Parashat Behar - Bechukotai

Thursday, May 2, 2013 · Posted in , , , , , ,

Parashat Behar - Bechukotai
VaYikra 25:1 - 27:34

Parashat Summary

The Shemitah - every seventh year, the land shall observe a Shabbat of complete rest
 The Yovel -  sold land should be returned to its original owners and slaves are to be freed
 G-d instructs not to make idols, to keep the Shabbat, and to venerate the sanctuary of the Eternal
 Blessings for keeping the Mitzvot of G-d - Cursings for not observing the Mitzvot of G-d Gifts made to the Sanctuary

25:1 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe beHar Sinai lemor
HASHEM spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, saying,
2 Daber el-benei Yisra'el ve'amarta alehem ki tavo'u el-ha'aretz asher ani noten lachem veshavetah ha'aretz Shabbat l'HASHEM
"Speak to the Children of Yisrael and say to them, when you come to the Land which I am giving you the Land shall be at rest - a Shabbat for HASHEM.
The Torah here is speaking of the Sabbatical year where there is a release of debts (shemitah).

G-d says, "When you come to the Land that I am giving you."  This is speaking of the Holy Land.  After it is conquered and divided and each one takes his inheritance and begins to plant his field and vineyard, G-d is giving a commandment to keep the Sabbatical year. (Chinuch; Minchah Belulah).

25:3 Shesh shanim tizra sadecha veshesh shanim tizmor karmecha ve'asafta et-tevu'atah
For six years you shall plant your field and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and you shall harvest its produce.
4 Uvashanah hashvi'it Shabbat Shabbaton yihyeh la'aretz Shabbat l'HASHEM sadecha lo tizra vecharmecha lo tizmor
But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Shabbat for HASHEM, you shall not plant your field and you shall not prune your vineyard.
5 Et sefiach ketzircha lo tiktzor ve'et-inevei nezirecha lo tivtzor shnat Shabbaton yihyeh la'aretz
[Even] the crops that grew on their own [from the seeds of y our previous] harvest you shall not reap, and the grapes of your untended vines you shall not gather; it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.
During the Sabbatical year it is forbidden to prune grapevines or any other tree.  It is also forbidden to cut wild plants.  The wild growth are crops that grow from the seeds that fall down on their own at the time of harvest.  They can also grow from remaining roots.  These plants that grow on their own are called Sefichim.

These plants grow during the Sabbatical year (shevi'it) without being planted.  It is permissible to bring them in, even though they grew during the Sabbatical year.  However, G-d forbids us to harvest them as we normally harvest crops.  The normal way of harvesting is to gather sheaves and then thresh them with oxen. During the Sabbatical year one can only cut small amounts, shake them out by hand and eat them.  This must be done little by little.

This is Torah law.  However, our Sages forbade such wild groths on the Sabbatical year so that people would not plant and say that the crops grew on their own. (Yad, Shemitah VeYovel 1; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Negative Commandment 266-269)

If one plants, the Torah says, "If you have violated the Sabbatical year by plowing and planting, you are forbidden to harvest the crop.  You must leave it all as public property." (Mizrachi).

25:6 Vehayetah Shabbat ha'aretz lachem le'ochlah lecha ule'avdecha vela'amatecha velischircha uletoshavecha hagarim imach
The [produce] of the land's Shabbat [year] shall be for yourselves, for food, for you, your servant and your maidservant, for your hired hand and your resident sojourner who reside with you.
7 Velivhemtecha velachayah asher be'artzecha tihyeh chol tevu'atah le'echol
[Also] for your domesticated animals and for the [wild] beasts that are in your land shall all of its produce be for food.
You cannot enclose your garden. Your fields must be open and anyone who wishes to come may take all the crops that he wants, whether he is rich or poor.

You also have permission to eat just like the others. However, during the Sabbatical year you may not behave as an owner the way you do during the other years. Rather, you and the people of the city are equal in that year.

It is for this reason that the Sabbatical year is known as shemitah.  The word shemitah means "withdraw." This means that you must withdraw from the field and let it rest as if it were not yours.

Similarly, if one has violated the law and planted vines, he is forbidden to harvest the grapes. Rather, he must withdraw from them and have the same status as strangers.


Reasons for the Shemitah

The reason for this command is so that we will realize that G-d is the Master of the universe. Even though a person may "own" fields, he is not the true owner. No matter how much he has, it does not really belong to him.

Furthermore, this commandment comes to teach the wealthy person how much grief the poor man has. His life hangs in the balance at all times and he is constantly begging G-d for food. "In the evening he asks for the morning, and in the morning he wishes it were evening." (Devarim 28:67) He is constantly on the go, worrying about whether he will have food for himself and his family. A moment does not pass without worry.

The wealthy person, on the other hand, is always happy and in good spirits. He walks through his fields and vineyards and sees the grain and enjoys watching his crops grow. He does not even think about the poor man and is not concerned about his grief. G-d therefore commanded that in the seventh year, one make a "withdrawal." One may not plow, plant, or harvest in this year and may not gather his crops. Rather, one must leave it as public property (hefker).

The wealthy man then is also concerned, "Since I have not planted nor harvested, how will I eat in the eighth year? From where will my bread come?" The Torah thus says, "When you say, 'What will we eat in the seventh year...We have not planted and we have not harvested our crops.'" (VaYikra 25:20)

The wealthy person shall say, "I suffered need for one year when I did not plant, and nevertheless my eyes are darkened by grief. What about the poor man who grieves at all times and is without hope? He is always worried about how he will earn a living and from where he will get food." The rich man will then feel the pain of the poor and support him so that G-d will not make him poor as well.

One may wonder why the Torah had to say, "Six years you shall plant your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard..." (VaYikra 25:3) The Torah is speaking about the shemitah which is the seventh year. One automatically plants the other six years. However, the Torah wishes to make us avoid error. We should not think that G-d commanded us to allow our fields to rest in the seventh year for agricultural reasons.

There are people who plant their fields and then allow them to remain fallow for a year so that the land can regain its strength. If one does not do this, the soil becomes weak and loses the power to produce crops. One might think that G-d gave us this commandment for the same reason.

In order to refute this error, the Torah says "The land shall rest, a Sabbath to G-d. Six years you shall plant your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather your crops." G-d is saying, "You must realize that the commandment that I am giving you is not really to let the land lie fallow so that it will regain its strength; rather, it is a rest to G-d. The Holy Land is a blessed land, a land flowing with milk and honey. It does not become weak through constant planting and plowing year after year. It produces its crop without relaxation."

The Torah therefore says, "You shall plant your field six years" consecutively, one after the other. "Each year you will harvest your crop without any diminishment.  The seventh year you will have a greater harvest than any other year as we shall see." From this we see that the commandment of shemittah is not for the benefit of the land, but for the sake of G-d.

Some say that this commandment helps us remember the Sabbath of creation. G-d commanded us to work six days and rest on the seventh day to recall creation, when G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. God similarly commands us to let the land rest. We may plow and plant six years, but on the seventh year we must rest.

It is for this reason that the shemitah year is called a Shabbat. The Torah thus says, "The land shall rest with a Shabbat to G-d."

Although G-d has already given us the Shabbat, He also gave us the Sabbatical year. This is so that when we occupy the Holy Land the nations should not say, "You are thieves. You have come and taken the cities of other nations. You have overpowered the seven nations who were the original owners of the land and have taken away their land by force."

G-d therefore commanded that when we enter the land we must keep the commandment of shemitah. This shows explicitly that G-d is the Master of the world. He desired to give them the land first, but through His Will He took the land from them and gave it to us.

The commandment of shemitah only applies when the Yovel (Jubilee) is in force. It is only in force when the majority of the Benei Yisrael live in the Holy Land. (Arakhin, Chapter 9; Yad, Shemitah VeYovel 10.  Yalkut Shimoni)


The Yovel
25:8 Vesafarta lecha sheva shabbtot shanim sheva shanim sheva pe'amim vehayu lecha yemei sheva shabbtot hashanim tesha ve'arba'im shanah
You shall count for yourself seven sabbatical years, seven years, seven times and it shall be for you, the days [period] of the seven sabbatical years, forty-nine years.
9 Veha'avarta shofar tru'ah bachodesh hashvi'i be'asor lachodesh beYom haKippurim ta'aviru shofar bechol-artzechem
You shall make  proclamation with the shofar on the tenth day of the seventh month.  On Yom Kippur shall this shofar-proclamation be made throughout all your land.
10 Vekidashtem et shnat hachamishim shanah ukratem dror ba'aretz lechol-yoshveiha yovel hi tihyeh lachem veshavtem ish el-achuzato ve'ish el-mishpachto tashuvu
You shall sanctify the year of the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for all of its inhabitants; it shall be for you a yovel and each man shall return to his ancestral land and each man shall return to his family.
 In this chapter, the Torah teaches us the laws of the Yovel (Jubilee).

The Torah tells us that we must count seven Sabbatical years. The Yovel begins on the tenth day of the seventh month of the fiftieth year. The seventh month here is Tishri and the tenth of Tishri is Yom Kippur.

On Yom Kippur of the fiftieth year the shofar is sounded. This is an announcement that it is the Yovel, a year of liberty and emancipation. Anyone who has Hebrew slaves, whether male or female, must free them. Similarly, if anyone has bought a field, he must return the field to its hereditary owner.

25:11 Yovel hi shnat hachamishim shanah tihyeh lachem lo tizra'u velo tiktzeru et-seficheiha velo tivtzeru et-nezireiha
It is a yovel, [that] the year of the fiftieth year shall be for you.  You shall not plant and you shall not reap [even] crops that grew on their own; and you shall not gather the [grapes of] its untended vineyard.
12 Ki yovel hi kodesh tihyeh lachem min-hasadeh tochlu et-tevu'atah
For it is a yovel, it shall be holy to you.  Whatever is in the field you may eat of its produce.
13 Bishnat hayovel hazot tashuvu ish el-achuzato
On this yovel year, each man shall return to his ancestral land. 
The Yovel year is like the Shemitah year, when it is forbidden to plow, plant, harvest, or prune trees. All crops must be left as public property. Just as on Rosh Hashanah we must sound the ram's horn or shofar, we must do so on the Yovel. The shofar is sounded in exactly the same manner with the same blessings recited.

Initially, this is a commandment incumbent upon the court. After that, every Jew must sound the ram's horn.

From Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur of the fiftieth year, slaves would not return home but would not work either. The fields would not return to their hereditary owners, but the owners would eat, drink and rejoice with their crowns upon their heads. Then, when Yom Kippur arrived, the slaves would return home and the fields would revert to their hereditary owners.

The Jubilee in Hebrew is Yovel. This comes from the word hovel which means to transport. It is thus written, "Bring a gift to he who is to be freed." (Tehillim 76:12) It is called Yovel because during this year each thing is "transported" to its owner and everything reverts to what it was in the beginning.

