WORDS TO REMEMBER
Those who gain wealth by unjust means are like a partridge hatching eggs it never laid: in the middle of life it will forsake them, at the end they are [known to be] fools. – Jer. 17:11
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/bhar-bchukotai
B’har – B’chukotai (בְּהַר – בְּחֻקֹּתי Hebrew for “On Mount [Sinai]” / “My Laws”)
The Eternal One spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: “Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the Eternal.” – Leviticus 25:1-2 If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. – Leviticus 26:3-4
- God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that in every seventh year, the land shall observe a Sabbath of complete rest: Fields should not be sown and vines should not be pruned. (25:1-7)
- After forty-nine years, a jubilee year is to be celebrated when all the land that had been sold during that time should be returned to its original owners and slaves are to be freed. (25:8-55)
- God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites not to make idols, to keep the sabbath, and to venerate the sanctuary of the Eternal. (26:1-2)
- God promises blessings to the Children of Israel if they follow the law and warns about the curses that will befall the people if they do not observe God’s commandments. (26:1-46)
- Gifts made to the Sanctuary whether by conditional vows or by unconditional acts of pious gratitude are discussed. (27:1-34)
When parashah Behar is combined with parashah Bechukotai, the haftarah is the haftarah for Bechukotai, Jeremiah 16:19–17:14. The blessings and curses in Leviticus 26 are matched by a curse on “the man that trusts in man” in Jeremiah 17:5 and a blessing on “the man that trusts in the Lord” in Jeremiah 17:7.
This Double-Parsha ends the Book of Leviticus. Upon completing a book of Torah Ashkenazi Jews shout “Chazak! Chazak! Venit-chazëk” which is translated as “Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!” The Sephardic custom is to say “Chazak U’baruch” (“strength and blessing”) at the end of every single individual Torah reading; the response is “Chazak Ve’ematz” (“be strong and have courage” from Deut. 31:23) or “Baruch Tihiye” (“may you be blessed.”)
From Reform Judaism
By: Cantor David Fair
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
For Torah Study, instead of the portion from the Book of Leviticus that is read on this Shabbat, we will read the Haftarah (a selection from the prophets) from Jeremiah 16:19-17:14. You can read this week’s Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Leviticus.25.1-27.34, and the Haftarah at https://www.sefaria.org/Jeremiah.16.19-17.14
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
בהר B’har – Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Post-biblical Interpretations – by Judith Z. Abrams, pp. 760-1
you shall not wrong one another…Do not wrong one another, but fear your God (25:14, 17). The discussion of this passage in the midrash collection Sifra leads us to one of the most important passages in rabbinic literature, one in which women play central roles. The Rabbis explain the apparent repetition of the command not to oppress one’s neighbor as follows: Each verse speaks of a different kind of oppression, which that in v. 14 is economic oppression, while that in v. 17 is inflicted psychologically. The Tosefta repeats this interpretation in Bava M’tzia 3:25–29, and the Talmud deeply explores the issues in BT Bava M’Tzia 58b–60b. There we learn how important feelings are, and how critical it is for us not to hurt them. According to the Rabbis, the archetypal example of someone who preferred death to hurting another person’s feelings is Tamar (Genesis 38). The Rabbis maintain that rather than shame her father-in-law in public, she was willing to be burned to death. We then learn that it is especially important not to distress one’s wife (BT Bava M’tzia 59a and subsequently in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 228:3). A husband can easily wound his wife’s feelings because she is close to him, and he also has many opportunities to hurt her. He must therefore take proportionately more care not to do so. We learn, too, of the counter-example of Rav’s difficult marriage. Rav asserted that anyone who followed his wife’s advice would descend into Geihinom (the place of eternal punishment). When we examine a description of his married life, we can see why he might say this. His wife is said to have constantly tormented him and contradicted his smallest wish (BT Y’vamot 63a). Of course, this androcentric text does not consider how Rav’s treatment of his spouse may have contributed to such behavior.
