blesses Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Menashe with the words, "(they shall be mine like Reuven and Shimon" (Genesis 48:5). The meaning: Each will be like a son for a portion of
inheritance and each will be counted as a tribe. So, in effect there were 13 tribes with Ephraim and Menashe taking the place of Joseph.

___After 210 years in Egypt, Moshe (Moses) leads the Jewish people out of Egypt. Fifty days later, we stood at Mt. Sinai and heard the voice of the Almighty give the first 2 of the 10 Commandments. The event was so overpowering, that they asked Moshe to relay the rest of the Commandments. Soon we will be celebrating the giving of Torah and reaffirming our allegiance to the Torah on the holiday of Shavuos, starting the evening of May 22nd. Following the giving of the 10 Commandments, Moshe ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Tablets.

___When Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai, he finds people dancing around the Golden Calf, threw down the tablets ... and cries out, "Whoever is for the Almighty, join me! (Exodus 32:26) to quell this rebellion against God. The whole tribe of Levi came to Moses' side. The Tribe of Levy consisted of Moshe and Aaron and their progeny. While one is considered Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish, the tribal designation comes from the tribe of one's father.

___What does this have to do with the tribes? Until the Golden Calf, the First Born were to be the Priests and carry out the holy functions in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. Because there were First Born amongst the worshippers of the Golden Calf, the First Born were replaced by the Levites as the holy functionaries.

___Later, by commandment of the Almighty, Moses' brother, Aaron, is appointed as the High Priest, the Cohen Gadol, and all of his descendants will be Cohanim.

___For the 40 years in the desert, we traveled in formation by tribes. When we finally entered the land of Israel, the land was divided according to each tribe and subdivided by families. The tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe settled to the east of the Jordan. The tribe of Levi did not receive any land. Instead they received 42 cities and tithes which people contributed. The Levites and Cohanim were the itinerant teachers.

___After the first exile of the Jewish people from Israel to Assyria and Babylon, the tribal designations were lost and confused. Nowadays, people only know whether they are Cohanim, Levi'im or Yisraelim. And perhaps we will learn the lesson from the Levites who ran to Moshe's side, to respond quicker the next time someone calls upon us to defend the honor of the Almighty!

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Jerusalem, July 15-19th. Lectures, workshops, presentations on all aspects of being a Cohen and Levite. See for more information!

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Torah Portion of the Week

___Behar 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 G-d gave the Torah. If the idea is to give the land a rest, then do not plant one-seventh of the land each year. To command an agrarian society to completely stop cultivating every 7th year one has to be either G-d or a meshugenah (crazy).

___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.

___The second portion for this week, Bechukotai, begins with the multitude of blessings you will receive for keeping the commandments of the Torah. (Truly worth reading!) It also contains the Tochachah, words of admonition, "If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments..." There are seven series of seven punishments each. Understand that G-d does not punish for punishment's sake; He wants to get our attention so that we will introspect, recognize our errors and correct our ways. G-d does not wish to destroy us or annul His covenant with us. He wants us to know that there are consequences for our every action; He also wants to get our attention so that we do not stray so far away that we assimilate and disappear as a nation. I highly recommend reading Lev.
26:14 - 45 and Deut. 28.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

___The Torah states regarding a person who wishes to give the value of his house to the Temple (the one that was and will be on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem),

"A person who sanctifies his house, the Cohen shall evaluate it..." (Leviticus 27:14).

___The Kotzker Rebbe tangentially comments that when a person is involved in spiritual matters, it is relatively easy for him to do so in a sanctified setting. However, true holiness is when a person sanctifies the seemingly mundane activities in his household. When one behaves in an elevated manner in his own home, he is truly a holy person.

___Torah ideals and principles are not only for when one is in a yeshiva or synagogue; they are for all areas of our lives. With strangers or in a public setting it is often easier to be patient or behave properly. Therefore, one should focus that his first priority should be treating the family properly. The more sanctified your behavior at home, the greater you become!

(or go to

Jerusalem 6:51
Guatemala 6:04 - Hong Kong 6:35 - Honolulu 6:42
J'Burg 5:13 - London 7:21 - Los Angeles 7:26
Melbourne 5:05 - Mexico City 7:44 - Miami 7:40

New York 7:44 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 8:13


Where nothing is sacred, sacred is nothing.
-- Dr. Mardy Grothe

With deep appreciation to
Jonathan & Jane Medved


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