Others say that Yovel denotes a shofar or ram's horn. It is thus written, "When the Yovel blows the loud blast, they may climb the mountain." (Shemot 19:13) 

Obviously, the Yovel entails great mysteries that the human intellect cannot fathom. However, there is also a reason that we can understand. G-d wants to show His nation that He is the Master of the universe. G-d said, "To Me is the land." (VaYikra 25:23) Therefore, in the end everything reverts to the owners whom G-d wants.

When a person sees this, he will refrain from stealing. He will not desire or reach out his hand for something that is not his. He knows that nothing will remain with him in the end; he will eventually have to return everything to its rightful owner. If a person takes something illegally from his friend, G-d will bring about a chain of events so that he will give it back. Therefore, a person has no gain stealing from others. The only thing that will remain from it is the sin.

The Shemitah year and the Yovel also teach a person how he must direct his life. The seven years of the Sabbatical cycle allude to the seventy years that a person lives. A person sows and harvests for six years. In the seventh year he withdraws from his fields and leaves everything for the public. Similarly, a person can spend the first sixty years of his life studying and working to earn a living, but in the "seventh year," as he enters the seventh decade of his life, he should put aside his business and separate himself from the worldly. He should start concentrating on the World to Come. He should study Torah as much as possible and keep as many mitzvot and good deeds as he can.

During the seventh year a person abandons his fields, vineyards and all their fruit so that other people will be able to eat of them. Similarly, a person must leave all his goods and property to others so that they can enjoy them.

When a person goes to the World to Come it is as the Shabbat. Neither gold nor silver will accompany him, only the mitzvot and good deeds that he has done in this world.

The Yovel has a similar teaching. Among the seventy years allotted to man, the first ten do not count. A person is still immature and does not understand what life is all about. Therefore, from his tenth until his sixtieth year a person has fifty years during which he functions in this world. These fifty years are alluded to in the fifty years of the Yovel cycle.

The Torah literally says, "You shall sanctify the fifty years..." This teaches that when a person reaches his sixtieth year and his fifty years of toil are over, he should strive to leave everything aside. He should try to forget all worldly matters and sanctify the fiftieth year. These are the years of the seventh decade. A person should think only of the future world.

The Torah says "emancipation" shall be declared. A person should emancipate his body of all worldly concepts. This is the time when "A man shall return to his hereditary property and to his family." The soul is ready to go to its original abode under the Throne of Glory. It has no more time for the temporal life. Therefore, a person should prepare his needs for the future life so that his soul will find repose. (Abarbanel; Alshekh)

25:14 Vechi timkeru mimkar la'amitecha o kanoh miyad amitecha al-tonu ish et-achiv
If you sell anything to your neighbor, or purchase [something] from your neighbor, do not cheat one another.
Here the Torah teaches that when a person buys from or sells to another it is forbidden to cheat. One must sell each thing fairly. 


Cheating

The Torah forbids any form of cheating (ona'ah). It is forbidden for a person to cheat his friend, whether he is buying or selling. If a person cheats his friend, he is in violation of the commandment, "A man shall not cheat his brother." He must return that which he cheated. This is true of both the buyer and the seller. 

It is considered cheating when a person varies the price by more than one-sixth. For instance, if a person offers $5.00 for something that is worth $6.00, this is considered cheating. The same is true if he offers $6.00 for something worth $7.00. In such a case, the sale is valid but one must return the amount overcharged or undercharged. 

The one-sixth, which is the amount that constitutes cheating or mispricing, is known as shetut in Hebrew. This is alluded to in the verse here which says, "A man shall not cheat his neighbor and you shall fear your G-d." (VaYikra 25:17) In Hebrew this is: lo tonu iSh eT amitou ve-yareTa me-eloke-cha. Looking carefully at these words, we can see that the final letters of iSh eT amitou ve-yareTa spell out shetut. (Baal HaTurim; Ir Miklat)

If the over-pricing or under-pricing was less than one-sixth, such as if one sold something worth 70 cents for 60 cents, one does not have to return the difference. It is impossible to price anything exactly. It is therefore assumed that if something is mispriced by less than a sixth, the other party forgives the difference. 

If the mispricing was more than one-sixth, such as if something was worth $60.00 but was sold for $49.99, the sale is null and void. In such a case, the one who was cheated may back out of the sale. However, the cheater may not back out. 

If one cheated the other by a sixth, but a sixth of the entire sale was only a prutah, this is considered to be an amount that is forgiven. 

We said that if the mispricing was one-sixth, one must return the incorrect amount, and if it is more than one-sixth the sale is null and void. But this is only true if time has not passed so that one did not have the opportunity to show it to a storekeeper or to one's relatives to find out whether or not he was cheated. If that much time has elapsed, the law is that he cannot demand that incorrect amount be returned if it is exactly one-sixth. 

Similarly, he cannot ask that the sale be nullified if the incorrect amount was more than one-sixth. 

The above rule only applies to the buyer. He has the merchandise in his hand and he can show it to an appraiser or to his relatives. Since the seller does not have the article in his hand to show it, he can change his mind about the sale even after such a period elapses. However, if the merchandise is such that one can ask its value without seeing the article, such as pepper or the like, then even the seller cannot complain that he was cheated after this time has elapsed. 

Let us suppose that the time has elapsed but in the interim the seller received a similar object and can see that he was cheated. If he does not demand restitution immediately, he may not do so later. The other party can say, "Since you did not demand restitution until now, it is a sign that you have forgiven me." 

Similarly, if the seller needs money and sells an article so cheaply that it is not logical that he would have been tricked into selling it for so little money, the law is that he cannot demand restitution later. We say to him, "You knew that you were selling it cheaply but you needed the money and sold it. Therefore, it is counted as if you had given it as a gift." 

If somebody sold something worth $4.00 for $5.00 but did not show it to the buyer until it became more valuable and was worth $7.00, the law is that the buyer who was cheated at first can change his mind if he wants. The seller, however, cannot. The buyer could say to the seller, "If you had not cheated me you could have changed your mind about the sale. Now that you have committed a crime, you wish to change your mind?" 

Similarly, if somebody sells something worth $5.00 for $4.00 so that the seller was cheated, and then the price goes down and the article is only worth $3.00, the law is that the seller may change his mind about the sale but not the buyer. The seller may say to the buyer, "Just because you committed a crime you wish to change your mind?" 

If one sells something worth $5.00 for $6.00, the law is that he must return the incorrect amount. However, if during a short period of time the article becomes more valuable and is worth $8.00, one must still return the $1.00 by which the article was originally mispriced. The seller cannot say, "What are you demanding of me? It is now worth $8.00 and I sold it to you for $6.00." The buyer should say to him, "When it increased in price it was in my possession. That has nothing to do with you. You must return to me the amount of which you cheated me at the time." 

Similarly, if the seller is cheated, selling something worth $6.00 for $5.00 and then the price goes down and it is only worth $3.00, the buyer must return to the seller the $1.00 by which he cheated him. He cannot say, "Why are you demanding restitution? The article is now worth only $3.00." 

If the seller is cheated and is caused to sell something for less than it is worth, the buyer must make restitution as mentioned above. Even if the seller is an expert appraiser and knows his business, if he is cheated, the buyer must make restitution. The buyer cannot say, "You are expert in this merchandise. How were you cheated?" There are times that even an expert appraiser can make a mistake. These laws of mispricing apply to all portable goods such as books, precious stones, and the like. The buyer can change his mind about the sale until he is able to show the article to an appraiser in the place where an appraiser is usually found. However, if there is no appraiser in the city, he can change his mind during the period it would take to go to a city where there is an appraiser. 

The law of mispricing (ona'ah) also applies to money. Thus, if Mr. A gives money to Mr. B and it turns out that the coins are underweight, he must make restitution of the amount of the mispricing of the coin if it was one-sixth. Mr B can demand restitution for the mispricing until he can show it to a banker to ascertain whether the coin is underweight or not. However, if the requisite time elapses and he does not make a demand on Mr. A, he no longer has a case. 

However, if the underweight coin was nevertheless negotiable currency, one cannot demand restitution for the mispricing. 

When we say that there must be one-sixth in order to demand restitution for the mispricing, this is only true if the coins were only counted out. However, if they were weighed out precisely and later it was determined that the coins were underweight, then any under-weighing is considered mispricing and one can demand the difference. 

We have said that if enough time elapses during which one could show the coin to a banker but he did not do it, he cannot change his mind about the deal. This is only true if there is a monetary loss such as if one gives a gold coin and then finds that it is underweight. However, if Mr. A gives a gold coin to Mr. B and discovers that the gold is alloyed with silver or if he gives him a silver coin and finds it to be alloyed with copper, the law is that Mr. A must trade it for a good coin even if considerable time has elapsed. In such a case it is considered an erroneous deal (mekach ta'ut). 

Even if Mr. A does not recognize whether it is the coin he gave him or not, he must trade it for a good coin. If the coin indeed was not the one given by Mr. A, he suffers a loss when he exchanges it for a good one; it is then considered as if he were cheated. Mr. A can then issue a ban of general excommunication (cherem) on any person who took money from him illegally. 

However, if Mr. A argues that he is certain that this is not his coin, he may take an oath and be exempt from making up the difference or trading it for a good coin. 

If after Mr. B takes the coin from Mr. A, he gives it to Mr. C and it is determined that the coin is counterfeit, Mr. A does not have to exchange it once it has gone to a third party. This is true even if Mr. C trusts Mr. B and knows that Mr. B did not switch coins. However, in such a case Mr. A must accept a general oath of excommunication that he does not know that the coin is his. 

Let us consider another case. Mr. A wishes to sell something to Mr. B and they both agree that the price will be decided by Mr. C. Mr. C estimates the price and Mr. B buys the object. 

After the sale is made, the parties become aware that Mr. C had mis-estimated the price. The law is that the person who was cheated can demand restitution of the difference in price. If the person who cheated the other is not in the city, the victim cannot demand restitution from Mr. C for the difference between the fair price and the actual price. 

However, this is only true if Mr. C was not an expert appraiser. If Mr. C was an expert appraiser, the person suffering the loss can demand restitution. 

The law of ona'ah does not apply to a gentile. 

If a gentile cheats a Jew he must make restitution according to our laws. He should not have greater rights than a Jew. If Mr. A and a gentile own an article in partnership and sell it to Mr. B for too high a price, the law is that Mr. A must return to Mr. B the entire amount overpaid including the gentile's portion. This is because if Mr. B would seek restitution according to gentile law he would not win the case. In gentile courts the law is, "Let the buyer beware." A gentile could say, "You should keep your eyes open when you buy something." Since Mr. B could not win the case in a gentile court, Mr. A must pay everything. 

This is because Mr. B could say to Mr. A, "I bought this without being too careful because I depended on you. I said to myself, 'I'm sure a Jew will not cheat me.' I would never have trusted the gentile. How could one trust a gentile? You're the one who caused me this loss." 

