Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Behar - Bechukosai
Volume XVI, No. 29
May 4, 2002
Orach Chaim 634:1-3
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Bava Batra 45
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Ma'aser Sheni 15
This week's parashah completes the book of Vayikra. R' Moshe
ben Yosef Tirani z"l (the "Mabit"; 16th century) observes that
Vayikra has more mitzvot than any other book: 241. Devarim is
next, with 200. A mnemonic to remember this is "emmet" / "truth"
whose gematria is 441 (=200+241). The other three books contain
172 mitzvot, which can be remembered by the mnemonic "eikev."
[There does not appear to be any special meaning to this
But why is the Torah divided into five separate books? Why was
it not given in one book?
Mabit suggests that the five books of the Torah commemorate the
five individuals who received parts of the Torah before it was
formally given at Har Sinai. These were: Adam and Noach, who
received the seven Noachide laws; Avraham, who received the
mitzvah of milah; Yitzchak, the first person on whom circumcision
was performed on the 8th day; and Yaakov, who was given the
mitzvah not to eat the gid hanasheh.
Alternatively, the five books commemorate Amram and Yocheved
and their children, Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, through whom the
Torah was given.
Or, the five books parallel the five places where parts of the
Torah were given: Egypt, Marah (in the desert), Har Sinai, the
Ohel Moed / Tent of Meeting, and the Wilderness of Moav.
Some sources refer to the book of Bemidbar as three separate
books, yielding a total of seven. This would parallel the five
recipients of the Torah (see above) plus Moshe and Aharon, or the
seven days of creation. (Bet Elokim, Sha'ar Hayesodot ch.32)
"If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his
ancestral heritage... if he does not acquire sufficient
means to repay him, then his sale shall remain in possession
of its purchaser until the Yovel / Jubilee Year; in the
Yovel, it shall leave and return to his ancestral heritage."
"If a man shall sell a residence house in a walled city, its
redemption can take place until the end of the year of its sale;
its period of redemption shall be a year." (25:29)
Why can an ancestral field that was sold be redeemed at any
time (starting two years after the sale), and if it is not
redeemed, it returns to its ancestral owner at the Yovel, while a
residence in a walled city can be redeemed during the first year
after the sale? Ramban z"l (1194-1270) explains: A person who is
forced to sell his home is likely to be ashamed. Therefore, said
the Torah, let him redeem it quickly if he is able. However,
once he has been gone from his house for a year, his attachment
to that house is over.
In the case of an ancestral field, in contrast, the law of
redemption is not based on the seller's feelings. Rather, it is
based on the fact that his ancestral field is his family's source
of sustenance. Thus it is fitting that the ancestral field
should be redeemable at any time and should return at the Yovel.
It is amazing! writes R' Simcha Zissel Broide z"l (the "Chevron
Rosh Yeshiva"; died 2000). The Yovel is one of the foundations
of our faith, intended to teach us to place our faith in G-d.
[The importance of the Yovel is highlighted by the fact that our
parashah notes that it was taught at Har Sinai.] In addition,
Kabbalists teach that the cycle of Shemittah and Yovel years
alludes to all the years of world history, which will culminate
in a period of rest (like a Yovel) for all existence. Yet, in
the midst of teaching this important law, the Torah takes time
out, so-to-speak, to concern itself with the feelings of a man
who must sell his house.
"If your brother becomes impoverished, and his hand falters
in your proximity, you shall strengthen him - proselyte or
resident - so that he may live `imach' / with you." (25:35)
R' Akiva Yosef Schlesinger z"l (Hungary and Eretz Yisrael; died
1922) explains the intent of this verse as follows: Don't be like
certain stingy people who think that they fulfill their
obligation of charity by giving the needy a small amount.
Rather, a person must support the poor at the same standard of
living that he supports his own family. This is what is meant
by: "so that he may live with you."
Some people say to the poor [either directly or through their
attitude]: "What's wrong with being poor? Doesn't the Mishnah
teach, `Such is the way of the Torah - eat bread dipped in salt
and drink a small measure of water'?" R' Schlesinger asks
rhetorically: Do the people who say this live such a life
themselves? One who takes such an attitude toward the poor
violates the command of our verse as wells as the mitzvah of "You
shall love your fellow as yourself."
R' Schlesinger adds: There is another lesson in the word
"imach" / "with you." The Midrash says: "More than the master of
the house does for the poor man, the poor man does for the master
of the house." This alludes to the promise of wealth for one who
practices the mitzvah of giving charity with an open hand. One
must remember also the verse (Mishlei 22: 2), "The rich man and
the poor man meet; Hashem is the Maker of them all." Lest one
choose to ignore the mitzvah of giving charity, remember that the
same Creator who made the rich man rich can make him poor and
give his wealth to the poor man.
R' Moshe Feinstein z"l (leading American halachic authority of
the 20th century; died 1986) was asked: Must one give to charity
to enable the poor to buy something that the giver himself needs?
[For example, if one rents, rather than owns, a home, must he
give charity to help a poor bride and groom buy a home for
themselves?] R' Feinstein responded that our verse answers this
question: "Strengthen him . . . so that he may live with you."
You are not obligated to strengthen him so that he can live
better than you.
R' Feinstein finds support for his position in the following
famous dispute recorded in the Gemara: If two people are
traveling in the desert and only one has water, and even that one
has only enough water for one person, Rabbi Akiva says that he
should not share his water and die with his traveling companion.
