“Parsha and Purpose” – Bechukotai/Bamidbar 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“The Opportunity and Challenge of Yom Yerushalayim”

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Parshat Bechukotai (Diaspora) and Parshat Bamidbar (Israel)

“The Opportunity and Challenge of Yom Yerushalayim

It is April 29th-April 30th of 1948, the fifth day of the Omer, Chol HaMoed Pesach.

The city of Jerusalem is in a terribly challenging position. The Jews living in Rehavia, in the center of the city, are cut off from the Jews living in Makor Chayim and Ramat Rachel.

Arab Legion troops occupy the San Simon Monastery in the neighborhood of Katamon, and from the top of the monastery, they are able to, with sniper fire, pick off anyone who attempts to bring food to the Jews of Rehavia, Makor Chayim or Ramat Rachel. (In fact, “Katamon” is Greek for “by the monastery”, in this case, the San Simon Monastery.)

In response, the Jewish fighters of the Palmach decide to capture San Simon. They send 120 fighters to besiege the monastery.

One of the fighters throws a grenade into the monastery and it hits a room filled with fuel, creating a bright light, taking away the surprise of the darkness and allowing the Arab Legion soldiers to pick off many of the Jewish fighters who are trying to enter San Simon.

Out of the 120 fighters, 21 are killed and 83 are injured. The Palmach commander decided that the remaining soldiers should retreat in order to be able to be used in a more effective way to help protect the civilians of Jerusalem prior to the formal declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, which would occur two weeks later.

At the same time, there was a concern: what would happen to those who had been too severely injured to be transported? If the Arab Legion were to capture them, they would burn and destroy them.

It was thus decided to create the “Masada of Jerusalem”. The commander of the fighting unit, a survivor of Auschwitz who had also witnessed Palmach colleagues burned by Arab Legion soldiers, decided that the fighters who could still leave on their own would leave along with those who had been lightly wounded.

The remainder of the wounded would stay with him, and he would prepare dynamite for the infirmary at the monastery. In the event that Arab Legion soldiers would overrun the property, he would detonate the building so that the Jews would not be placed in the hands of the Arab Legion fighters.

At the same time, Arab Legion reinforcements were on their way from Chevron. But the Gush Etzion fighters, several days before they would be decimated, were able to fight off the Legion, preventing them from coming to reinforce the battles in Jerusalem.

The Arab Legion, after hearing what happened with the fighters from Gush Etzion, decided to stop their advance on the San Simon Monastery, and instead retreated to the Old City.

And so the San Simon Monastery, with only a limited amount of fighters still able to literally walk, was saved. And the Jewish populations in the center of town (Rehavia) as well as in Makor Chayim and Ramat Rachel were able to replenish the food that they needed in order to be able to survive, not only for Pesach, but afterwards.

The gift of Jerusalem: the gift that HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave us:

“ושב ה’ אלוקיך את שבותך”

“And Hashem your God shall restore your captivity.”
[Deuteronomy 30:3]

Indeed, according to the Jewish Agency, in 2020, 47% of the Jewish people have already begun to live in the land of Israel.

And by 2038, it is estimated that 74% of the population of the Jewish people will live in the State of Israel. [Source:]

In 1883, there were no homes in Jerusalem outside the walled city. In 2022, the joke in Jerusalem is that the national bird is the crane, because there is no block in Jerusalem in which building is not happening.

“עוד יקנו בתים ושדות וכרמים בארץ הזאת”

“Once again” – God proclaims through his prophet – the Jewish people “will purchase homes, fields and vineyards throughout Israel.” [Jeremiah 32:15]

We celebrate that gift that God has given us, of bringing Jerusalem together, on Yom Yerushalayim: we are now the “Startup Nation”; we have a strong economy.

According Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, in 1967, there were 200,000 people living in Jerusalem. Today, there are close to a million people in Jerusalem.

Yet the challenge of Jerusalem is still before us: because while Jerusalem is supposed to be a place that brings us together – and while God has done his part, as is evident, such as miracles that happened at the San Simon Monastery – we have not yet done our part.

We have not yet come together. And even though it is a united city, geographically, it is not yet a united city, spiritually.

There are still skirmishes by the Kotel. There are still issues in the way we talk to each other.

Yes, Yom Yerushalayim must be a celebration of the gift that God has given us. But it also has to be a celebration of the responsibility that we have – once God has given us this gift – to do our part, how we talk to each other, how we engage with each other.

It is the message of Sefirat HaOmer, with the overlay of the new Chag, Yom Yerushalayim.

