Vol 17.36 - Behar - Lag B'Omer Spanish French Audio Video
The Torah portion of Behar opens1 with the laws of Shemittah , the Sabbatical year. These commandments were to be performed after the Jewish people were settled in Eretz Yisrael and leading a natural lifestyle, as opposed to the miraculous lifestyle they enjoyed in the desert. The portion goes on to describe an unsettling situation that can result from leading a natural existence: because of impoverishment, a Jew can be — Heaven forfend — sold to a member of an idolatrous cult.2
However, the title of the portion, Behar, “on the mountain,” seems to contradict the above. Mt. Sinai implies the most supreme of levels, a place where G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, a place where they were uplifted completely above the mundane.
As its title is characteristic of an entire Torah portion, how can Behar embrace such a lowly state?
The purpose of giving the Torah on Mt. Sinai was not so that Jews would remain totally divorced from the physical world. Rather, they were to enter a “settled land,” living a natural lifestyle, and with the power and might of Torah overwhelm the limitations of nature.
Thus, when Torah commands us to let the land lie fallow during the Sabbatical year, the Jew will do so, notwithstanding the fact that one may not rely on a miracle.3 The Jew is able to do this because he knows that though questions such as “what will we eat”4 may arise, the Torah gives him the strength to overcome the limitations of nature, so that “G‑d commands His blessings in the sixth year.”5 As a result, even before the Sabbatical year has begun, the Jew sees that he has “grain for three years.”6
It is similar when one has a heathen master. The person might think that since his master does all types of forbidden and degrading things, and because according to the Torah he is under obligation to his master, he too must act in such a manner.7 The Torah, however, enjoins him8 from such behavior. The reason is that with regard to matters of Judaism — “Sinai” — no one has dominion over a Jew.
This thought is echoed in the saying of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who states:9 “There are three crowns — the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship; but the crown of a good name surpasses them all.” As explained by many commentators,10 the “crown of a good name” refers to the good name that a person acquires through his good deeds.
At first glance, this comment, emanating as it does from R. Shimon, seems puzzling. R. Shimon, after all, dedicated himself wholly to Torah, “Torah was his occupation,”11 for he deemed the study of Torah to be of supreme importance. How, then, could he possibly say that the crown of a good name is superior to the crown of Torah? He says this because the ultimate purpose of Torah is to inspire good deeds,12 deeds that result in the sanctification of the world. Thus, the result of Torah study, “the crown of a good name,” is that which “surpasses them all.”
But if this is indeed so, how was it that R. Shimon occupied himself to such a degree in Torah study that it prevented him from concentrating more fully on the performance of good deeds?
It is axiomatic that “One who is in a state of imprisonment cannot set himself free.”13 Were Jews to perform good deeds while remaining entirely within the world, they would not be able to lift the world out of its constrictions. They must therefore be able to lift themselves above the world. Only then will they be successful in uplifting the world as well.
This is accomplished within all Jews by those individuals for whom Torah study is almost their sole occupation. R. Shimon’s Torah study was the height of selflessness. He was ready to forego the greatest crown of all in order to serve as an example to other Jews, showing them how they too could transcend the world through Torah study, and thereby cause “Sinai” to descend within the natural world.
1. According to the custom to learn Pirkei Avot in the Shabbat days between Pesach and Shavuot, every Shabbat a chapter – it comes out that in many years – like this year - that on Shabbat Parshat Behar, the fourth chapter is read.
And since all aspects of (Minhagei Yisroel –Jewish customs) Torah are precise, it is understood that this chapter (chap 4) has a relation to the Sidra of Behar which is read on this Shabbat.
Also, in certain years, Lag B’Omer falls on the week of Parshat Behar – like this year. As the Shaloh states that every holiday (מועד) has a connection to the Parsha of the week, when it occurs – it is understood that Lag B’Omer has a relation to Parshat Behar and therefore also - to the fourth chapter of Avot.
