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The Weekly Aliyot
Providing a short summary of the Torah portion read
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Published and copyright © by Avrohom Gedalia Gershon


This is a double parsha, made up of parshas Behar and B'Chukosi. The seven aliyot of this week's reading are indicated by special aliyah markings within those two parshas in the Chumash.

The first aliyah discusses the Sabbatical year (also called Shmittah year) and the Jubilee year. For the Sabbatical year, we work our land for six years, but the seventh year is a Sabbath for the land, we don't sow it, nor harvest it, nor prune it. There are many laws governing what can and cannot be done and what to do with the fruit that grows by itself and how to be a consumer of produce in such a year. These agricultural laws apply only in the land of Israel, however everyone everywhere has to be careful about produce and canned goods produced in the land of Israel during a Shmittah year.

After seven sets of seven years we proclaim a Jubilee year with a blast of the shofar on Yom Kippur. In such a year all slaves are freed, and all land reverts to its former owner.

The first aliyah continues to say that if we sell to our neighbor, or buy from our neighbor we should not wrong one another. Rashi interprets this to mean that when we sell, we should sell to a Jew and when we buy, we should buy from a Jew. Also, we are warned here to take into account how many years are left until the Jubilee year when we buy or sell land, because the land will return to its former owner then. The end of the aliyah states that if we observe and do G-d's statues and ordinances we shall dwell in the land safely.

The second aliyah continues the promise of G-d begun in the previous aliyah that if we observe the mitzvahs we will dwell in the land of Israel in safety. This aliyah adds that the land will produce its fruit to our satisfaction, and adds again that we will dwell in safety. It then promises that we needn't worry about what we will eat during the Shmittah year when we can't farm, for the sixth year will produce enough for three years (the sixth, seventh, and eighth years).

The second aliyah goes on to give some details of the selling of land until the Jubilee year. One shouldn't even sell his land unless he is poor. When selling one's land, the seller should at least retain a field of it, and a relative of the seller, or the seller himself if his wealth returns to him, may redeem the land from the buyer for an equitable amount and the buyer cannot prevent it.

The third aliyah has additional laws of selling real estate with respect to the Jubilee year. Here, the Torah discusses houses in walled cities (like Yerushalayim) which can be redeemed by their sellers for up to a year after the sale, and if not redeemed in that year, become the permanent property of the buyer, and they are not released by the Jubilee. An exception to this is when a member of the tribe of the Levites sells his house in one of the cities of the Levites, the Levite shall always have the power to redeem it, and it will be redeemed by the Jubilee.

This aliyah then turns to the matter of helping one another; we are told that when one of our brethren becomes impoverished, we must come to his aid. And this is where we are told not to charge interest from a Jew. In fact, we are forbidden to pay interest to a Jew.

Fourth aliyah consists of the last two aliyot of parsha Behar and the first two aliyot of parsha B'Chukosi. Here we are given the law of the Jewish bondsman who, because of his poverty, sells himself to us. In short, we are not permitted to treat them with rigor as with slaves, but on the contrary, we are to treat them as hired servants doing reasonable and necessary work, and they are to be released in the Jubilee year.

The aliyah continues with the laws of a non-Jew who becomes rich. Rashi interprets this, as the non-Jew became rich by clinging to you. Similarly, we have here the law of a Jew becoming poor, which Rashi interprets: the Jew became poor by clinging to the non-Jew and learning from his doings. The aliyah continues: the Jew sells himself to the non-Jew, the Jew may be redeemed by his relatives and the Jubilee year releases him.

The aliyah then mentions the prohibition of not making an idol. Rashi says this is mentioned here, in proximity to what we just read about, where a Jew who is a bondsman of a non-Jew, so that the Jew shouldn't forget who he is and despite who his master is, he still must keep the Sabbath, not worship idols, etc.

The fourth aliyah continues into parsha B'Chukosi. Rashi says the words "Im B'Chukosi" refers to the study of Torah. This aliyah promises blessings for studying Torah for the purpose of doing the commandments, and then doing them (the commandments). The blessings include plenty of food, and rain at the proper time, peace from enemies, and from beasts. Here the Torah says five of us will chase one hundred enemies; one hundred of us will chase ten thousand enemies.

The first four lines of the fifth aliyah complete the promises of blessings of the last few aliyot, but then the aliyah talks about severe, terrifying punishments if the Jewish people reject G-d's chukos (statutes) and mishpatim (ordinances) and don't do His mitzvahs.

Rashi counts seven transgressions corresponding to seven punishments. The seven progressive transgressions are: failure to study Torah, failure to do the commandments, rejecting others that do the commandments, hating the sages, preventing others from observing, denying the divine origin of the commandments, denying the existence of G-d, and Rashi says that each of these sins leads to the next.

The punishments include terrible famine and exile. And the Torah says our land will lie in desolation and finally will be paid its rest that it didn't have when we didn't keep the Sabbath of the land (Sabbatical year).

But the aliyah ends with G-d's promise that He will remember us in the land of our enemies, and not break his covenant by destroying us utterly.

The sixth aliyah discusses endowments of money to the temple expressed as values of people, animals, and real estate. That is to say, if a person vows that he will give the value of himself to the temple, this aliyah describes what monetary values are to be used for men and woman of different ages, and for animals and houses. An endowment of someone or something is considered as if that person or thing itself was given to the temple. The Midrash contains a story of a judge Yiftach who vowed that if he wins the war, whatever comes out of his house he will sacrifice to G-d. Unfortunately his daughter came out. He was ignorant of the Torah, he should have known that he could endow her value instead, but didn't know.

The seventh aliyah discusses endowments of a field to the temple.

The money of all these endowments was used for repairs to the Bais Hamikdash, may it be speedily rebuilt in our days, Amen

The aliyah ends with the tithe of animals, where every tenth newborn animal is to be brought as a sacrifice.

This is the conclusion of Sefer Vayikra, which began with parshas Vayikra several weeks ago. In that parsha G-d called Moshe to the Mishkan for the first time after it was built and began the installation of the priests and the laws of their service in the Mishkan. This book of the Torah is also known as Toras Kohanim (Law of the Kohanim) because most of the laws that we've seen over the last few weeks have been about the Kohanim either directly or indirectly.



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