Food For the Soul
What Are You Worth?
He is worth 4 billion dollars. She is worth 5.8 billion dollars. The richest person in the world is worth 53.5 billion dollars.
Worth. What a funny word. How deceiving. Like, really? Does the size of our bank account determine our worth?
Is a person who built a beautiful marriage, raised healthy children and did his best to pay the bills, but whose bank account is in the four digits (or overdrawn by four digits), worthless? Is the 40-year-old tycoon who’s divorced for the ninth time, has kids who don’t speak to him, and has earned his money stepping over others, worth it?
There are many wealthy people who are decent and honest fellows, and I am not a socialist who wants to rob them of their earnings. The point I wish to make is: Does status on Forbes tell us a person’s worth? Or is it other stuff—like the charity we give, the family we raise and the accomplishments of the spirit—that determine our worth?
In the end of the Book of Leviticus (beginning of chapter 27), we read about a person who decides to donate his or her “worth” to G-d. How much does this individual pay? That depends on the age of the individual—in other words, the person’s productive capacity. Our worth is in our actions, not our credit score. It is not the business magazines that tell the world how much we are worth; rather, it’s the love letters in our drawer and the charity diplomas on the wall that tell us how much we are worth.
So, how much are you worth?
Rabbi Levi Avtzon
“If only the Jewish People would keep two Shabbats as they should be kept, immediately they would be redeemed.” (Shabbat 118a). In each Shabbat, there are two Shabbats: An outer Shabbat, and an inner Shabbat. The outer Shabbat is but an entranceway, a liberation from work. The inner Shabbat is a world inside, a world of contemplation and delight.
As a bride is whisked away from the rest of the world to be only to her beloved and no one else, so Shabbat carries us out of a mundane life on earth into the arms of the divine. We can breathe again, our shackles temporarily broken. There is no work to do, because we have left the world of work behind. And that allows us entry to the inner Shabbat, where divine thought breathes here on earth.
So we stop, pore over the holy, mystical teachings of our masters, contemplate deeply their words, and wrap ourselves in prayer, in communion with the Knower of all Thoughts. Keep both Shabbats and you will find yourself redeemed.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Mind Over Matter
The Torah reading of Bechukotai begins, “If you walk in my ways and keep my commandments, then I will bless you.” G-d’s ways are pleasant, and you will never regret living your life according to His plan. But even those who have enjoyed decades of fulfillment in their personal, professional and spiritual lives need to be constantly “walking” and growing.
Life is like climbing up a down escalator—if you’re standing still, you’re moving backwards. So don’t waste time with down time. If you truly want to be blessed, keep on working and walking in the ways of G-d.
From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum
“Even when they are in their enemies’ land, I will not abhor them nor spurn them so as to destroy them…” Bechukotay 26:44
The Zohar (III:115b) interprets: During the time of the galut (exile ) the Jewish People are like a bride living in a street of tanneries. Her Bridegroom would normally never enter a putrid place like that. His great love for His bride, however, makes Him imagine that her dwelling is like a perfumery with the most pleasant smells in the world. This analogy, however, applies only to the time of the galut. At present we have reached a point of “No more galut!” We have to prepare for the chupah (wedding-canopy) of the redemption. The “garments” (conditions and actions) that may have been good enough for the “street of tanneries” are obviously altogether inappropriate for going to our wedding with our Beloved…
Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
One section stands out from the rest in the Parshah Bechukotai. It is known as the Tochachah, “The Rebuke.” There we read a whole litany of disasters that will befall our people should we turn our backs on G-d and abandon His way of life. The tradition is that the baal korei (Torah reader) himself, without being called up, takes this aliyah; and when he reaches the relevant section, he lowers his voice, to soften the blow of these terrible curses.
For 24 years, I produced and hosted South Africa’s only Jewish radio show, The Jewish Sound. Once, my guest on the air was Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Israel. He told the story that as a child growing up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, one Shabbat he went to daven in the shul of the Rebbe of Klausenberg, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam (1905–1994). Originally from Romania, the Klausenberger Rebbe was a spiritual giant of a man who had lost 11 children in the Holocaust, and never sat shivah because he was preoccupied with saving as many lives as he possibly could. After the war, he settled in America and developed a large following. Subsequently he relocated to Israel and, among other things, established the Laniado Hospital in Netanya.
That Shabbat—Rabbi Riskin related—“The Rebuke” was being read. When it came to the part of the curses, the reader did what he always did. He lowered his voice and read in a softer tone. Suddenly, the Rebbe shouted in Yiddish, “Hecher!” (“Louder!”). The reader was confused. He was simply following the tradition of generations. Perhaps he was not hearing right, so he continued reading in the softer tone. “Hecher! Hecher!” thundered the Klausenberger Rebbe. “Let the Almighty hear what is being read! All the curses have already been fulfilled. Now, there must be only blessings for our people . . .”
Many of our sages have described the Holocaust as the birthpangs of Moshiach and the ultimate redemption. Never will there be a repeat of such calamities. We have endured more than enough of exile, wanderings, pogroms and persecutions. The curses, in all their tragic, cataclysmic imagery, have actually materialized. Now there must be only goodness, happiness, warmth and blessing for the people of Israel.
At the end of The Rebuke, G-d says: “I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the Land . . .” Not only will the Almighty remember us, the Jewish people; He will also remember His Holy Land, our Land of Israel. Perhaps we might interpret this as a message to the anti-Semites of the world who hide behind their anti-Zionist or anti-Israel rantings and ravings. “I will remember the Land”—a message also to the nations of the world who claim to be our friends, the shrewd manipulators who are expert in political backstabbing. “I will remember the Land”—a message to our own Jewish fantasizers who would undermine their own brothers with their hopeless attempts at appeasing mortal enemies. To all of them, the G-d of Israel says: “I will remember the Land.” I will never forsake My land or My people.
And as He remembers us, let us remember Him and our covenant. May we prepare for Shavuot and the giving of the Torah with earnestness and joy. May G-d and His people always remember each other. Amen.
Rabbi Yossy Goldman