We find, actually, in this Perek (4:13) a statement from R’ Shimon (ben Yochai):
“There are three crowns — the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship; but the crown of a good name surpasses them all.” (רבי שמעון אומר: שלושה כתרים הם: כתר תורה וכתר כהונה וכתר מלכות. וכתר שם טוב עולה על גביהן) -
for Lag B’Omer is the day of passing (Histalkus) and the Yom hillula of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai.
One could say that since, of all the numerous statements of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai,
so much so that “in every Perek of the chapters of the tractates in the Talmud, it mentions R’ Shimon and even in the tractates of Keilim and Negaim and Uktzin”,
it comes out that we learn this specific statement of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai, close to his Yom hillula
where “all his deeds and his Torah and Avodah that he accomplished all the days of his life” are present in their completeness, as is known,
because in this aforementioned statement the (main) aspect of the R’ Shimon Bar Yochai is manifested.
According to the aforementioned, that Lag B’Omer is also connected with the subject of Parshat Behar – it is probable that this saying of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai has a connection with Parshat Behar.
2. In the general aspects (כללות) of our Sidra we find two extremes:
The Sidra begins with the Mitzvah of Shmittah, whose fulfillment is in Eretz Yisroel, where Yidden conduct themselves according to the order of a “settled land” (ארץ נושבת), meaning conduct according to nature – so much so that according to Torah, there is room for “And if you should say" on the question “What will we eat” (and one also does not know how we will be able to fulfill the Mitzvah of Shmittah).
And after this comes the Parshiot of the Sidra, as it states that “the passages (in this whole section) are written in a meaningful order,” (על הסדר), that discuss a further decline, G-d forbid, as the Sages state that the Parshiot depict the order of decline, G-d forbid - how there can begin a faltering of the Yidden, and that this could drag them to the epitome of decline - that he sells himself to a non-Jew
(And even more – “to an idol of the family etc.” which means “who is sold to the idol itself to become an attendant to it etc.”) -
a condition where there is (according to Torat Emet (the Torah of truth)) a supposition that since “Since my master has illicit relations . . Since my master worships idols. . Since my master desecrates the Sabbath, I will also be like him!”
And on the other hand, this is all included and is a part of Parshat “Behar (Sinai)” – an uplifting (and lofty) (אויפגעהייבענער (און געהויבענער)) place, the place of Matan Torah, where Yidden were at the epitome of loftiness, and completely higher than the world (much more that in the desert in general, which is the opposite of a settled land).
And the explanation in this, is that it is because this is the very reason:
The purpose of Matan Torah is not that Yidden should remain at “Har Sinai” - “the mountain/Behar” and not have any interaction with the world and to an order of life (סדר החיים) that is according to nature. But on the contrary, to come to a “settled land”, into a conduct according to nature, which gives room for the entire order of decline which is told in the Parsha - and with the power of “Behar Sinai”, they should overcome the hiddenness of nature.
(For although this hiddenness of nature is given a place, according to Torah –nevertheless, in general, we do not rely on a miracle, according to the question “And if you should say, "What will we eat”. Nevertheless, Torah gives the power to strengthen oneself and control (געוועלטיקן) nature, so much so that “I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year” – that even before the year of Shmittah arrives, one sees that he has “produce for three years”.
And even one that is sold to a non-Jew, which according to Torah, is subjugated to his master, in a manner that there is a supposition that “I will also be like him” – nevertheless Torah says that “You shall not make etc.” - that on aspects of Yiddishkeit, no one has dominion over a Yid).
Similarly, this is the intent and the innovation of R’ Shimon in his saying:
“There are three crowns . . but the crown of a good name (Kesser Shem Tov) surpasses them all.”
“Kesser Shem Tov” means the “good name” which a Yid has through “good deeds” (מעשים טובים).