Please God, wherever we live in the world, we will celebrate the unity of Jerusalem in the way we talk to each other and about each other.

And we will recognize that unity requires us to be able to understand, that despite any of our differences – with all the different denominations, or the way we as Orthodox Jews celebrate – what we have as a united community is so much stronger.

Yom Yerushalayim Samayach and Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – And I shall provide peace in the land and you shall lie down at night without fear.” (Leviticus 26:6) This Torah portion comes at the end of The Book of Leviticus, called by our Sages “the Torah of the Kohen-Priests” – the …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Behar-Bechukotai 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Planting Seeds: Changing Ourselves and the World”

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Planting Seeds: Changing Ourselves and the World

This week, we’re introduced to this unbelievable, fascinating halacha about the sabbatical year.  And there is a fascinating law that shares with us a difference in mindsets, a difference between Shabbat and the sabbatical year. 

On Shabbat, if I take a seed and I plant it, and an hour later I remove the seed from the ground, I’ve still violated the prohibition of doing a creative action on Shabbat, even though the seed has not yet taken root.

With a sabbatical year, if I plant a seed, something that is prohibited during the sabbatical year, and a day later, before it takes root I remove the seed, I have not violated the sabbatical year.

Why is there this difference between Shabbat and the sabbatical year?

Let me suggest an answer that was written in the mid-1800s by Rav Avraham Borenstein of Sochaczew, the Sochatchover Rebbe, in his Eglei Tal. He explains that on Shabbat, what counts is my melechet machshevet – my creative thought process.  Tosafot on Moed Katan 13a:4:1

The fact that I have a picture in my mind that I want to plant a seed is sufficient to have violated the prohibition of not doing creative labor. 

On the sabbatical year, what counts is my influence over the world, and therefore it’s not enough to plant the seed. The seed needs to take root.

What a wonderful message for us! The idea that we have to live in both paradigms. 

The Shabbat paradigm, the melechet machshevet.  We have to be creative – and often our creative thoughts are really critical and really important in developing ourselves.  When we have a commitment to our own self-development, that commitment to that self-development that takes root in our mind is sufficient to be transformational.

But when we engage in the outside world, it’s not enough to have a mindset. It’s not enough for a seed to be planted in our mind, or for a seed to be planted. The action has to take root.  It’s not enough to think about helping my neighbor. I actually have to do something. 

We live on these two levels. We live in these two dimensions. The responsibility of celebrating the message of Shabbat every single day. Of having creative actions, creative mindsets, of making sure we improve ourselves, that new ideas take root in our mind. 

And our responsibility to engage in the world, the sabbatical paradigm.  To make sure that our actions really celebrate our commitment to changing the world, and the responsibility to do that. 

Shabbat Shalom, and may we always celebrate the Shabbat and the sabbatical paradigms in our life.-1

Shabbat Shalom: Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin  Efrat, Israel –  “And you shall count for yourselves seven cycles of Sabbatical years, seven years, seven times… forty-nine years… you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee year for you.” (Leviticus 25:8-10) This …

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Parshat Bechukotai: The Covenant Between Israel and God By Rabbi Shlomo Brown, Executive Director of Midreshet Lindenbaum  Which covenant is this week’s Torah portion alluding to? Why does the land of Israel pledge allegiance to the Jewish people, even when they don’t observe God’s commandments or adhere to this covenant? This week’s portion centers on …

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Shabbat Shalom: Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will cause evil beasts to cease from the land; neither shall the sword go through your land.” (Leviticus 26:6) What kind of world …

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Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

Parshat Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel — “I am the Lord your God who brought you forth from the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan to be your God.” [Lev. 25:38] Citing the verse above from this week’s Torah reading, our Sages make the striking declaration that only one …

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Parshat Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34) Rabbi David Stav  This Shabbat, we’ll read Parshat Behar-Behukotai in our synagogues. Most of the social and economic issues in Biblical discourse and the Jewish world are addressed in this reading. The first part of the Torah portion discusses the laws of the Shmitta (Sabbatical) year, which recurs every seven …

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כוחה של הקללה גדול מזו של הברכה? הרב נתנאל לדרברג הפער בין תיאורי הברכה הדלים יחסית לתיאורי הקללה העשירים דורש עיון שעשוי להסביר היטב את השוני המהותי בין הקללה לברכה. י”ז אייר תשע”ו, 25/05/2016, 19/05/2016 פרשת בחוקותי מתארת את הברית המכילה שני קטבים הפוכים, ברכה וקללה, הנכרתת בין ד’ “ובין בני ישראל בהר סיני ביד …

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