This is only true if the person is cheated in the price. However, if he is cheated in the sale itself such as if one sold gold and it turned out to be plated silver or if one sold silver and it turned out to be plated copper, then Mr. A must only return his portion. He can say to Mr. B, "Go, take the gentile to the secular court." In such a case even according to gentile law, restitution must be made. 

Even if the gentile is powerful and one could not collect from him through the court, Mr. B cannot collect the gentile's portion from Mr. A. 

If a person does business honestly, one cannot collect ona'ah from him. This is true whether the ona'ah was on the part of the seller or the buyer. 

For example, suppose the seller says to the buyer, "This is the price I paid for this article and this is how much profit I wish to make." Then, if either one of them was cheated, he cannot demand restitution for the ona'ah. Of course, this is only true if the seller told the truth. If he lied, the cheated person can demand the ona'ah


Articles Where There Is No Ona'ah

There are many things for which the laws of ona'ah or mispricing do not apply. One case is slaves. If a person sells a slave to another person and he was mispriced to the disadvantage of either one, that person cannot demand restitution. 

The same is true of notes. If a person sells a promissory note to another person, neither one can make a claim for mispricing.

Similarly, the laws of ona'ah do not apply to real estate. They also do not apply to consecrated articles. 

Just as the laws of ona'ah do not apply if one buys real estate, the laws also do not apply if one rents real estate. Thus, if a person rents a house or store to another and it is mispriced to the disadvantage of either one of them, the person who is cheated may not demand restitution. This is even true if one rents a small stable for a gold coin a day. 

If a person hires another to do work for a certain number of days and agrees to give him a certain amount of money, the law of ona'ah does not apply. This is true whether the wage was too high or too low. In such a case, an employee has the same status as a slave. 

However, the laws of ona'ah do apply to a contractor (kablan). If a person contracts to sew or weave a garment for a certain amount and the price turns out to be incorrect, whether it is too much or too little, the person suffering the loss can seek restitution in the courts. 

If somebody sells something to another person on credit, there must be an estimate of the additional amount one should charge for a credit purchase. If he takes more than this, the other can demand restitution for the ona'ah

If a person sells another non-kosher meat as kosher meat, he must return all the money even if the buyer ate the meat. However, if the meat has not yet been used, it is returned. 

The same is true if one sells anything that is forbidden misrepresenting it as permitted. The seller must return all the money. 

If something is only forbidden by rabbinical legislation, the law is that if the article is still around, it should be returned to the seller. If it has been eaten, the buyer need not return it or subtract its value. 

Let us suppose that a person hires workers to do a certain job and agrees to give them food. If he gives them non-kosher food to eat and the workers do not realize it, the law is that they can sue their employer for the value of the food. The non-kosher food that they ate is considered to be nothing; it is as though they had not been fed at all. Since the employer had agreed to give them food, he must pay them the value of the food. 

It is also a mitzvah to sell to a Jew rather than to a gentile and to buy from a Jew rather than from a gentile. 

Even if a gentile offers a higher price, one should preferably sell to a Jew. Similarly, even if one could buy something more cheaply from a gentile than from a Jew, it is a mitzvah to buy from the Jew. 

The Torah therefore says, "If you sell something to your people or buy something from your people..." The expression "your people" may seem redundant, but it teaches that whenever someone buys or sells something, he should preferably do business with "his people." 

When we say that one must sell to a Jew, this is only true if the merchandise is good. However, if one has inferior merchandise and wishes to get rid of it, he need not sell it to a Jew. The Torah says, "When you sell something that is sold (mimkar)..." The Torah is speaking about something that is a good valid sale. 


Cheating with Words

Included in the law "A man shall not cheat his neighbor" is "cheating with words" (ona'at devarim). This teaches that one may not hurt a person's feelings with words. Thus, if a person is a ba'al teshuvah, one should not say to him, "Hey, remember what you used to do once upon a time." 

Similarly if a person is sick or in pain, or if his children died, or the like, one should not say to him, "It is all your own fault. Your bad deeds caused this. If you improve yourself things will be good." This is a very great sin. Iyov's friends were punished because they spoke to him in this manner. 

In general then, it is forbidden to hurt someone's feelings with words even in the slightest manner. This is worse than cheating a person monetarily. If a person cheats his friend monetarily he can make restitution. However, if a person hurts another person's feelings with words, he cannot take back the words that he said. 

Moreover, cheating with money only involves the other's property while this involves a person's body. If someone's feelings are hurt and he asks G-d for revenge, G-d will answer him. Therefore, one should be very careful regarding this. 

The Torah concludes by saying, "A man shall not mistreat his fellow man and you shall fear G-d." This is true even though the Torah said earlier, "A man shall not mistreat his brother." Both of these verses are about ona'ah, but the first verse refers to monetary ona'ah while the other is speaking about ona'ah in words. 

When the Torah speaks about ona'ah with words, it says, "You shall fear your G-d because I am Hashem your G-d." Whenever the Torah says, "You shall fear your G-d," it means that whereas one might fool a mortal king by saying that he did not have bad intentions, or that he meant to say something else but these words came out, G-d knows our innermost thoughts and we cannot fool Him. Therefore we must fear G-d and not hurt the feelings of others.


On Taking Interest
25:36 Al-tikach me'ito neshech vetarbit veyareta me'Elokeicha vechei achicha imach
You shall not take from him interest or usury and you shall fear your G-d, and your brother shall live with you.
37 Et-kaspecha lo-titen lo beneshech uvemarbit lo-titen ochlecha
You must not give [lend] him your money with interest, and usuriously you must not advance him your food.
38 Ani HASHEM Elokeichem asher hotzeti etchem me'eretz Mitzrayim latet lachem et-eretz Kena'an lihyot lachem le-Elokim
I am HASHEM your G-d Who brought you out from the land of Egypt to give you the land of Kena'an, to be a G-d for you.
In Hebrew, interest is referred to as neshech. This is related to the root nashach, which indicates a bite. This is because interest is like the bite of a snake. When a snake bites a person on the heel, the venom does not cause death immediately. Only after the poison reaches the brain does he die.

The same is true of interest. When a person agrees to pay interest, he does not feel the evil right away, but little by little his money is taken away until he is left impoverished. Both the money of the lender and the money of the borrower can be destroyed by interest.

One penny of interest that a person takes is enough to destroy all the money that he gained honestly and legally. 

This punishment can be meted out even to the witnesses, the scribe, the co-signer and the agent who brought together the borrower and the lender or told him, "This person has money and lends it for interest." All of them are punished for the sin of taking interest. Taking interest from a Jew is a very serious sin and the punishment is severe.

If a person lends money to a Jew for interest, it is considered as if he denies G-d and denies the Exodus. This is why G-d concludes this section by saying, "I am Hashem your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt. . ." It is as if the Torah is saying, "Whoever is careful about this prohibition and lends without demanding interest, accepts upon himself the yoke of the heavenly kingdom. He accepts G-d as his Master and is counted as a believer in the Exodus from Egypt."

This is because when a person lends at no interest, he shows that he does not consider himself the true owner of the money. He realizes that he merely has stewardship of the money given to him by G-d. Just as he would not be concerned with lending money at no interest over which he is a steward, so he is not concerned about lending out his "own" money at no interest. G-d who brought us out of Egypt gave him the money to supervise. However, one who demands interest is counted as if he denies G-d and denies the Exodus.

There is also another reason that one who lends money for interest is counted as if he denies G-d and the Exodus, The main point of Judaism is to believe that G-d created the entire universe ex nihilo--something out of nothing--and that He oversees all the ways of man, giving each person what he deserves. G-d sends each person his livelihood.

One should not be like the fools and atheists who think that the world is without beginning and has no overseer even when they see the wonders and miracles that G-d does.

On the contrary, a person should be aware of the wonders and miracles that G-d did in Egypt and he should believe that G-d is concerned with everything. G-d is the Creator of heaven and earth, and G-d has the power to do such preternatural miracles.

When a person goes to plow or plant or do work, he can trust that G-d will give him a livelihood and send a blessing in his deeds. Such a person believes in G-d and in His specific watchful care in that He will send him all his needs. He also believes in the Exodus, where we saw how G-d was concerned with each individual.

However, some people say, "The money is mine. I lent $100 and I got $120 in return." Such a person feels that his livelihood is in the hands of man and is a natural thing, not directed by G-d. He therefore keeps for himself that which he gets in a natural way. If he believed that his livelihood is in the Hand of G-d, he would not be that concerned with profit. A heavenly blessing is without measure and without limit just as G-d Himself is without limit. Sometimes G-d will take a small enterprise and make it huge, and sometimes He will take a large enterprise and make it yield nothing.

The Torah says, "You shall take interest from a foreigner but you shall not take interest from your brother." (Devarim 23:21) This is because gentiles do not believe in G-d's ability to oversee. They believe that everything has natural causes. Thus, one may lend them money for interest since this fits their false belief.  But from your brother, who believes in G-d's specific oversight, you may not take interest.

For this reason, one who lends money for interest will not stand up at the resurrection. Since he does not believe in miracles, he cannot partake in this final greatest of all miracles. 

When a person goes to the next world on his Day of Judgment there are malachim (angels) who act as his advocates and other malachim who act as his accusers. However, a person who has committed the sin of taking interest will not have any advocates.

The punishment for this sin is among the worst. A person will not stand up at the resurrection. The prophet said, "He gave with usury and took interest. He will therefore not live...." (Yechezkel 18:13) This indicates that one who takes interest from his brother will not live, neither in this world or the next.

We thus find that Yehoram son of Ahav, king of Yisrael, lent his money for interest to Ovadyah and was killed. It is thus written, "And Yehu filled his hands with a bow and he struck down Yehoram between his arms and the arrow protruded from his heart." (2Melachim 9:24) The arrow went between his arms and protruded from his heart. It went between his arms because he had taken interest; the sin of interest causes death.

One might ask a question here. We said earlier that both the one who demands interest and the one who pays it are in violation. Therefore, why does it say that Ovadyah feared G-d, as it is written, "Ovadyah feared G-d very much." (1Melachim 18:3) If he was G-d-fearing, why did he pay interest?

It was a matter of life and death. This was a time of great famine and many people were dying. Ovadyah borrowed the money in order to feed the prophets so that they would not die of starvation. There was no one who would lend him the money except for King Yehoram and he would not lend him money without demanding interest. In a matter of life and death, the entire Torah can be set aside. Therefore, Ovadyah was allowed to borrow money for interest even for his own needs. 

To those who lend for interest, G-d says, "Why do you not learn a lesson from the heavenly hosts whom I direct on high? Each one lends to the other at no interest. From the winter until the summer, the night borrows from the day; while from the summer to the winter, the day borrows from the night. But you are lending to your friend and you want to swallow him up with the interest that you take from him.