R’ Shimon (ben Yochai)’s level was “Torato Umnato” – his sole occupation was Torah - (so much so that “Rashbi and his colleagues” (רשב״י וחבריו) are referred to in the Talmud and the Codifiers (פוסקים) as an example of one whose sole occupation is Torah - “Torato Umnato”.
R’ Shimon Bar Yochai says, that notwithstanding the great virtue of Torah, and in Torah itself, the “crown of Torah” – as Torah is in the epitome of completion in a Yid– “Torato Umnato”- nevertheless the “Crown of a good name - Kesser Shem Tov” (good deeds) “surpasses them all”, since the purpose of Torah is that it should lead to “good deeds” (which affect the world).
3. Seemingly, however, this requires explanation:
One can understand that for the majority of the world meaning those that are not ‘Toratam Umnatam’ –meaning that their main occupation is not solely in Torah
(As the Sages stated the “Many have followed the advice of R’ Yishmael, and it has worked well; others have followed R. Simeon b. Yohai and it has not been successful”),
However they relate to the category of ‘Masters of good deeds’ (מארי עובדין טבין) – that for them a “Crown of a good name” (good deeds) is a greater virtue than the “Crown of Torah”.
However how is it possible to say that R’ Shimon Bar Yochai, whose main occupation was Torah -“Torato Umnato” –
(and who is a student of R’ Akiva, who holds that “learning is greater” (תלמוד גדול))
should hold that a “Crown of a good name surpasses them all” – meaning that it is higher even than the “Crown of Torah”?
And even though it is also understood, that even according to R’ Shimon Bar Yochai, Torah itself is not sufficient, but rather that there must also be “good deeds”. And even more so, that it is like the wording in the Talmud Yerushalmi, that “R’ Shimon Bar Yochai does not concur that one halts (Torah study) in order to build a sukkah etc.”
This means, seemingly, that there must not be a lack, G-d forbid, in good deeds, even for one whose main occupation is Torah - “Torato Umnato” – just as regarding ‘masters of good deeds’, there is an obligation to study Torah (at least a chapter in the morning and a chapter in the evening) .
What however is the reasoning, that (even) one, whose main occupation is Torah - “Torato Umnato” – should consider the gathering (פארמאגן) of good deeds to be a greater virtue than the study of Torah?
4. Seemingly, one could say that this can be understood from the aforementioned Talmud Yerushalmi:
After it states that “R’ Shimon Bar Yochai does not concur that one halts (Torah study) in order to build a sukkah etc.”, the Talmud Yerushalmi asks further on:
“And does R’ Shimon Bar Yochai not concur with the dictum that one who learns in order to do .. one who learns, with the intent not to do – it is better that he was not created” (ולית לי׳ לרשב״י הלמד על מנת לעשות כוי שהלמד שלא לעשות נוח לו שלא נברא)?
From this it is understood that the reason that one must halt Torah study to “make a sukkah” is not just because there must also be the “deed of the Mitzvot” (מעשה המצות), but even more so, that this is the purpose of learning (לימוד), that the “learning” is in order “to do” (״למד״ איז — ״לעשות״).
And since the deed of the Mitzvot is the purpose of study, therefore this itself proves (געדרונגען) that it has a greater virtue and importance.
However, truthfully, the reasoning is the opposite:
The reason that one must halt Torah study in order to do a Mitzvah is (not because of the virtue of the Mitzvot but) in order that the Torah study be in the proper manner
(For if the “learning” is not “to do” – there is a lack in the (essential) learning).
And as it has been discussed, at length concerning the wording of the Alter Rebbe in Hilchot Talmud Torah
(Where he explains the law that one must halt Torah study to do a Mitzvah, which is impossible to be performed by others)
that this is the entire reason for a person’s existence, as the Sages state that the goal of wisdom is Teshuvah and good deeds, and if he does not do so, it comes out that he learned without the intent to do.
