Parshas Behar-Bechukosai: Every Word Teaches Something

By BJLife/Rabbi Dovid Fink

Posted on 05/11/23

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Our Torah contains many Dinim, Chukim and Mishpatim.  By definition, some of theses Mitzvos have reasons that are known to us or obvious, and others which are quite mysterious and elusive.  In Parshas Behar, there are a number of Mitzvos at the end of the Parsha, which seem to provide “explanations” for their existence. 

The first of these is the issur of lending with or charging interest on a loan made to a fellow Jew.  (Behar 25: 36-37) The Torah follows this prohibition with an apparent “reason” for its enactment.  In pasuk 38, immediately following this issur, the Torah says “I am Hashem your G-D, who brought you out of the land of Mitzrayim, to give to you Eretz Canaan, to be your G-D.”  This is, for lack of a better term, the fullest “trailer” or explanation that the Torah attaches to any particular Mitzvah.  In the very next pasuk, we have the Mitzvah of setting free an eved Ivri upon the arrival of Yovel.  Pasuk 55 provides an “explanation” for this Mitzvah with “because Bnei Yisroel are my servants, whom I brought out of Mitzrayim, I am Hashem your G-D”.  Interestingly, in this “trailer”, the Torah omits any mention of Eretz Canaan. 

This pattern continues with the next issur of constructing idols.  (26:1) The end of this pasuk provides the abbreviated “reason” of  simply “I am Hashem your G-d”.  No mention is made of either Eretz Cannan or Yitzias Mitzrayim.  Finally, the Parsha closes out with the Miztvah of keeping Shabbos which is “trailed” with only “because I am Hashem”.  For this Mitzvah the Torah does not even attach the word “G-D” to it’s “explanation”. 

This pattern cries out for interpretation.  Why do we have these “explanations” at all?   Why do they differ from Mitzvah to Mitzvah?  What is the significance of each “trailer” and the Mitzvah to which it is attached?

A close examination of these Mitzvos reveals a profound lesson which can be gleaned from this enigma.  Each “explanation” is directly related to the particular Mitzvah and teaches us the most fundamental lesson of all – the will of Hashem for us to emulate his middos.  In the issur of charging interest, the “extra” part of the “trailer” is that Hashem gave us Eretz Canaan.  As we say at the Seder in Dayenu, it would have been more than enough for Hashem to take us out of Mitzrayim.  The Torah reminds us that Hashem went beyond that and gave us Eretz Yisroel.  Just as he gave us something for nothing, so should we lend money with out expecting interest in return. 

Similarly, with respect to the eved Ivri, the Torah directly points out that we are Hashem’s avadim and just as he did not let us remain in slavery indefinitely, so should we free our avadim after a period of time.  To help us understand this mitzvah there is no need to mention Eretz Canaan, all that is needed is the reminder that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim.  In the same vain, to appreciate the issur of Avoda Zora, the Torah need not mention Yitzias Mitzrayim, all that is needed is the very basic “trailer” of I am Hashem your G-d.  If you understand that Hashem is your G-d, then you should not construct or worship idols. 

Finally, the Torah comes back to the anchor of our connection to Hashem, the Mitzvah of Shabbos.  At this point, if we have grasped the message that Hashem wants us to copy and emulate his behavior the only “trailer” needed is “I am Hashem”.  Just as Hashem rested on the seventh day, our understanding the value in emulating his behavior would lead us to keep Shabbos as well.

It is too easy to view the Torah and its Mitzvos as a series of requirements and prohibitions.  Such an interpretation seriously diminishes the beauty of Yiddishkeit and our special relationship to our Creator.  Hashem loves us and created us “in his image”.  The Torah constantly helps us in our efforts to be more like Him.  When we do a Mitzvah actively or by refraining from a prohibition we are bringing ourselves that much closer to Hashem by emulating his middos.  How privileged we are to actually have an instruction manual on how to achieve true Godliness.