"It is as if you are saying to Me, 'Why do You not take interest from everything that You give to Your creation?' Should I then take interest from the food that I give you? Should I take interest for the trees that I cause to grow? Should I take interest from the stars and planets to whom I give light? Should I take interest from the soul that I give you? Should I take interest from the body that, in the end, I keep? If you do not want to lend to your friend at no interest, I will do the same. I might not take interest, but I will take the principal, which is your body and your soul. The earth will take the principal, which is your body, and I will not allow you to rise up at the resurrection."


Laws of Interest

Collecting interest is a very serious sin. Many people are not careful in their business dealings. Some do not know the prohibition and some do not know how severe it is. If people realized that the punishment is that one will not stand up at the resurrection, they would certainly not violate this commandment. They would realize that they are losing both their principal and their profit. The main difference between the Benei Yisrael and the other nations is that the Benei Yisrael will rise at the resurrection and receive reward in the World to Come, while the other nations will remain dead. If one were aware of this he would certainly avoid this prohibition. The Jewish people always fear G-d and keep His commandments.

For this reason I want to discuss many important laws regarding interest, especially those things that are forbidden but people think are permitted.

Many people lend for interest and think they are not doing anything wrong at all. They think they are doing a mitzvah by lending money to a friend at a time of need. Very often they lend bad coins on the condition that the borrower return good coins. This is considered taking interest even if the borrower does not suffer a loss and can spend the bad coins.

There are also many people who know how strong the prohibition is and, nevertheless, violate it. They argue, "If we did not do this, we would have to seek charity. This is our whole livelihood and we cannot live without it." This is a false argument. Interest is not a source of life but a source of death. It kills one's body and one's money. Even one penny that one receives in interest can destroy his entire fortune. This is true of both the giver and the taker.

How can a person think that he is living off interest when the prophet says in G-d's Name, "He gives with usury and takes interest. He will not live." (Yechezkel 18:13) If a mortal king issues a decree that if a person does something he will be killed, he does not change his mind. This is certainly true of the King of kings, the blessed Holy One.

One may have temporary gain but he has no security. In an instant his fortune can be lost and he will not even have a nail for his wall. He will be left with nothing of his principal or of his profit. G-d's Words will be fulfilled even against his will. He will have only the many sins that he has committed. Every time a person lends for interest he is in violation of five negative commandments.

It is true that temporarily one might enjoy the money he earns from interest, However, in the end it will be bitter, both in this world and the next. Therefore, if a person is concerned with his soul, he should have trust in G-d that he will have a livelihood from a different source. G-d can give him such prosperity that from even a small enterprise he can make much money. Therefore, one should flee from the prohibition of interest as he would flee from a venomous snake.

There are many people who use the money of orphans and widows and return to them a certain amount of profit each month. They think that this is permissible because it is the money of widows and orphans. They do not know that it is forbidden, that G-d forbids interest on any money whether it belongs to widows and orphans or other people.

If a person has heard that somebody permits this, he was only talking about a "touch of interest" (avak ribit). This is interest that is not prohibited by the Torah but only by rabbinical legislation in order to prevent a person from violating a Torah commandment, which is true interest (ribit ketzutzah). Since the sages forbade a "touch of interest" by legislation, they also have the power to permit it. They did permit it in the case of the money of orphans. However, even in such a case they only permit it in the case of minor orphans. This is true whether they have lost their mother or their father. This exemption does not apply to the money of widows.


Interest Defined

We will now explain "true interest" (ribit ketzutzah), which is forbidden by the Torah, and a "touch of interest" (avak ribit), which is forbidden by rabbinical legislation.

True interest, forbidden by the Torah itself, occurs when a person says to another, "Lend me a hundred dollars and I will pay you a certain amount of interest for a month or a year." Such interest can be taken not only from money but also from food. Thus, if one says, "Lend me a bushel of wheat and I will give you back two bushels in their place," this is also considered interest.

Similarly, if one makes a loan and takes as security a house or store and receives rent from it in the interim without deducting the amount from the loan, this is also considered interest.

All the above cases are true interest, which is forbidden by the Torah. In general, any time one makes a loan and has true profit from it whether it is a loan of money or food, the profit is considered true interest.

A "touch of interest" can be found in any sale. For instance, one may want to buy an article from his friend who says to him, "If you pay me cash for this I will sell it to you for one hundred dollars, but if you buy it on credit it will cost you one hundred twenty dollars." Such a credit charge is a "touch of interest" and is forbidden by rabbinical legislation.

However, one does not have to mention that there is a discount for cash, but merely say, "If you want to buy on credit, it will cost you $120.00."

This, however, is only true in the case of an article which does not have a set price. If an article has a set price and one raises the price because it is sold on credit, it is forbidden even if he does not state specifically that there is a lower price for a cash sale.

As we said earlier, our sages permitted a "touch of interest" in the case of orphans' money. One may say to Mr. A, "Take this money of the orphans, invest it, and half the profit will belong to the orphans while the other half will be yours. However, if there is a loss the orphans will lose nothing." Thus, the principal will always be insured.

Such a deal is normally forbidden because this is a "touch of interest." However, it is permitted in the case of orphans' money.

It is not permitted in the case of a widow's money, as we stated before.

Even in the case of orphans' money, it is not permitted unless Mr. A says specifically that the orphans' money will be kept separately and it will be invested. He may not mix the orphans' money with his own money. He may also not spend the orphans' money for his own needs or to pay his debts and then repay them with other money. Rather, he must keep the orphans' money separate and from that money the orphans can take the profit.


The Business Contract

There is a way that a needy person can lend his money to someone to invest for interest while not suffering any loss. This is permissible through a "business contract" (sh'tar iska) between the buyer and the lender. However, I do not want to discuss the laws since in such business law there are many fine points and I do not want a lay person to try to draw his own conclusions. If a person wishes to draw up such a contract, he should go to a rabbi, and the rabbi will show him how to invest his money and avoid violating the prohibitions against interest. One should not depend on scribes who do not know between their right and left and write such "business contracts" any way they see fit. In many cases, such a contract can lead one to be in violation of the laws against interest.


Other Laws 

We are permitted to lend money to a gentile for interest. It is also permissible to borrow money from a gentile and pay him interest.

However, it is forbidden to lend money to an apostate for interest. It is also forbidden to borrow from him on interest. This is a violation of the commandment, "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind." (VaYikra 19:14)

It is similarly forbidden to take interest from Karaites or to borrow money from them on interest. One must realize that he can come to violate the prohibition against interest even if he does not say to the borrower at the time of the loan, "I want you to give me so much profit." If at the time of payment one hints that he wants some interest, it is a violation. This is forbidden even if one does not say that he wants the money as interest but as a gift.

There is also a category known as pre-interest (ribit mukdemet). This is a case in which a person wants to borrow from his friend but before asking for the loan he sends the would-be lender a gift. This is also forbidden.

There is also post-interest (ribit m'ucheret). This is a case in which one has borrowed money, has already paid it back, and then sends the lender a gift. The intent of this gift is to thank the lender for lending him money at no interest. This is also forbidden.

It is even forbidden to take interest from members of one's own household. This is true even though one is not that particular with them and would even give the money as a gift without interest. Nevertheless, interest is forbidden. 

It is forbidden for a person to say to his friend, "Do some work for me and I will do some other work for you," making it a binding condition. This also comes under the prohibition of interest. It is similarly forbidden to give one's friend a loan on the condition that in the future his friend should lend him money for a similar length of time. This is also considered interest.

If a person borrows money from another, it is forbidden for the borrower to teach Torah to the lender or his child as long as the borrower is holding the money. It is only permitted if he was accustomed to teaching him before the loan was made. If not, the enjoyment that the lender derives from the studies is considered interest.

If one does not usually greet his friend and then his friend lends him money, he is forbidden to greet him. It goes without saying that he is forbidden for him to praise him for the loan. The Torah thus forbids, "interest of any thing." (Devarim 23:20) The Hebrew word for thing is davar, which also denote a word. The verse can therefore be read, "interest of any word." This teaches that even "interest" of words is forbidden. 

We have written earlier that it is permissible to lend a gentile money for interest and it is also permissible to borrow money from the gentile and pay him interest.

However, consider the following case. Mr. A borrows money from a gentile on interest and when the time for payment comes, Mr. B says to Mr. A, "Lend me this money and I will give the gentile the interest that you are supposed to give him." This is forbidden. So long as Mr. A has not given the money back to the gentile, it is in his possession. Therefore, even though Mr. B will give the interest to the gentile, it is considered as if Mr. A had said to Mr. B, "I am lending you this money on the condition that you will give the interest to the gentile." 

Even if the gentile writes the promissory note in the name of Mr. B, or if Mr. B gave the gentile an article as collateral (mashkon), it is still forbidden. 

Even if Mr. A stood Mr. B before the gentile and the gentile said to Mr. A, "The principal that you owe me, give to Mr. B. I will not take the interest from you," it is still forbidden. So long as Mr. B takes the money from Mr. A, it is considered that Mr. A has lent him the money, and it is considered as if he had lent him the money on the condition that Mr. B give the interest to the gentile.

There is no way out of this unless Mr. A gives the principal back to the gentile. Then, of course, Mr. B may borrow the money and he may even give the amount of the interest to Mr. A to give to the gentile.

Even if the gentile says to Mr. A, "Put the money down and go out," and then Mr. B comes and takes it from before the gentile, it is permitted. It is not at all forbidden.

If a gentile lends money to Mr. A on the condition that he give the interest to Mr. B, it is permitted since the money belongs to the gentile.

If Mr. A lends money to a gentile for interest and the gentile lends the money to Mr. B for interest, it is forbidden for Mr. A to collect his interest from the gentile. This is to prevent people from using a loophole. Mr. A might wish to lend money to Mr. B for interest and, so that the money not be considered his, he would lend the money to the gentile who in turn would lend it to Mr. B.

Let us suppose that a gentile borrows money from Mr. A for interest. When the gentile wishes to repay him, Mr. B comes to the gentile and says, "Do not return the money to Mr. A. Lend it to me and I will pay you the interest that you now owe him." This is permitted. Even if the gentile says, "I will give you the interest of the Jew," it is still permitted since the interest that was given to Mr. A is from the gentile and Mr. B is taking the money from the gentile and not from Mr. A. However, if he stood Mr. B next to Mr. A, who was the owner of the money, it is forbidden. As long as Mr. A gives permission it is considered his money.

Consider a case in which Mr. A says to a gentile, "Go to Mr. B and borrow money from him for interest in your name." If Mr. B does not know that it is for Mr. A, the law is that Mr. B has not violated any prohibition. Mr. A, however, is in violation of the commandment.

If a Jew says to a. gentile, "Go to another gentile and borrow money from him for interest for me," and the gentile does it, there is no prohibition. 

Let us consider this case. Mr. A owes money to a gentile and must pay him interest. The gentile owes money to Mr. B. In order to guarantee the money to Mr. B, the gentile says, "Mr. A owes me so much money on a loan that I gave him. Take the note. If I do not pay you, Mr. A will pay you." In such a case, the law is that if the gentile takes the money from Mr. A and gives it to Mr. B, it is permitted. If not, it is forbidden. It is forbidden for Mr. B to collect interest from Mr. A.

