Weekly Torah Thought

This week’s Torah portion is called Behar-Behukosai.  It is a double portion, Behar is translated as ‘at the mountain’ referring to the mountain Sinai where the Jewish people received the Torah, even though it goes on to speak about the Sabbatical years (which we happen to be in one now).  Behukosai is usually translated as ‘my decrees’ or ‘my laws’ as in ‘if you will follow My decrees’.  This Shabbat is also the Shabbat that we bless the new Hebrew month of Sivan, the month of the holiday of Shavuot where we celebrate the Giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on mount Sinai. 

This Shabbat we also start reading the Torah portion Bamidbar which means desert and refers to the desert that we received the Torah in.  The question is, why was the Torah given in a desert and why is this emphasized.  Also, what is the connection of Behar and Behukosai with the giving of the Torah. 

First, the sages state that the Torah was given in the desert since the desert is a place that nobody can lay claim to, it is no-man’s land, so show that the Torah was given to all Jews equally and anyone that wants to come along and lay claim to it can.  However, now the question becomes if the Torah was given to us and it is our inheritance, why emphasize that is was in a desert so anyone who wants can come along and take it? 

One answer could be that the ‘desert’ and the Torah being ‘ownerless’ hints to a level in the Torah that is completely beyond the world and that the complete service of ‘receiving the Torah’ is when we receive also this level that is beyond the world, the level where the Torah and the Infinite Divine are one.   

Now the connection of the names Behar and Behukosai, Behar means mountain.  A mountain is the concept of growing within the realm of the inanimate (a mountain is higher than the ground and actually does grow), to teach us that we should always go from level to level and always be growing.  We should grow in striving to be even better than we were the day before.

Behukosai (laws, decrees) is also related to the Hebrew  word Chakika meaning engraved letters (like the letters on The Tablets) showing us that our connection to the Torah and being Jewish is part and parcel of us just like engraved letters.  Meaning, it is something natural that is already part of us and not something foreign from us.

May we all experience all these levels in our lives and may we experience the ultimate level of the Torah that is beyond the world with the new levels of Torah that will be revealed with the coming of the True and Complete Redemption speedily on our times.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Nosson Meretsky