With this the Alter Rebbe means to explain, that the reason one must halt (Torah) study in order to do a Mitzvah is because this is the epitome (and completeness) of “wisdom” (Torah) itself. And therefore – “if he does not do so, we find that he learned without the intent to do”.
This means that when he does not stop, in the middle of his learning Torah, in order to do a Mitzvah (that cannot be performed through others) – the deficiency in this is (not just in that which he does not obtain the Mitzvah, but also) that his learning was not in a proper manner.
Therefore it comes out that this statement of the Sages tells us that the completeness of wisdom is Teshuvah and good deeds, however not that they are higher than Torah – therefore according to this the question returns to this place: Why does R’ Shimon Bar Yochai state that a “Crown of a good name surpasses them all”?
5. The explanation in this is:
Since the intent of Creation is to make the world an abode for G-d, therefore it is understood that all ways in Avodat HaShem, in the world are necessary (נויטיק) in order to carry out this intent –
not just the deed of Mitzvot, which are performed with physical objects, but also Torah study. And even in the manner of “Torato Umnato” - where one is completely isolated from the world –
namely, in order to make and abode for G-d.
One of the reasons of this is:
There is a maxim that “The prisoner cannot free himself from jail”. Therefore, if by the Yidden there would have only been the manner of Avodah of accomplishing while being immersed in the world, then they would not be able to refine and elevate the world from its hiddenness and concealment.
Therefore, there must (also) be, by the Yidden, the manner (תנועה) of divesting (אויסטאן) oneself and lifting oneself higher than the (hiddenness of the) world.
And the power to do this, is from those whose sole occupation is Torah - “Toratom Umnatom”. They must imbue this manner (of “Toratom Umnatom”) in all the Yidden.
For the ‘masters of good deeds’ – this means that in the times that they must (according to Torah) devote themselves to Torah study,
Even if it is one chapter in the morning and one chapter in the evening –
at that time of study, their study should be in the same manner as one who has no other “occupation” (and therefore – worries) except for the study of Torah.
6. In order that the Yid, whose sole occupation is Torah -“Torato Umnato” - be able to tear himself from his study and give of himself, and deal with other Yidden, it is not enough that he think of this, only when he must actually deal with another Yid– for then, since he is routinely immersed in study – it could be that he will not be able to, overcome himself, to tear himself away from the Torah study, and deal with one who is lower than the condition of “Torato Umnato” .
Therefore the Torah study itself must be undertaken with the intent that the purpose of the study is in order to imbue in the world – even in others - the motion of “Torato Umnato”.
(This is similar to what is explained concerning the special virtue of R’ Akiva where “he entered in peace and left in peace” – not like the others who “entered the Pardes” and did not leave in peace. The reason that he “left in peace” is because he “entered in peace”. His entering in the Pardes - his “Ratzu” - leaving the world because of his yearning for G‑d (in the Pardes) – was “with peace” ( בשלום) – meaning with the intent that from the “Ratzu” there should afterwards be a “Shuv” – a dedication to Divine service in the world, and therefore he - “left in peace”)
According to this one could explain the aforementioned Talmud Yerushalmi
(Regarding the interruption of Torah study, even for one whose manner of study is that of “Torato Umnato” - in order to perform a Mitzvah) –
that “R’ Shimon Bar Yochai does not concur that one halts etc.”
(And the Talmud Yerushalmi adds another aspect)
“And does R’ Shimon Bar Yochai not concur with the dictum that one who learns in order to do etc.” -
For one could say that with this the Talmud Yerushalmi means to say that -
(Not only does he actually halt in order to build a sukkah etc., and not only that the purpose of the study is when it comes down into the actual “to do” (לעשות) (as aforementioned par 4) but even more so), that
The “study” itself was “in order to do” (על מנח לעשות). Even in the midst of the study one must realize that the intent and the purpose of the study is – “to do” (for otherwise, it may be impossible to interrupt).