When we say that it is permitted for Mr. B to take money from the gentile, this is only true when he is given Mr. A's promissory note to keep, but only as collateral. However, if the note is actually given over to him, he is forbidden to collect the interest on it, even from a gentile. If a gentile makes Mr. A an agent and tells him, "Borrow money from Mr. B for interest and the collateral will be mine," then Mr. B is permitted to give the money to Mr. A to bring to the gentile. It is also permissible for him to take the interest from Mr. A's hand.

However, Mr. B must say to Mr. A, "You are my agent to bring me the article as collateral from the gentile. However, the real responsibility for the collateral and for taking the money to him are mine. Similarly, when the gentile wishes to repay the money, you will be the agent to bring it to me. Responsibility for the money will be mine from the time it leaves the gentile's hands until you bring it to my property." In such a case, Mr. A is nothing more than an agent and he has no responsibility for the collateral or the money. Therefore, the entire deal is simply between Mr. B and the gentile.

If Mr. A says to Mr. B, "Take this money and lend it to a gentile for interest," without stating explicitly that Mr. B is merely an agent, the law is that responsibility for the money, bringing it back and forth, is on Mr. B. It is then forbidden for Mr. A to take the interest from Mr. B. This is true even if he does not take it directly from Mr. B's hand but from his agent. This is true even if there is a succession of one hundred agents. Since the responsibility for the money is Mr. B's, it is considered that the loan is to Mr. B and Mr. A is forbidden to take the money from his hand. However, if Mr. B does not have responsibility for the money, he is just a caretaker of the money, it is permitted. 

Let us consider the following case. Mr. A says to Mr. B, "Take a loan from a gentile with interest for me." Mr. A then gives an article for collateral to Mr. B to give to the gentile so he can take the money. The responsibility for the collateral is that of the gentile, not Mr. B. It is then permissible for Mr. B to take the interest from Mr. A and give it to the gentile.

However, if Mr. A does not give an article as collateral, it is forbidden. Thus, the only time it is permitted is if Mr. A says to Mr. B, "Borrow money for me from that gentile in my name." If the gentile then believes Mr. B that they are going to Mr. A, he is depending on the borrower and not on the agent.

If a gentile is holding money for Mr. A as custodian for a bailment, and the gentile lends this money to Mr. B for interest, then the law is as follows. If the gentile takes responsibility for the money and says to Mr. A, "I wish to take the money that I am holding for you and lend it to someone and if it is lost I will take the loss," it is then permitted for Mr. A to take the interest from Mr. B. Since the gentile takes responsibility, it is actually the gentile who is lending the money to Mr. B. However, if responsibility for any loss is that of Mr. A, Mr. A. is forbidden to take the interest.

If a gentile has given Mr. A money to hold as a bailment and the responsibility belongs to Mr. A, who said to the gentile, "I will lend the money. If there is any loss, it will be on my account," then Mr, A is forbidden to lend it to a Jew for interest. However, if the gentile assumes the responsibility for loss, then according to the law it is permitted. However, because of appearances (marit ayin), it is forbidden since people will think that the money belongs to Mr. A. 

Let us suppose that Mr. A borrows money from Mr. B and gives him an article of collateral. If when the time comes to pay, Mr. A does not have the wherewithal, the law is as follows. He can say to Mr. B, "Take my collateral to the gentile banker [as security for a loan in the amount that I owe you.] Keep the money and I will pay him back with interest when I can." The law is: If the gentile banker depends only on the collateral, it is permitted. However, if he does not depend on the collateral but on the idea that Mr. A will pay him, it is forbidden. 

This is only a part of the laws relating to interest.  The rest is discussed in Parashat Ki Tetze.

26:1 Lo-ta'asu lachem elilim ufesel umatzevah lo-takimu lachem ve'even maskit lo titnu be'artzechem lehishtachavot aleiha ki ani HASHEM Elokeichem
You shall not make idols for yourselves and graven images and memorial stones you shall not raise up for yourselves, and a prostration stone you shall not set in your land upon which to prostrate oneself, for I am HASHEM, your G-d.
2 Et-Shabbtotai tishmoru umikdashi tira'u ani HASHEM
You shall keep My Shabbatot and you shall fear [revere] My Sanctuary, I am HASHEM.
The gentiles used to place a carved decorated stone in front of their idols. They would then prostrate themselves to their idols on this stone.

Here G-d commanded that we not make stones like this to bow on, even to G-d.  Such acts would appear to be emulating idolatrous practices.

When the Torah speaks about prostrating oneself, it does not mean merely bending one's head.  Rather, hishtachav'ah means prostrating oneself on the ground, so that one's face is touching the ground and his hands and feet are spread out. G-d forbade us to bow down on decorated stones, even to Him.

However, in the Holy Temple, where the floor was made out of stones, we were permitted to bow down.

If a person bows down to G-d on a decorated stone outside the Holy Temple, it is a sin incurring the penalty of flogging.

Our Sages legislated that we are forbidden to bow edown even if we do not spread our hands and feet.  As long as our faces touch the ground, it is forbidden. (Yad, Avodat Kochavim 6; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Negative Commandment 43; Chinuch)

For this reason, it is customary to spread out mats or small rugs in the synagogue on Yom Kippur when the cantor comes to the portion during which the people bow.  This is so that there will be an intervention and their faces will not touch the floor. (Bet Yosef, Orach Chayim, quoting Mordechai)

26:3 Im-bechukotai telechu ve'et-mitzvotai tishmeru va'asitem otam
If you follow My statutes and keep My commandments and you will fulfill them.
After Moshe finished teaching the Benei Yisrael the commandments given on Mount Sinai, he told them, "G-d has said, 'This is what will happen if you keep My commandments and do not follow the customs of the gentiles. You must keep My commandments which I commanded you.' You will then have tranquility and be able to serve G-d in tranquility."

One should not think that this promise is a reward for keeping the commandments. In this world there is no reward for commandments; it is all kept for the World to Come.

One may wonder why the Torah did not reveal the reward for the commandments in the next world. This is because our main motivation for doing mitzvot is to do G-d's Will and not to receive reward.

Furthermore, it is impossible for a mortal being to understand what the reward is since it is totally spiritual. The greatest most desirable enjoyment in this world is not even one millionth of the delight of the World to Come.

The same is true of the punishment for disobeying G-d's commandment. Worldly punishments are nothing in comparison.

Since with his intellect mere flesh and blood cannot understand this great good that he is not seeing nor understand the suffering for sin, the Torah does not reveal to us the reward and punishment in the next world. However, it is alluded to in a number of places where not everyone can understand. It can only be understood by great people who have separated themselves from the worldly and have purified their bodies so they could comprehend it.

The reason that G-d gives us any reward at all in this world is so that we will have enough tranquility to keep the Torah carefully.

26:4 Venatati gishmeichem be'itam venatenah ha'aretz yevulah ve'etz hasadeh yiten piryo
I will provide your rains in their proper time.  The earth shall give forth its produce and the tree of the field shall give forth its produce.
Rain is life for the world. Without it a human being cannot exist.

There are also five other advantages to rain.

G-d said, "I will perform miracles so that even if rain does not fall in other places, it will fall in your land. It will not fall in gentile cities. People will come from other cities to buy food from you. You will then become very wealthy just as it happened in the time of Yosef in Egypt.

G-d thus said, "I will give your rain at its proper time." This indicates that rain will fall in your cities alone and not in other cities.

There is also another reason that the Torah refers to it as "your rain." The rain will be under your control. You will make it fall whenever you wish. This will be your pride among the nations when you are exiled. When there is no rain the gentiles will ask you to pray for rain to fall.

Once in the kingdom of Argon there was no rain. The gentiles came to the Jews, took them out of the city, and locked the gates telling the Jews, "If you do something to make rain fall we will let you return to the city. If not, you can stay outside. We will not let you come back."
When the Jews saw what was happening they turned to their rabbi, who was a son of the famous Rabbi Chasdai Crescas (died 1412), who lived at that time. He stood there and recited a prayer and then gave a sermon calling the people to repent. The subject of his sermon was "ours is the water." (Bereishit 26:32.) His prayer was accepted and rain fell.
The Spaniards then gave the Jews great honor and praised them. They said, "There is no nation as great as Yisra'el."

This is only true when we are good Jews who keep the Torah, which is likened to water. It is thus written, "Whoever is thirsty let him come to water." (Yeshayahu 55:1) Only when we keep the Torah is our prayer accepted. However if we sin, we may cry out but G-d will not listen to our prayers. G-d thus said, "I will break the pride of your arrogance." (VaYikra 26:19) G-d is saying that if we sin He will take away the greatness that we have, that the gentiles ask us to pray for rain and we are answered.

The Torah says, "I will give you your rain at the right time." Our sages say that this is on Friday night when it is the Shabbat. People are not in the streets or outdoors then since it is forbidden to do work and they have no need to go out. This is so that people will not suffer because of the rain.

This actually happened in the time of Shimeon ben Shetach. The Jews kept the Torah very well at that time and it only rained on Friday nights. There was such a great blessing in the rain and fruit that the grains of wheat were like kidneys, the barley was like olive pits, and the lentils were like dinars. The sages put away some of these fruits for future generations so that people could see what good is brought about when we keep the commandments that G-d gave us. We should also realize what sins cause, that they remove such good from the world. The prophet thus said, "Your sins push these away. Your sins prevented you from having good." (Yirmeyahu 5:25) If we are observant Jews, however, rain will come at its proper time.

The Torah continues, "The earth will give its crop and the trees of the field will yield their fruit." Before Adam sinned, he could plant a tree and on the same day eat its fruit. After he sinned, the world became as it is today. One must plant and then wait a long time until there is fruit.

Here the Torah says that if we are good Jews, G-d will return things to the way they were. The land will give its crop on the same day that it is sowed and the trees will yield fruit on the day they are planted. The Torah thus says, "The land will give its crops and the tree of the field will yield its fruit." The Torah does not say, "The land will give crops and the trees of the field will give its crops just as it did during the days after creation." The Torah speaks of "trees of the field" and not just "trees." It says that even trees of the field, which are planted for shade, will yield fruit.

26:5 Vehisig lachem dayish et-batzir uvatzir yasig et-zara va'achaltem lachmechem lasova vishavtem lavetach be'artzechem
Your threshing will last until the grape harvest, and the grape harvest will last until the [time to] plant, and you will eat your bread to satisfaction and you will live securely in your land.
The time of cutting wheat is in Nissan (April) and the time of harvesting grapes is in Elul (August). There will be so much grain that the harvesting period will last until Elul; and there will be so many grapes that the time of their harvest will last until the planting season, which is Marcheshvan (November).

The Torah says, "You will eat your bread to satisfaction." G-d is saying that He will grant that the food be blessed in your bellies. You will eat a little bit but you will be as full and satisfied as if you had eaten a large amount.

