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Behar 5779

Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  According to Jewish cosmology, the day begins with nightfall. That is why all holidays start at night after the stars can be seen. Wednesday night, May 22nd, begins the holiday of Lag B'Omer. You may have seen advertisements for picnics from synagogues and JCCs.

Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer, the period between Pesach and Shavuot. On this day the plague which was killing Rabbi Akiva's disciples stopped. It is also the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the Kabbalah, the book of Jewish Mysticism. Tradition has it that the day of his demise was filled with a great light of endless joy through the secret wisdom which he revealed to his students in the Zohar.

In Israel there are huge bonfires across the country. From Pesach onwards, the children gather fallen branches and build pyres often 20 and 30 feet high. Then as the sky grows dark, they are lit and the sky is filled with flames -- and smoke. (I have often wondered what the reaction is to the pictures from the US and Russian Spy satellites.)

The fires are symbolic both of the light of wisdom Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought into the world and as a "yahrzeit candle" to the memory of his passing. Haircuts and weddings take place on this date and there is much festivity including dancing, singing and music.

Why the name Lag B'Omer? Every Hebrew letter has a numerical value.

An aleph = 1, a bet = 2 and so forth. The two Hebrew letters lamed (30) and gimmel (3) = 33. So Lag (spelled lamed gimmel in Hebrew) B'Omer means the 33rd day of the Omer. [The word "Omer" literally means "sheaf" and refers to the offering of the barley sheaf in the Temple on the second day of Pesach marking the harvesting of the barley crop. From that day until Shavuot (the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the Festival of the Harvest) is called the period of the Counting of the Omer. It is a time for reflection upon how we view and treat our fellow Jews and what we can learn from the tragedies that have befallen us because of unfounded hatred for our fellow Jews.


For more on Lag B'Omer, I direct you to as well as for articles including -- Kabbalah and Lag B'Omer, The Mystery of Lag B'Omer, Whispering Flames: The Fire of Lag B'Omer, Lag B'Omer: Remembering Rabbi Shimon.


Three Rules For Success

  1. Initiative -- You have to try.
  2. Perseverance -- You have to keep trying.
  3. The Almighty smiles upon your efforts.


My father likes to quip that "The harder you work, the luckier you get." Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Our Torah teaches that telling yourself "I can't" is a big mistake. If the Almighty would help you, would you be able to do it? He is there and will help. Remember: One person and the Almighty make a majority!

Telling yourself "I don't feel like doing it" is another big mistake. One should do what his soul wants (accomplishment, meaning) and not what his body desires (comfort). Don't confuse body messages for messages of the soul! And if the decision and the effort needed for success are too painful, here are:

Seven Excuses for Giving Up

  1. We've never done it that way.
  2. We're not ready for that, yet.
  3. We're doing all right without it.
  1. We tried it once and it didn't work out.
  2. It costs too much.
  3. That's not our responsibility.
  4. It won't work.


Torah Portion of the Week

Behar, Leviticus 25:1 -26:2

The Torah portion begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded to not 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:

"When you come to the land which I give you, the land shall rest, a rest for the Almighty" (Leviticus 25:2).

Why is having the land rest ... "for the Almighty"?

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz of the Mirrer Yeshiva cites the Raavad (Introduction to Baalai Nefesh) that a fundamental principle behind the commandments is that "they are to remind us constantly that we have a Creator who is our Ruler." The Almighty gave us this earth, but after using the earth for some time a person can mistakenly think that the earth belongs to him; he can forget that the Almighty is the real owner.

Therefore, there are commandments which contain restrictions to show that the Creator is above us. For this reason, said Rav Yeruchem, the Torah stresses in this verse that the commandment to rest on the seventh year applies to the land which the Almighty gave us. The Almighty gave us a commandment to refrain from work on the land on the seventh year to help us internalize the awareness that He is the true boss of the earth.

This is also the lesson we learn from the weekly Shabbat, said Rav Yeruchem. It shows a person that the Almighty is the one who gives him the power to work on the other days of the week. This is a weekly reminder that we have a Ruler who is our ultimate Authority.


Candle Lighting Times

May 24
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:59
Guatemala 6:07 - Hong Kong 6:42 - Honolulu 6:49
J'Burg 5:08 - London 8:40 - Los Angeles 7:37
Melbourne 4:55 - Mexico City 7:50 - Miami 7:46
New York 7:56 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 8:27

Quote of the Week

Winners are not people who never fail,
but people who never quit



In Loving Memory of

Ben Manger
Beryl Leib ben Yosef

In Loving Memory of

Stephan Igra
Chaim Leib ben Yitzchak



In Loving Memory of

Roslyn Kurlansky

her children

With Deep Appreciation to

Laura Tauber




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