Rather, he should keep the water for himself even if his
companion will die. Why? Rabbi Akiva says, "So that he may live
with you" - your life comes first. [If he shares the water, his
friend will not live with him, as he himself will not live.] The
sage Ben Petorah disagrees and says, "Share the water."
At first glance, writes R' Feinstein, it seems that Rambam does
not codify either the opinion of Rabbi Akiva or that of Ben
Petorah in his halachic code. Why not? R' Feinstein answers
that this dispute is in fact alluded to in Rambam's ruling that
"One must give charity to the extent that he can afford." This
implies that one need not give more than he can afford and that
one need not give something that he does not have enough of for
himself. (In other words, Rambam rules in accordance with Rabbi
R' Feinstein adds: It may be that even Ben Petorah agrees with
the principle that one need not give something that he does not
have enough of for himself. Rather, Ben Petorah disagrees with
Rabbi Akiva on the question of whether one is permitted to
sacrifice his life for a mitzvah in a situation where halachah
does not obligate him to do so. (Rabbi Akiva would hold that one
may not do so, while Ben Petorah may hold that one is permitted
to do so.)
(Igrot Moshe: Yoreh Deah I, No. 145)
"I will remember My covenant with Yaakov, and also My
covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham
will I remember, and I will remember the Land." (26:42)
Our Sages teach that the punishments listed in our parashah
refer to the period between the First and Second Temples. Thus,
this verse, which appears near the end of the punishments must
refer to the period around the building of the Second Bet
Why, asks R' Sa'adiah Gaon z"l (Babylon; died 942), are the
Patriarchs mentioned in reverse chronological order? He offers
the following explanation: In this verse, Moshe Rabbeinu is
hinting to us how long the Second Temple would stand. (According
to the Talmud, it stood for 420 years.) Specifically, the number
of years of the Second Bet Hamikdash was the same as the number
of years that Hashem's Covenant with Avraham, Yitzchak, and
Yaakov lasted. How so?
Yaakov lived 147 years, all of which were after Hashem's
Covenant with Avraham (i.e., the Brit Bain Ha'betarim). All of
Yitzchak's 180 years also were after Hashem's Covenant with
Avraham. As for Avraham himself, he lived 93 years after the
Brit Bain Ha'betarim. In all, Hashem's Covenant with the
Patriarch's including years that their lives overlapped, was 420
years. And, it is only the fact that the Patriarchs are listed
backwards in the verse that suggests to us that the verse is
alluding to something that only existed at the end of Avraham's
[Ed. note: R' Sa'adiah Gaon does explain his calculation of the
93 years that Avraham lived after the Covenant. Unfortunately,
reports R' Yosef Kapach z"l (died 2000), the scholar who printed
the commentary from manuscript, one line of the manuscript in the
middle of the calculation is unintelligible. Without that line,
one can only arrive at the number 91, not 93. Note also that
other commentaries place the Brit Bain Ha'betarim 100 or 105
years before Avraham's death.]
(Sefer Daniel Im Targum U'Peirush R' Sa'adiah Gaon, p. 15)
R' Avraham David Wahrman z"l
R' Avraham David was born in Nadvorna, Galicia (today, in the
Ukraine) on 6 Adar 5531 / 1771. His first teacher was his
father, R' Asher Anshel, who was known as "Wahrman" / "Man of
Truth" because of his personal character. In addition to Torah,
R' Asher Anshel taught his son arithmetic, German and Polish.
Young Avraham David was a dedicated student, and, already at the
age of six, he was seen reviewing his Torah lessons while waiting
at the table for meals to begin. He also studied under his uncle
R' Yehoshua Charif.
At age ten, the future R' Avraham David became engaged to the
daughter of R' Zvi Hirsch Kara of Buczacz, and he moved to that
town to study under his future father-in-law. After his
marriage, R' Avraham David became known throughout Buczacz not
only for his expertise in most branches of Torah knowledge, but
also for his acts of kindness, which he performed in a low-key
and humble manner.
Beginning in 1791, R' Avraham David served as rabbi of
Yazlowitz for 24 years. In that small town, he was able to study
almost undisturbed for 14 consecutive hours every day. During
this period, R' Avraham David began studying kabbalah, and he
also broadened his knowledge of secular studies as an aid to
studying Torah and in order to respond to heretics. It was also
during these years that he became attracted to R' Levi Yitzchak
of Berditchev and the young chassidic movement. R' Avraham David
would later say that he suffered inner turmoil because the ways
of chassidut, which he believed were very valuable for serving
Hashem, were at odds with the ways of traditional Torah
scholarship in which he was raised and educated.
In 1814, R' Zvi Hirsch Kara died, and R' Avraham David was
offered the rabbinate of Buczacz in his place. R' Avraham David
accepted, but he had to slip out of Yazlowitz under the cover of
darkness because of his popularity there. It is as the rabbi of
Buczacz that R' Avraham David is best known, and it was there
that he spent the remainder of his days until his passing on the
second day of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5601 / 1840.
R' Avraham David was a prolific author. His best known works
are Da'at Kedoshim on parts of Shulchan Aruch Yorah Deah, and
Eishel Avraham on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim. The latter work is
printed in the back of standard editions of the Shulchan Aruch.
(Note that there are two works by that name printed in the back
of the Shulchan Aruch.) R' Avraham David also authored
commentaries on the Torah and the Pesach Haggadah, and other
works. (Source: Encyclopedia Le'chachmei Galicia p. 944)
Copyright © 2002 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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