This is a very important blessing. A person cannot eat too much fruit. If one overeats he can become very sick. Many diseases are caused by overeating. Therefore, G-d grants a blessing so that the Benei Yisrael will be able to eat little but be very satisfied. This would also help them avoid illness.

26:6 Venatati shalom ba'aretz ushchavtem ve'ein macharid vehishbati chayah ra'ah min-ha'aretz vecherev lo-ta'avor be'artzechem
I will grant peace in the land; you will lie down [sleep] without disturbance [fear].  I will banish evil beasts from the land, and no sword shall pass through your land.
You might wonder what enjoyment we will have from all this without peace in the land. Therefore, G-d says "I will give you peace." Peace outweighs all the other good in the world. Without peace, there is no good.

Our sages therefore teach us, "Come and see how great is the power of peace. The sun never saw the defect of the moon." The illuminated side of the moon always faces the sun. Similarly, as all the constellations pass through the sky, the ones in front always see the ones behind them. They are like a man descending a ladder who looks backwards. This is the order of each constellation. It is thus written, "[G-d] makes peace in His high places." (Iyov 25:2) This teaches that G-d makes peace on high. Even though the heavenly bodies have no hatred, jealousy, or competition, nevertheless they need peace. How much more so do people need peace since they have jealousy, hatred and competition.

Peace is a very great blessing. There is no vessel other than peace that can hold a blessing. It is thus written, "G-d will bless His people with peace." (Tehillim 29:11)

Similarly, the Priestly Blessing ends with peace, "May G-d lift his countenance to you and grant you peace." (BaMidbar 6:26) This teaches us that a blessing is nothing if it does not contain peace.

Similarly, the Amidah ends with the word shalom, which means peace.

Peace is very great. The Torah says that one may even erase G-d's Name [in the paragraph of a suspected adulteress (BaMidbar 5:23)] in order to make peace between a man and his wife.

Rabbi Meir was once sitting and lecturing all Saturday night. A woman was listening to it and remained there until Rabbi Meir had finished. When she went home she found that the lamp had already gone out.
Where have you been?" asked her husband.
"At the rabbi's," she answered, "listening to a lecture."
The husband was furious. He swore that he would not let her come into the house until she went and spat in the rabbi's face. The woman remained outside the house for three days. She could not do what her wicked husband had told her.
"Why are you being so stubborn?" her neighbors asked her. "The best thing we can do is go to Rabbi Meir." As soon as he saw them he knew by Divine inspiration what had happened. He asked, "Does any one of you know how to cast a spell on my eye? I am suffering because of it.”
Her neighbors said to her, "Now you can do what your husband asked. When you cast the spell you can spit in his face. This is what is usually done when such a spell is cast."
The woman sat down to spit in his face, but she still did not have the audacity to do it; she was in such great awe of Rabbi Meir.
"Pardon me, sir," she said, "I am not an expert in charms."
"It does not matter," said the rabbi. "Spit in my face seven times and I will be healed."
She spat in his face seven times.
Rabbi Meir then said to her, "Go to your husband and tell him, 'You told me to spit once but I spat seven times.’”
After the woman left, Rabbi Meir's disciples asked, "Was it proper to denigrate the Torah in such a manner? You could have told one of us to recite the incantation."
"Let Meir's honor not be greater than the honor of his Master," replied the rabbi. "His great Name is written in holiness and still the Torah says it should I’d be obliterated to bring peace between a man and his wife. Meir's honor is no greater than this." 

Peace is so great that even idolaters, if they have peace among them, cannot be overcome by ha-satan. If there is peace among them and someone admonishes them for destroying their lives because of their idolatry, they will listen to his admonition and will begin to worship the true G-d. Because of the trait of peace, they listen to his words and do not refute his arguments.

However, if their hearts are divided and each one wishes to refute what the other one says, even if his words are true and they might agree, no matter what anyone tells them, they will not listen.

Peace is great because it is given to the meek and humble. It is thus written "The meek shall inherit the earth and delight in great peace." (Tehillim 37:11)

Peace is so important that even the dead need peace.

Peace is great because. it is given to those who repent (ba'alei teshuvah). It is thus written, "He creates the speech of the lips. Peace, peace to those far and near." (Yeshayahu 57:19)

G-d did not create anything as good as peace. It is something given to the righteous. When the righteous die, three angels come to greet them. The first says: "Come in peace; lie on your bed.” (Yeshayahu 57:2)

Peace is great because it is given to those who love Torah. It is thus written, "May there be great peace for those who love your Torah and there shall be no stumbling block for them." (Tehillim 119:165)

Peace is great because it is given to the charitable. It is thus written, "The works of charity shall be peace." (Yeshayahu 32:17)

Aharon, the first Kohen Gadol (High Priest), was only praised because of peace, as it is written, "My covenant was with him, life and peace." (Malachi 2:5). That is why when Aharon died, all Yisrael wept for him, even women and children as it is written, "The entire house of Yisrael wept for Aharon thirty days." (BaMidbar 20:29)

When Aharon died, 80,000 young children went to his funeral. All of them were named Aharon. This was because whenever a man wanted to divorce his wife, Aharon would come and make peace between them. The husband and wife would then be reconciled. When the woman became pregnant and a son was born, they would name him Aharon since Aharon had brought about his birth.

If one wants to see how great the power of peace is he should go out and see the ugliness of strife and see what gain exists for those who engage in it.

Korach engaged in strife and he and all his associates died a horrible death, being swallowed up by the ground. This was something that never happened to anybody else. The manna was interrupted that day; that had never happened before, even when the Golden Calf was made. Young babies died because of them. Everything that they had owned was swallowed, up, even a needle. Korach and his group remained in Gehenom (purgatory) for a very long time, until hundreds of years later when Channah raised them up.

From here we see how terrible strife can be. It is disgusting in G-d's Eyes.

The opposite of strife is peace. Just as there is great punishment for strife, there is great reward for peace. Even the most trivial dispute should not be taken lightly. Ha-satan (the adversary) dances whenever there is strife; he is ready to burn the soul together with the body.

The Talmud tells us that ha-satan had come between two men and they would fight every Saturday night. Finally Rabbi Meir came and brought about peace between them. Ha-satan then said, "Woe is to the one who is ejected from the house of Rabbi Meir." 

Strife can spread until it results in bloodshed. Therefore, one should not take strife lightly. When it is still slight, one should make peace. A person should avoid anger since this is the root of strife.

One should attach himself to peace since the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is one of G-d's Names. King David's throne was established with peace and Yerushalayim is praised as the City of Peace. If one does this, he will have peace in G-d's Eyes and his soul will be bound up in the bond of life.

The Torah says, "You will sleep without fear." If we keep the commandments, besides G-d giving us peace so that there will be love and brotherhood among us, G-d will also allow us to sleep without fear in our land. No one will disturb our peace to wage war against us.

G-d also said, "I will rid the land of dangerous animals." G-d will make a miracle and remove all dangerous animals such as snakes and scorpions, from the land. G-d will remove their power to do any harm and no one will be injured by them.

G-d also promised another miracle. Not only will no enemies attack you but, "No sword will pass through your land." Even if no country is fighting you, but one king wishes to fight another king, his army will not pass through your land.

The Holy Land is the land bridge between Eurasia and Africa and many armies would normally pass through, but G-d would make a miracle that even when war was waged no hostile army would pass through the Holy Land. G-d would prevent this even in cases where the army would not harm the Benei Yisrael.

In the case of King Yoshiyahu (Josiah), Pharaoh wanted to wage war against the king of Assyria and had to pass through the Holy Land to get to the Euphrates to reach Assyria. Yoshiyahu went against Pharaoh and did not let him pass through this land even though he merely wished to fight another king.
King Yoshiyahu thought that his generation was as righteous as he was and deserved this blessing that, "No sword shall pass through your land." He did not realize that the people in his generation were wicked and did not deserve this.
Pharaoh Nekho sent a message telling King Yoshiyahu to allow him to go through the land because he was fighting against the king of Assyria by G-d's command. Yeshayahu had thus prophesied, "I will stir up the Egyptians in Egypt... and Egyptians will pass over to Assyria." (Yeshayahu 19:23) G-d was saying, "I will send a king of Egypt to fight against a second king of Egypt." Pharaoh Necho said, "Therefore, I am asking you to let me go through your land."
Yoshiyahu, however, would not pay attention to Pharaoh, thinking that he was lying. Yoshiyahu went to fight against Pharaoh without asking the prophet Yirmeyahu whether he should go or not. As a result, Yoshiyahu died in the war. He was pierced with three hundred spears; his body was like a sieve. When he realized he was dying, he told his people to bring him back to Yerushalayim.
At the time of his death, Yirmeyahu visited him and heard him mumbling something. Yirmeyahu placed his ear next to Yoshiyahu's mouth and heard him saying, "G-d is righteous for I have rebelled against His Word." (Eicha 1:18) Yoshiyahu was saying that he deserved to die for disobeying G-d since G-d had commanded Pharaoh to fight against Assyria. He should have asked Yirmeyahu whether or not Pharaoh was speaking the truth. He should not have gone out to war without Yirmeyahu's permission.
When Yoshiyahu died, Yirmeyahu mourned him and said, "The spirit of our nostrils, G-d's anointed one." (Eicha 4:20) There was never a king of Yisrael as righteous as Yoshiyahu. This is explained at length in 2Melachim 23.18

In the Tisha B'Av elegy (kinah) known as: Zechor HaShem Li-Yehudah Ve-Efrayim (Remember, O HaShem, Yehudah and Efrayim"), we say: Remember, O G-d, the one called the anointed (Mashiach) whose body was made like a sieve...

26:7 Uredaftem et-oyveichem venaflu lifneichem lecharev
You will pursue your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword.
8 Veradefu mikem chamishah me'ah ume'ah mikem revavah yirdofu venaflu oyveichem lifneichem lecharev
Five of you will pursue one hundred and one hundred of you will pursue ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.
G-d is telling us that if we act properly, when we out to war against our enemies, five of our weakest men will be able to chase away a hundred of our enemies.  Ten men will be able to chase a thousand.  We will not even have to kill them because G-d will make them flee.  When they look at our faces they will see the Radiance of the Divine and one will fall on the sword of the other.  We will not even have to stretch our a hand to kill them. (Sifra; Yalkut Shimoni)

26:14 Ve'im-lo tishme'u li velo ta'asu et kol-hamitzvot ha'eleh
And if you will not listen to Me and you will not fulfill all of these commandments.
15 Ve'im-bechukotai tim'asu ve'im et-mishpatai tig'al nafshechem levilti asot et-kol-mitzvotai lehafrechem et-beriti
If you despise My statutes and your souls loathe My laws so as not to fulfill all My commandments, thereby breaking My covenant.
16 Af-ani e'eseh-zot lachem vehifkadeti aleichem behalah et-hashachefet ve'et-hakadachat mechalot einayim umedivot nafesh uzratem larik zar'achem va'achaluhu oyveichem
Then I will do the same with you.  I will impose terror upon you, [which causes] swelling and fever that consume the eyes and fill the soul with grief.  You will plant [your seeds] in vain because your enemies will consume [your crops].
17 Venatati fanai bachem venigaftem lifnei oyveichem veradu vachem son'eichem venastem ve'ein-rodef etchem
I will set My face against you and you will be defeated before your enemies; your foes will rule over you and you will flee [even] when no one is pursuing you.
This is known as the portion of "admonitions" (tokhachot).  The law is that if a person is called up to the Torah for the portion of "admonitions," whether here in VaYikra or in Devarim (28:15-68), he must read the entire section.  It is forbidden for the cantor to make a break in the middle of the curses, calling one person for part of them and another person for the rest.  They must be read by one person. (Orach Chayim 428)

A person should not be called by name if he is called to the reading of tokhachot. Only a person who wants this aliyah should be called.