7. One could however ask:
It is understandable when the study is not in a manner of “Torato Umnato” – when one is not completely removed from the aspect of the world etc. – then one could understand how it could occur that at the time of the study itself, one should think about lowering himself and engaging in the world for the benefit of another.
however, when it speaks about someone whose sole occupation is Torah -“Torato Umnato” – how can he, at the time that he is immersed in such a manner of study, think about dealing with someone who is connected with “and you shall gather your grain” - is this not two things that contradict each other?
The explanation in this is:
The reason that “Ratzu” (running out of the world) and “Shuv” (being in the world) are opposite motions is because of the limitation (מדידת) of created beings and Seder Hishtalshelut.
however, when a Yid stands above limitation, and in simple language: When he stands in a manner of Bitul to God’s will - and that all his deeds are in this manner – then whether it is in a manner of “Ratzu” or whether it is in a manner of “Shuv” – his Pnimiyut and standing is the same – namely, self-abnegation (to God’s Will).
It states that the emissary of person is like the person himself (שלוחו של אדם כמותו), and the servant of a king is a king himself (עבד מלך מלך). This is so whether the mission and the Avodah are in things that befit the level of the sender (המשלח) and the king, or whether they are at the level of the messenger and the servant.
From God’s perspective, who is Omnipotent (נושא הפכים), both of these manners can coexist at the same time.
Therefore, when one’s sole occupation is Torah study - “Torato Umnato”, yet it is due to his own pleasure (זיין געשמאק) – there indeed, may be that at the time, not be the intent for the “Shuv”.
However, when one learns Torah in the manner of carrying out the intent of G-d (כוונת העצמות) (to make and abode for G-d in the lower realms) – then both extremes can coexist at the same time.
He can be completely immersed in Torah and, at the same time, can be taken up with the knowledge that the purpose of his study is in order to lower himself and influence those that engage in business (בעלי עסקים).
8. The aforementioned aspect is found regarding R’ Shimon Bar Yochai.
The Talmud states that when R’ Shimon Bar Yochai came out of the cave, after being there for twelve years, and seeing how people are engaged in plowing and sowing, said “'They forsake eternal lifeand engage in temporal life! Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up”
Specifically after the thirteenth year did it say:
“Wherever R’ Eleazar wounded, R’ Shimon healed. Said he to him, 'My son! You and I are sufficient for the world” (די לעולם אני ואתה).
The preciseness of the wording “You and I are sufficient for the world” (in the occupation of Torah) is
(not that it is sufficient when only they alone are “occupied with Torah” and others will not, G-d forbid, occupy themselves with Torah, but)
that it is sufficient that they had “Torato Umnato”, in order to imbue (אויפטאן) this very manner in the world (as it states: “it is sufficient for the world”).
And one could say that this is also alluded to in the difference between the twelfth and the thirteenth (year):
The number twelve depicts Seder Hishtalshelut (the twelve months of the year, twelve edges of a cube etc.) whereas thirteen represents that which is higher than Hishtalshelut.
From the perspective of the level of “twelve” – Hishtalshelut, where “Ratzu” and “Shuv” are opposites, it states: “They forsake eternal life and engage in temporal life!” There is no connection from “eternal life” and “temporal life“ (that even those that are like “Rebbe and his descendants” should devote themselves to the manner of “eternal life“).
Specifically with the level of “thirteen”, is there the conduct of “R’ Shimon healed” (הוה מסי רײש) - not separating from the world, but on the contrary – healing the world (since it is sick) – meaning imbuing in the world the manner being “occupied with Torah” (עוסקי תורה).
9. This is also the explanation in that which R’ Shimon Bar Yochai says a “Crown of a good name surpasses them all”. This means (in Pnimiyut) that the aspect of “good deeds” in the aspect of Torah study itself – giving of oneself to others. That even those who possess the “Crown of Torah”- “Torato Umnato”- should possess the manner of good deeds.
