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Torah Sparks

May 19, 2001 - 5761

Prepared by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Sinai, Hollywood, FL

Edited by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Lev. 25:1-27:34; Hertz Chumash, p. 531
Triennial Cycle III: Lev. 27:1-34; Hertz Chumash, 547
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14; Hertz Chumash, 550

(25:1-22) The land shall be sanctified through the shemittah, the Sabbatical year of agricultural rest. Also, every 50th year is a Jubilee, in which all land and slaves are to be released. The land returns to its original owners, the slaves are freed. Thus, no land is sold forever; it is in effect a lease until the next Jubilee, which must be reckoned in the price. Faithful observance of these laws is to be rewarded with ample crops in the sixth year of the seventh cycle, so that there will be enough food for two years.

(25:23-26:2) Even between Jubilee years, families must help impoverished relatives regain their holdings. An Israelite or resident alien who becomes impoverished should be loaned money at no interest. Laws limiting the power of a slaveowner, against idolatry, and the observance of Shabbat.

(26:3-13) The blessings of peace and prosperity Israel will receive if they follow the way of Torah and mitzvot.

(26:14-46) The curses and punishments that Israel will suffer if they violate the covenant, including defeat in war, famine and exile. It concludes with words of comfort; if Israel will return to God in repentance, God will forgive them.

(27:1-13) Laws concerning a vow to donate the valuation of a person and of an animal to the Temple. The Torah sets forth specific shekel amounts for different aged males and females. Pledges of animals to the sanctuary.

(27:14-29) Laws concerning the redemption of houses and fields, the redemption of the firstborn, and the devotion of property to the Temple.

(27:30-34) Laws concerning the tithe of fruit, sheep and cattle; the conclusion of the Book of Leviticus.

Theme 1 - Death By Vow

No human being who has been proscribed can be ransomed: he shall be put to death. (Lev. 27:29)

  1. And Jephthah made the following vow to the Lord: "If you deliver the Ammonites into my hands, then whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me on my safe return from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's and shall be offered by me as a burnt offering"....When Jephthah arrived at his home in Mizpah, there was his daughter coming out to meet him, with timbrel and dance! She was an only child... On seeing her he rent his clothes and said, "Alas, daughter, You have brought me low; you have become my troubler! For I have uttered a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract." [Judges 11:30-31, 34-35)
  2. Kimchi, Ralbag and Abarbanel (Biblical commentators) maintain that the "and" before "I will offer it" should be rendered "or" and the phrase read: "It shall be the Lord's, or I will offer it up as a burnt-offering."; i.e. if it be an object permitted for sacrifice I will offer it; other wise, it shall be dedicated, in some other way to the Lord....There was thus an implicit reservation in the vow to offer the first living object that met him, namely, "if it be proper for such purpose." Jephthah therefore did not offer her up as a burnt-offering, but "he made a house for her and brought her into it and she was there separated from mankind and from the ways of the world" (Comment on Judges 11:31)
  3. All these are words of emptiness. For if he vowed that (whatsoever comes forth out of the door of his house) shall be the Eternal's, this does not mean that she should be a recluse (from the world), but instead he is to be like Samuel, of whom his mother said, "and I shall give him unto the Eternal," and he was a servant in the House of G-d, not a recluse. And according to the ordinances of the Torah, no man can utter a vow which will bind the persons who come out of the door of his house to live thereafter in seclusion, just as he cannot bring them as an offering. (Ramban, Comment on Lev. 27:29)

Discussion Sparks:

One of the most important acts of character is to keep our word. What happens when we say something we shouldn't say, or promise something we shouldn't promise? Do we always have to keep our word? Can you think of times when NOT keeping your word is an act of great character? Where does Kol Nidre fit into this discussion? When do we have to annul a vow to G-d?

Theme 2 - He is A Rare Leader, Easily One in A Minyan

All tithes of the herd or flock that pass under the shepherd's staff, every tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. (Lev. 27:32)

  1. When in the sixtieth year after the death of the Kotzker, the Gerer accepted election as leader of the Kotzker Hasidim, the Rabbi said: "I should ask myself: Why have I deserved to become the leader of thousands of good people" I know that I am not more learned or more pious than others. The only reason why I accept the appointment is because so many good men and true have proclaimed me to be their leader. We find that a cattle breeder in Palestine during the days when the Temple stood was enjoined by our Torah (Lev. 27:32) to drive his newborn cattle or sheep into an enclosure in single file, When they went into the enclosure, they were all of the same station, but when over the tenth one the owner pronounced the words, "consecrated unto the Lord," it was set aside for holier purposes. In the same fashion when Jews pronounce a man to be holier than his fellows, he becomes, in truth, a consecrated person. (Abram Alter; Meir Einei HaGolah, 1928; 2:29-30 in L. Newman; The Hasidic Anthology)

Discussion Sparks:

Are leaders really different from everyone else? Does religious leadership call for a different set of leadership characteristics? If humility is a positive characteristic in leadership then should you wait to be asked to lead, or should you campaign for the appointment?

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