The portion that is read should include three verse before the tokhachot and three verses after the tochachot. (Ibid, in Hagah)

G-d says, "If you do not listen to Me..." The Torah here is speaking of the sins for which the curses come as punishment.  There are seven curses for seven sins.  G-d thus later says, "I will continue to punish you seven for your sins" (26:18).  G-d is saying that there are seven punishments for seven sins. (Sifra; Rashi; Mizrachi; Bachya; Shevet Mussar 32)

The seven sins are as follows with explanation:
  1. "If you do not listen to Me" - If you do not study Torah.
  2. "And do not keep all these commandments" - literally.
  3. "If you denigrate My decrees" - Making others not want to keep the commandments.
  4. "And you grow tired of My laws" - Disliking the Sages.
  5. "And do not keep" - Not letting others keep the commandments.
  6. "All My commandments" - Denying the commandments.
  7. "You will have broken My covenant" - Denying G-d Himself.
These seven sins come in sequence, one following the other. If a person does not study he will not keep the commandments.  When he himself stops keeping the commandments he will hate those who do.  This hatred will extend to the Sages.  Once one hates our religious leaders he will prevent others from doing the commandments.  From there it is but a short step to denying the commandments and to denying G-d Himself.

Paralleling these seven sins G-d will send seven punishments:
  1. You will suffer depression,
  2. excitement,
  3. a destroyed outlook and hopelessness.
  4. You will plant your crops in vain because our enemies will eat them.
  5. I will direct My anger against you and you will be defeated.
  6. Your enemies will dominate you.
  7. You will flee with one one chasing you.
Some explain the curses differently.  Shachefet, which we translate as depression, is said to be consumption.

Kadachat, which we translate as excitement can also be translated as fever.

"A destroyed outlook and hopelessness" - A person feels hopeless and the soul grieves until it dies.

"You will plant your crop in vain" - You will plant and it will not grow.  Whatever little does grow, your enemies will eat.  your sons and daughters will also fall in the hands of the enemy.

"I will direct My anger against you and you will be defeated" - G-d is saying that He will attention to your enemies so that they will treat you badly.

"Your enemies will rule over you" - literally.

"And your will run with no one chasing" - Normally when a person is pursued, "G-d seeks out the pursuer" (Kohelet 3:15).  This is true even if a righteous person pursues a wicked person.  But here there will be no one for Him to punish, because you will flee and there will be no one pursuing you. 

26:18 Ve'im-ad-eleh lo tishme'u li veyasafti leyasrah etchem sheva al-chatoteichem
If after these [catastrophes] you still do not listen to Me, then I will increase your punishment sevenfold, as your sins.
19 Veshavarti et-ge'on uzchem venatati et-shmeichem kabarzel ve'et-artzechem kanechushah
I will break the pride of your power.  I will make your heavens like iron and your land like copper.
20 Vetam larik kochachem velo-titen artzechem et-yevulah ve'etz ha'aretz lo yiten piryo
Your strength will be exhausted in vain.  Your land will not yield its produce and the tree[s] of the land will not give forth its produce.
G-d is saying:  If you do not improve with the first seven punishments that I send you and do not repent I will bring another seven punishments:
  1. "I will break your aggressive pride" - this alludes to the destruction of the Temple.
  2. "I will make your skies like iron so that rain will not fall" - they will be no different from iron, which does not yield rain.
  3. "Your land shall be like copper" - this is repeated in Devarim, but there it is written, "The heavens above your head shall be copper and the earth under your shall be iron" (Devarim 28:23).  Here the Torah says the opposite, "I will make your heavens like iron and your land like copper."  Iron is drier than copper.  Copper is a better conductor; it sweats, but iron does not sweat.  Since the curses here are said by G-d through Moshe, they are very harsh.  If the heavens are like iron there will not be any dampness, neither rain nor dew.  Furthermore, if the earth is like copper the crops will not last; they will rot from the moisture.  The curses in Devarim, however, were said by Moshe, as our Sages taught.  They are therefore somewhat less severe.  The land will be like iron and the sky like copper.  Even though there might not be rain, there will be some dew; even though the land is dry like iron, this will be an advantage because the crops will not rot and will last a long time.
  4. "You will expend your strength in vain" - after you have planted, your work will be for naught since everything will be taken away from you.
  5. "The land will not yield its crops" - literally.
  6. "The trees of the land will not give their fruits" - The apple trees will not yield apples and the pomegranate trees will not yield pomegranates.  If they yield any fruit at all it will be inedible.
Some say that the "trees of the land will not give their fruit" is also a seventh curse.  After the trees yield their fruit, the fruit will not ripen but will fall while it is still immature.

Thus, the expression "will not yield" applies to the previous statement and the statement after it, as if the verse were saying, "The trees of the land will not produce and they will not produce fruits."

These are the seven curses that will come if we do not repent. (Sifra)

26:21 Ve'im-telchu imi keri velo tovu lishmoa li veyasafti aleichem makah sheva kechat'oteichem
If you walk contrary to Me and have no desire to listen to Me, I will increase the blows upon you sevenfold, as your sins.
22 Vehishlachti vachem et-chayat hasadeh veshiklah etchem vehichritah et-behemtechem vehim'itah etchem venashamu darcheichem
I will send among you wild animals of the field and they will make you bereft of children, destroy your cattle, reduce your [population] and make your roads into wasteland.
The Torah here is speaking about a special kind of indifference.  This is the kind of indifference where, after being punished, one says, "It was all an accident.  It was not a punishment from G-d for our sins.  It was a natural occurrence."  There are many silly people who say that sicknesses are not meant to improve us but are merely natural events.  It is a great sin to say that suffering is merely an accident.  Everything is directed from on high according to people's deeds.  A person does not strike his finger down below unless it is decreed on high.  G-d says, "If you are indifferent to Me and treat My acts as accidents, if you consider your troubles to be natural events and do not repent, I will send you another seven punishments for the seven sins that you are still committing." (Alshekh; Abarbanel; Sifetei Kohen)

These are the punishments that G-d will send:

"I will send among you the beasts of the field" - G-d will send wild animals, such as lions, wolves and other noxious beasts which normally are bound by an oath not to enter inhabited areas.  Although these animals usually live out in the wilderness, G-d will allow them to come into the city.  This is so that people will realize that it is not an accident; that everything is directed from on high.

Thus, because of your sins, G-d will change nature.  Domestic animals, which do not normally bite or do harm, will become killers.  Insects and other small animals which are normally harmless will become dangerous.

The first three curses are:
  1. Wild beasts.
  2. Domestic animals becoming noxious.
  3. Insects and other small creatures.
  4. They will kill your children.
  5. They will destroy your livestock - any livestock that you have outside of the city will be cut off
  6. Reducing your population - this indicates that even the livestock within the city will be reduced.
  7. The roads will become desolate -  people will be afraid to travel from place to place. (Ibid.; Rashi; Bachya)

26:23 Ve'im-be'eleh lo tivasru li vahalachtem imi keri
If after these [catastrophes] you have not been disciplined [to listen] to Me, and walk contrary to Me,
24 Vehalachti af-ani imachem bekeri vehikeiti etchem gam-ani sheva al-chat'oteichem
[Then] I, too, will walk contrary to you; and I shall also smite you seven fold for your sins.
25 Veheveti aleichem cherev nokemet nekam-berit vene'esaftem el-areichem veshilachti dever betochechem venitatem beyad-oyev
I will bring an avenging sword upon you avenging the covenant You will be huddled [in your cities].  I will send pestilence among you and you will be given into the hand of the enemy.
26 Beshivri lachem mateh-lechem ve'afu eser nashim lachmechem betanur echad veheshivu lachmechem bamishkal va'achaltem velo tisba'u
When I break the staff of your bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven and they will return your bread by weight.  You will eat but you will not be satiated.
G-d says, If you do not learn a lesson from these punishments, nor abandon your evil ways to repent; if you still say that this is all an accident and does not emanate from on high as a result of your sins, then I will direct another seven punishments paralleling these seven sins."

The seven are as follows:
  1. I will bring a vengeful sword against you to avenge the covenant. 
  2. You will huddle in your cities - because of the enemy attacking from outside. You will have to huddle in your cities and will not be able to come and go.
  3. I will send the plague against you and give you over to your enemies - you will then have to go out of the city to bury your dead since it is forbidden to bury the dead in Yerushalayim.  When you leave the cities you will fall by the sword of your enemies. (Sifra; Rashi)  Some say: You will be given over to your enemies - When you flee the city in order to escape the plague your enemies will do as they wish to you. (Abarbanel; Sifetei Kohen)
  4. I will break the staff of your bread - G-d will take away any food that is eaten with bread.
  5. Then women will bake your bread in one oven - they will do this because there will not be sufficient wood. (Sifra; Rashi; Abarbanel. See Korban Aharon)  Furthermore, the bread will be so little that the bread of ten women will fit into the oven, and each one will not have to bake separately. (Korban Aharon)
  6. They will bring back a small amount of bread.  There will be so little wood that they will not be able to bake the bread properly.  It will break into small pieces so that they will have to weigh it on a scale so that each one can take her portion.  Furthermore, the bread will be made out of barley, which is such a poor grain that it will fall apart. (Rashi)
  7. You will eat and not be satisfied - the food will be cursed.  Even though you eat you will not be satiated.  Furthermore, the bread will have to be weighed and, as we know, a blessing does not rest on something that is weighed. (Shevet Mussar)
The verse literally says, "They will return your bread by weight."   Some explain this to mean that each one will hold a coin in his hand and weigh in his mind whether he should eat such bread, which does not satisfy him, or buy dates instead.  At the end he will buy what he is forced to buy and eat without being satisfied. (Sifra).

