Behar-Bechukotai 5769-2009

"Impoverishment: In those Days, in these Times"

In parashat Behar, the poor person is described on several occasions as "mach," crushed. Judaism's remarkable laws regarding charity not only address the material losses of an impoverished person, but also attempt to heal the emotional losses of those who have lost their life's possessions.

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Behar-Yom Ha’atzmaut 5768-2008

"The Incredible Yovel--The Jubilee Year"

In parashat Behar, the Torah introduces the revolutionary concept of Yovel, the Jewish Jubilee year, that was celebrated every fiftieth year of the Sabbatical cycle. According to the commentators, the Jubilee was intended to train the Jews in compassion, charity, and justice. However, it was much more than just that.

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Kee Tavo 5765-2005

"Contemporary Implications of an Ancient Ritual"

In this week's parasha, we read of the formula of confession that the Israelite farmer of old recited when he redeemed his tithes, declaring that he hasn't given in grief, impurely, or to the dead. While the vast majority of Jews no longer work as farmers, the statement recited by the ancient Israelites is relevant today to those who wish to properly redeem their charity tithes. There is much that may be learned from this ancient ritual.

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Naso 5763-2003

"The Hypocrite as Exemplar"

Why is the Torah portion concerning the person who fails to fulfill his religious obligation juxtaposed with the portion of the woman who is suspected of being unfaithful to her husband? From this unusual textual positioning we learn much about human nature. Providing a favorable example is far more impressive and effective than preaching.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5762-2002

"The Extraordinary Mitzvah of Tzedaka, Charity"

The word tzedaka that we mention in Parashat Behar does not mean charity, but rather justice and righteousness. It is not an act of charity to be generous, it is the correct thing to do.

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Re’eh 5761-2001

"Charity! The Investment with the Greatest Return"

In this parasha, the Jewish people are told to care for their poor. "Thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut their hand from thy poor brother." Judaism has a rather unique understanding of charity, arguing that the poor person is doing a kindness to the donor, rather than the other way around. It is no wonder that with this deeply ingrained charitable philosophy, the Jewish people have always excelled in charitability. Unfortunately, as Jews move further away from tradition, they have become less and less charitable.

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