And therefore a “Crown of a good name surpasses them all”.
For when in conjunction to his individual study, which is in a manner of “Crown of Torah” (“Torato Umnato”) - there is also ”Al Gabeihem” (על גביהן) – (“On top of them”) - the “Crown of a good name”
(This means that the “Crown of Torah” itself (and similarly the “Crown of priesthood”, and the “Crown of kingship” is in a manner of “a good name”) –
giving of oneself to others – then it is in a manner of “surpasses/elevating” (עולה), meaning that the purpose and intent of his Torah study is expressed.
According to the Remez/homily, one could say that:
The reason the aforementioned saying of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai was placed in Mishnah thirteen of the Perek, is to allude, that this aspect of “Crown of a good name surpasses them all” was accomplished by R’ Shimon Bar Yochai (after being in the cave for thirteen years -) is from the level of “thirteen”, as aforementioned.
10. With this one can understand the connection of all the aforementioned to Lag B’Omer:
It states in Zohar that on the day of his Histalkus, R’ Shimon Bar Yochai (in consequence of that which he alone attained the highest understanding in the secrets of Torah (רזין דאורייתא)), revealed to his students “holy words that have not been revealed until now” (מלין קדישין דלא גליאן עד השתא).
This coincides with the general innovation of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai regarding the secrets of Torah:
Other Tannaim, who dealt with Torah Secrets did not reveal them to others. R’ Shimon Bar Yochai‘s aspect was the connection of the hidden (סתים) and the revealed (גליא) -
Therefore, he brought into revelation specifically that part of Torah, which is in a manner of “secret” (רז) (since it is higher than revelation in the world)
(And one could say that this is similar to the connection between “eternal life” and “temporal life“)
11. This very connection of “eternal life” (higher than the world) and “temporal life“ (being in the world) – is also the essential point of Parshat Behar:
In the Parsha it is emphasizes that even when one deals with earthy things – “Eretz” - and nature, there is also the “Behar Sinai” which represents that which is higher than the world and nature, and moreover – this is a part of (Parshat) Behar Sinai, of carrying out the intent of Matan Torah on Har Sinai.
And as this is expressed in the beginning of the Sidra (which includes the entire Sidra) and in the conclusion of the Sidra (which everything goes after the conclusion) (הכל הולך אחר החיתום).
In the beginning of the Sidra it speaks regarding the Mitzvah of Shmittah, whose innovation it, that even a Yid who is engaged in the work of the land (עבודת אדמה), and in a manner that according to Torah, he asks “And if you should say ’What will we eat?’” (as above Par.2), that he should have a year of “Shabbat to G-d“ (שבת לה׳), when he can devote and dedicate himself, in actuality, with “Har Sinai” – Torah study - without worries (similar to “Torato Umnato”).
And on a more sublime level:
The Name of G-d (Shabbat to G-d) which is higher than nature, illuminates in him.
And in the conclusion of the Sidra there is, in this aspect, even a greater innovation (“written in a meaningful order,” (על הסדר)) - that even one who is “sold to a non-Jew” -
which represents the decline in the world, and in nature itself –the epitome of decline, where he becomes subjugated to a non-Jew so much so that there is (as aforementioned par 2) a supposition in Torat Emet that “I will also be like him!” -
nevertheless, Torah says that not only is the command: “do not make”,
(That no one can have dominion on a Yid in the aspect of Torah and Mitzvot),
but even more so - that it states: “I am G-d - faithful to pay reward”.
The aspect of the reward for a Mitzvah (שכר מצוה) shows that the G-dly light which is drawn down and is revealed through the fulfillment of a mitzvah, illuminates within the person and comes down into him in understanding. This means that even one who is sold to a non-Jew, can rise higher than the subjugation of his master and come to the level of “I am G-d” which is above nature.
mSichas Shabbat Parshat Behar-Bechukotai 5723, 5724
Shabbat Parshat Emor 5737
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