Some say that when the Torah says, "They will return your bread by weight," it means that the bread will come out of the oven weighing the same as when it was put in.  Normally, bread loses quite a bit of moisture and weight when it is baked.  But they will not leave it in long enough to bake well.  They will bring it out half-baked in order to eat some.  One will not be able to eat a lot of this bread in one sitting, so it will last for a long time. (Ralbag)

26:27 Ve'im-bezot lo tishme'u li vahalachtem imi bekeri
If [in spite] of this you [still] will not listen to Me, and you will walk contrary to Me,
28 Vehalachti imachem bachamat-keri veyisarti etchem af-ani sheva al-chat'oteichem
I will walk contrary to you in fury, and indeed I too shall punish you sevenfold, for your sins.
29 Va'achaltem besar beneichem uvesar benoteichem tochelu
You will eat the flesh of your sons and you will eat the flesh of your daughters.
30 Vehishmadeti et-bamoteichem vehichrati et-chamaneichem venatati et-pigreichem al-pigrei giluleichem vega'alah nafshi etchem
I will destroy your high places and I will smash your sun images.  I will set your corpses upon the carcasses [remains] of your idols, and My soul will loathe you.
31 Venatati et-areichem chorbah vahashimoti et-mikdesheichem velo ariach bere'ach nichochachem
I will turn your cities into ruins and bring your Sanctuaries into desolation.  I will no longer savor [accept favorably] the fragrance of your offerings.
G-d is saying, If after all these punishments you do not listen to Me and still remain stubborn, saying, "This is an accident and odes not emanate from on high as a result of our sins," I will increase your punishment seven times.

In such a case you will be even worse than Pharaoh.  Pharaoh denied G-d because he did not believe He had power in the lower realm.  Nevertheless, when he was punished he admitted, "G-d is righteous, and I am my people are wicked" (Shemot 9:27).  However, you are Benei Yisrael.  You saw the great miracles that I did with your ancestors and with you every time. I warned you regarding all these punishments but still you say they are accidents. (Abarbanel)

If you behave that way I will behave toward you "accidentally" with a vengeance.  You are saying everything is an accident, so I will bring upon your seven punishments which are worse than the previous ones.
  1. The first curse is:  You will eat the flesh of your sons and make a meal of the flesh of your daughters - the famine will be so hard that you will slaughter your children as food.  This will not be because you do not love your children, but you will forget all your feelings for them because of the starvation. 
  2. I will destroy your altars and smash your sun gods - G-d is saying, "I will destroy the Temples where you keep your idols."  The Torah here mentions idols dedicated to the sun (chamah) which are known as chamanim.
  3. I will let your corpses rot on the remains of your idols - G-d is saying, "You will be so attached to your idols that when you die you will not throw them away; you will die on top of them." Alluding to this, the Torah here says, "I will place your corpses on your idols." (Sifra; Rashi; Yalkut Shimoni)
  4. I will thus have grown tired of you - G-d is saying that He would remove His Divine Presence from among the Benei Yisrael.
  5. I will let your cities fall in ruins - Many of your cities will become uninhabited ruins and ghost towns.
  6. I will make your sanctuaries desolate - No one will go to the Holy Temple.
  7. I will no longer accept the appeasing fragrance of your sacrifices - the sacrificial system will cease to exist.  Even if you offer sacrifices they will no longer be accepted.

26:32 Vahashimoti ani et-ha'aretz veshamemu aleiha oyveichem hayoshvim bah
I will make the land [so] desolate that your enemies who live on it will be astonished.
G-d is saying that the destruction will be so great that even the enemies of the Benei Yisrael will not find a place to rest in the land.

This is somewhat a consolation for the Benei Yisrael.  G-d di not want the Benei Yisrael to grieve, "It is not enough that we are in exile but our enemies have come and they are enjoying the good of the earth."  G-d therefore said, "I will make your land desolate; it will be desolate even for your enemies who wish to live in it."  They will not have any pleasure in the land.  They will try to rebuild the land but they will never be successful.  The Holy Land will not be an inhabited place until the Benei Yisrael return and once again become masters of the land. (Ibid.; Bachya)

26:33 Ve'etchem ezareh vagoyim vaharikoti achareichem charev vehayetah artzechem shmamah ve'areichem yihyu chorbahI will scatter you among the nations and unsheathe the sword after you.  Your land will be desolate and your cities will be in ruins.
G-d is saying that there will be other troubles and punishments.  When you go into exile you will not all go to one place.  You will be scattered, some in one place and some in another.  You will not even have the small consolation of being together and seeing one another.

Even when you find a place to stay you will not have any rest.  There constantly will be decrees against you and pogroms, and you will never be able to let down your guard. (Ibid.)

26:34 Az tirtzeh ha'aretz et-shabtoteiha kol yemei hoshamah ve'atem be'eretz oyveichem az tishbat ha'aretz vehirtzat et-shabtoteiha
The land will then be appeased for its Shabbatot [during] all the days of its desolation while you are in the land of y our enemies.  Then the land will rest and be appeased for its Shabbatot.
35 Kol-yemei hoshamah tishbot et asher lo-shavetah beshabtoteichem beshivtechem aleiha
All the days that it lies desolate it shall have its rest - the rest it did not have on your Shabbatot when you were living upon it.
36 Vehanish'arim bachem veheveti morech bilevavam be'artzot oyeveihem veradaf otam kol aleh nidaf venasu menusat-cherev venaflu ve'ein rodef
To those who survive among you, I will send timidity into their hearts [as they live] in the lands of their enemies.  The sound of a blown leaf will put them to flight and they will flee as though fleeing from a sword; and they will fall with no one chasing them.
37 Vechashlu ish-be'achiv kemipnei-cherev verodef ayin velo-tihyeh lachem tekumah lifnei oyveichem
They will stumble over one another as though before a sowrd when there is no pursuer, and you will have no power to stand upright before your enemies.
G-d said that He would place great terror and insecurity in the hearts of those who survived in exile.  If they heard a leaf rustling they would think that the enemy was pursuing them and they would flee without anybody chasing them. They would run away like a person running before the sword.

26:38 Va'avadetem bagoyim ve'achlah etchem eretz oyveichem
You will be lost among the nations and the land of your enemies will consume you.
39 Vehanish'arim bachem yimaku ba'avonam be'artzot oyveichem ve'af ba'avonot avotam itam yimaku
Those of you who survive will rot away in their iniquity in the land of your enemies, and also due to the iniquities of their ancestors which are [still] with them, [they] will they rot away.
40 Vehitvadu et-avonam ve'et-avon avotam bema'alam asher ma'alu-vi ve'af asher-halchu imi bekeri
They will [then] confess their iniquities and the iniquities of their ancestors in the unfaithfulness with which they were unfaithful to Me, and also for walking contrary to Me.
41 Af-ani elech imam bekeri veheveti otam be'eretz oyeveihem o-az yikana levavam he'arel ve'az yirtzu et-avonam
I, too, will go contrary to them and bring them into the land of their enemies.  Or perhaps then will be humbled their uncircumcised [unyielding] heart and then their iniquities will be appeased [forgiven].
When they wish to confess their sins, they will not abandon them; rather, they will rebel against G-d and confess at the same time.  But confession without the abandonment of sin is worthless.

G-d says that He will therefore bring upon them further punishment in the land of their enemies.  He will try to subjugate their stiff hearts and make them abandon their sins and repent fully.  Then G-d will atone for their sins through the suffering that He will bring upon them and He will have mercy on them. (Abarbanel; Alshekh)

26:42 Vezacharti et-briti Ya'akov ve'af et-briti Yitzchak ve'af et-briti Averaham ezkor veha'aretz ezkor
I will [then] remember My covenant with Yaakov and also My covenant with Yitzchak and also My covenant with Avraham, I will remember and I will remember the land.
One can see that the patriarchs are in reverse order here.  The chronological order of the Patriarchs is Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.  This teaches that the merit of each of the fathers is enough to protect their descendants.  We do not need the merit of all the patriarchs together to protect the Benei Yisrael.  This is alluded to when the Torah reverses the order. (Sifra; Korban Aharon)

Some give another reason why the patriarchs are mentioned in reverse order.  This teaches that it is obvious that G-d will remember Yaakov's merit because he did not have any bad children.  All of them were good.  But G-d will remember the merit of Yitzchak though he had another nation, 'Esav.  G-d will remember his merit based on Yisrael alone.  The same is true of the merit of Avraham.  Even though he had Yishma'el, his merit only stands up for Yisrael.

Furthermore, even though G-d will recall the merit of the patriarchs in order to protect the Benei Yisrael, He will remember the grief of the land when its Sabbatical years where not kept.  There were seventy such Sabbatical years as mentioned earlier.  But after the Benei Yisrael are in exile for seventy years G-d will be reconciled for the sin of not keeping the Sabbatical years as well as other sins.  G-d will then protect them in the merit of the fathers and the covenant that He made with them that He would never destroy the Benei Yisrael completely. (Abarbanel; Alshekh)

26:43 Veha'aretz te'azev mehem vetiretz et-shabtoteiha bashamah mehem vehem yirtzu et-avonam ya'an uveya'an bemishpatai ma'asu ve'et-chukotai ga'alah nafsham
The land, being bereft of them, will be appeased for its Shabbatot, during the time of its desolation from them and their iniquities will then be appeased [forgiven] since what certainly caused [this] is that they despised My laws and their soul loathed [rejected] My statutes.
As mentioned earlier, the seventy years of exile would be an atonement for the seventy Sabbatical years which were not kept as long as the First Temple stood.  After the First Temple was destroyed, the Benei Yisrael were in exile in Bavel (Babylon) for seventy years, paralleling these seventy Sabbatical years.

Yaakov, is normally spelled without a vav.  However, in five places in the Bible it is written with a Vav.

They are as follows:
  1. "I will remember My covenant with Yaakov" (26:24)
  2. "Also, I will be disgusted with the offspring of Yaakov" (Yirmeyahu 33:26)
  3. "Yaakov will return and there will be quiet and repose" (Yirmeyahu 46:27)
  4. "Behold, I will return the exile of the tents of Yaakov" (Yirmeyahu 30:18)
  5. "Not like these is the portion of Yaakov" (Yirmeyahu 51:19)

Similarly, Eliyahu's Hebrew name is normally spelled with a Vav.  However, there are five places where it is spelled without a Vav.  They are as follows:
  1. "An angel of G-d spoke to Eliyahu" (2Melachim 1:3)
  2. "Eliyahu went" (2Melachim 1:4)
  3. "He said, 'It is Eliyahu the Tishvi'" (2Melachim 1:8)
  4. "Eliyahu answered and spoke.." (2Melachim 1:12)
  5. "I will send you Eliyahu the prophet" (Malachi 3:23)
This teaches that Yaakov took the Vav as collateral from Eliyahu and placed it in his own name.  Yaakov will hold on to this collateral until Eliyahu comes and announces the redemption of Yaakov's descendants, that is, when the Mashiach comes.

Yaakov took the letter Vav and no other letter.  Vav has a numerical value of six.  This alludes to the fact that the redemption will be in the sixth millennium. 

May it be G-d's Will that he come quickly in our days. Amein. 


 ----------------------

MeAm Lo'ez; Rashi; Bachya





Leave a Reply

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
....