Rav Pappa seems to have had a good marriage, since he quotes the folk saying that if one’s wife is short, one should bend down and listen to her opinion. Other teachings are likewise designed to increase marital harmony. One such teaching urges that grain always be available in the home, as lack of food is often the cause of marital strife. We learn, too, that a husband should be careful to honor his wife more than he honors himself. He should show this by dressing her in better clothes than he himself wears (BT Bava M’tzia 59a and subsequently in Mishneh Torah, Sefer Nashim, Hilchot Ishut 15:19). In the same passage, Rav Helbo asserts that blessings are found in a man’s house only on account of his wife; and Rava opines that honoring one’s wife is the road to wealth.
What follows is one of the most famous legends in all of rabbinic literature. It appears in BT Bava M’tzia 59b and concerns Rabbi Eliezer and his wife, Imma Shalom (which means “Mother of Peace”). Imma Shalom came from a distinguished family of Davidic heritage. Her brother was Rabban Gamliel, who, at that time, presided over the academy in which her husband, Rabbi Eliezer, was one of the greatest sages. Her husband had a strong disagreement of opinion with the rest of the academy. When they would not accept his opinion he brought all sorts of supernatural proofs that his was the correct view. Even a voice out of heaven was summoned, which duly testified that he was, in fact, right. At this, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Eliezer’s study partner, stood up and said, “The Torah is no longer in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12). In other words, we decide law and practice here on earth and do not take heavenly voices into account. Finally, Rabban Gamliel expelled Rabbi Eliezer from the academy, and he was excommunicated. Imma Shalom, knowing what harm her husband could do out of the pain of his humiliation, kept watch on Rabbi Eliezer day and night, so that he would not have the opportunity to pray for Rabban Gamliel’s death. One day her attention was diverted, and she saw afterward that Rabbi Eliezer was prostrated on the ground, supplicating God for succor from his hurt feelings. Seeing that, she said, “Rise. You have killed my brother!” At that moment a shofar blast was heard, signaling that Rabban Gamliel had died. Rabbi Eliezer then asked his wife, “How did you know my prayer worked, and I had killed him?” She replied, quoting learning as easily and with as much authority as her husband, “I learned it from my grandfather’s house: All the gates of heaven are locked except for the gates of hurt feelings.”
בחקתי B’chukotai – Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Post-biblical Interpretations – by Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert, pp. 780-2
When anyone explicitly vows to יהוה (27:2). The Hebrew noun translated here as “anyone” is ish, which in some contexts refers only to males. This verse’s formulation contrasts with the nazirite vow in Numbers 6:2 and with the general vows and oaths in Numbers 30:3–4, which both specify also the female counterpart noun, ishah, as a potential oath taker (see commentaries there). Nonetheless, the Rabbis (Mishnah Arachin 1:1) explicate that both men and women can make the type of vow presumed by this biblical unit, implying that ish as used here is to be read inclusively.
In several different places, Mishnah Arachin records the names of women who made vows of various kinds, mostly related to their children. In the current context, it mentions the mother of a girl by the name of Yirmatia (or Domitia in a manuscript version) who vowed her daughter’s weight, although it is unclear to what purpose (5:1). Elsewhere in the Mishnah, Helena–the queen of Adiabene, a convert to Judaism who is also mentioned by the 1st-century-C.E. historian Josephus–is said to have vowed to become a nazirite for seven years if her son returned “in safety from the war” (Mishnah Nazir 3:6). Also a certain Miriam of Palmyra brings offerings to fulfill a vow related to her dying daughter (Nazir 6:11). Josephus further mentions that his contemporary Berenice–sister of the Jewish Herodian ruler Agrippa II, and lover of Titus (the Roman general and later emperor)–made a vow of abstention.
