Parashas Behar Bechukosai

Parashas Behar begins with the laws of shmittah and yovel. This laws involve groupings of years into, respectively, seven-year and fifty-year units. The Maggid notes that we can learn a moral lesson from these groupings. He gives an analogy to a beggar collecting coins. When he amasses a thousand pennies, it looks like he has collected a lot. But his intake becomes much less impressive when we note that it amounts to just ten one-dollar bills, and just one ten-dollar bill. Similarly, a typical person’s lifespan is seventy years (Tehillim 90:10). At first, it seems like a lot. But this lifespan becomes much less impressive when we note that it amounts to just ten shmittah units, and a bit under a yovel and a half.
I note that the same idea is reflected in the mitzvah of birkas ha-chamah, which we performed last month. Once in twenty-eight years, the sun completes a full cycle and returns to the position where it was at the time of creation, on the same day of the week as when Hashem first placed it in the heavens. For this occasion, our Sages instituted a berachah: “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who makes the work of creation.” It is a berachah that we have the chance to say only two or three times (or perhaps four) in a lifetime. When we stand before Hashem to say this special praise to Him for His wondrous creation, realizing that we have but a few chances to experience this exalted event, we naturally come to view ourselves much more humbly.
David HaMelech entreats Hashem (Tehillim 39:5): “Let me know my end, Hashem – and the measure of my days, what it is, so that I will know [clearly] when I will cease to be.” The Maggid explains that David is not asking Hashem to tell him how many days he has to live. Rather, he is asking Hashem to tell him how few days he has to live, in order to dispel any feelings of complacency and make him rush to purify his deeds.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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