Nonetheless, even though women appear prominently as autonomous oath takers in rabbinic aggadic literature, halachically a woman’s oaths were subject to a father’s or husband’s annulment, much as specified already in biblical law (Numbers 30:4–17). Only widows, divorcées, or unmarried women above the age of 12½ could make vows as freely as any adult male.
the equivalent for a human being (27:2). Although the vows of dedication to the Temple lost their relevance after its destruction in 70 C.E., the Rabbis developed the regulations outlined in Leviticus 27 into a special mishnaic tractate called Arachin (Valuations), derived from the biblical word translated here as “equivalent” (erech). Indeed, the subject of vows and oaths occupied the Rabbis greatly as they set about organizing their formulation of Jewish law. Indeed, the Mishnah devoted three additional tractates to this topic–N’darim (Vows), Nazir (Nazirite), and Sh’vuot (Oaths)–all of which received extensive talmudic discussion. Perhaps this indicates the popularity of oaths and vows as an expression of religiosity, extending into rabbinic times. Other evidence of this propensity is found in the words of the 4th-century Christian leader John Chrysostom of Antioch and Constantinople, known for his anti-Jewish sermons, who chastised his audience for flocking to the synagogues to take oaths.
if it is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels (27:4). The scale of fixed human value established here remains uncontested and unchanged in rabbinic tradition and does not receive much further commentary. The Rabbis devoted much more attention to regulating individualized vows such as vowing someone’s weight, or even the weight of a particular body part (Mishnah Arachin 5:1–2). Interestingly, the Rabbis take note that the Torah differentiates between the weight of a male (zachar) and female (n’kevah), and they therefore insist that this refers to those who are “definitely male” and “definitely female.” This is one of the many contexts in Jewish law where the Rabbis introduce the concept of indeterminable sexual identity, namely the hermaphrodite (androginos) and the non-sexed person (tumtum), only to exclude such people from the scale of human valuation. However, the Mishnah consider both the androginos and the tumtum fully human therefore able to make vows of valuation on someone who is of unambiguous sexual identity (Arachin 1:1)
If the age from one month to five years, the equivalent for a male is five shekels of silver (27:6). Numbers 18:15–16 likewise prescribe five shekels for the redemption of a month-old first-born son from the priest. Since this practice persisted in Jewish communities beyond Temple times (pidyon haben), the Rabbis in Mishnah B’chorot 8:7 attempted to determine the contemporary coinage that contained the equivalent amount of silver. The talmudic Rabbis emphasize that women are exempt from the commandment of redeeming the first-born son, just as they are not obligated to circumcise their infant sons (BT Kiddushin 29a).
COUNTING OF THE ‘ÓMER
We are in the 49-day period of Counting the ‘Ómer, which this year began Saturday evening, April 16 and continues until Shavuot, which starts the evening of Saturday, June 4. The ‘Ómer is counted each evening.
Today, Friday, day 37 begins this evening at sundown. Before the ‘Alëinu, after stating that one is ready to count the ‘Ómer, the following blessing is said:
Baruch atah Adonai Elohëinu Mélech ha’olam, asher kid’shánu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivánu ‘al S’firat Ha‘Ómer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the ‘Ómer.
After the blessing, one recites the appropriate day of the count. If after the first six days, one also includes the number of weeks that one has counted. For example:
“Hayom shiv’ah ush’loshim yom, shehëm chamishah shavu’ot ushnëi yamim la‘Ómer/ba‘Ómer.”
“Today is 37 days, which is five weeks and two days of/in the ‘Ómer.”
PIRKË AVOT – Ethics of the Fathers
From Pesach to Shavuot on each Shabbat some study a chapter a week from Pirkë Avot. Following is a selection from the sixth chapter.
Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not covet honor. Practice more than you learn. Do not yearn for the table of kings, for your table is greater than their table, and your crown is greater than their crown, and faithful is your employer to pay you the reward of your labor.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 22 Iyar through 28 Iyar, we lovingly remember:
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, May 12, 2023. We will discuss Haftarah Behar-Bechukotai Jeremiah 16:19-17:14.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this Friday evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Haftarah Behar-Bechukotai Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Time: May 12, 2023 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: May 12, 2023 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat – Gut Shabbos!
PS – About the Book of Jeremiah:
From Jewish Encyclopedia
From Jewish Virtual Library
Timelines from Wikipedia