Parshios Behar & Bechukosai
How “Aliyah L’Regel” Sneaks In To Be One of the “Big Three”
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Weekly Portion Torah CDs/Tapes: # 812, How Much Is That Tiffany Necklace? Good Shabbos!
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At the end of Parshas Behar, the pasuk says: “You shall not make idols for yourselves, and you shall not erect for yourselves a statue or a pillar, and in your land you shall not emplace a flooring stone upon which to prostrate oneself – for I am Hashem, your G-d. My Sabbaths shall you observe and My Sanctuary shall you revere – I am Hashem.” [Vayikra 26:1-2]
The Torah has already warned against making idols in many places, but for some reason, the Torah repeats this prohibition here. Likewise, the Torah already mentioned the observance of Shabbos several times. The same can be said about Fear of the Sanctuary. It is worth asking, what are these specific mitzvos doing here again at the end of our parsha?
Rashi points out that the immediately preceding pasukim speak about a Jew who was sold as a slave to a pagan idol worshiper. Rashi comments that the two pasukim found at the end of the parsha are specifically directed at just this poor unfortunate person who finds himself as a Jewish slave, forced to work for a pagan idol worshiper master. Lest this person think “Since my master is immoral, I can be immoral as well”, the Torah warns him that even under those circumstances, he is still obligated to conduct himself according to the rules of Jewish morality – monotheistic loyalty, Shabbos observance, and reverence for the Sanctuary.
The Ramban quotes the same idea, but adds another point as well. The Ramban writes that the warning – to this Jewish slave – that he must still keep the law of “My Sanctuary shall you revere” means that this individual is still commanded in the mitzvah of ascending to the Beis HaMikdash on the pilgrimage festivals (Aliyah l’Regel). He must visit Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] and be inspired by the Temple service there.
The Ramban writes that, certainly, the Jewish slave in the pagan idol worshiper’s home is obligated to keep the entire Torah – all the mitzvos. However, the 3 commandments singled out in these 2 pasukim represent the “Avos” (prototypes) for all other mitzvos. These are “The Big 3”: Avodah Zarah [Idolatry]; Shabbos; and . . . Aliyah L’Regel!
This grouping is not what we normally think of when we think about “The Big Three” of mitzvos. We can understand that the Torah is concerned about the spiritual welfare of this unfortunate Jew living in a pagan idol worshiper’s house without contact with Jewish society and a Jewish environment. We can understand that the Torah needs to tell him that he still has an obligation to keep the Torah and emphasizes this by repeating the warning against transgression of the major capital offenses. Idolatry and Sabbath observance fit into this category. But — Aliyah L’Regel? This would not seem to make it into anyone’s list of the “Top 3” (or even the “Top 10” or “Top 25”) of critical commandments which define the essence of a person’s connection to Torah. What does the Ramban mean by this?
Rav Simcha Zissel Brodie, in his Sefer (Sam Derech), gives a beautiful interpretation of this Ramban.
The Book of Devarim, in Parshas Re’eh, contains the laws of Maaser Sheni [the Second Tithe], which in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of the 7-year Shmitah cycle requires the Jew to bring 10% of his crop (or its value, if properly redeemed for silver) to Yerushalayim and to consume it there. The pasuk, in describing that mitzvah, writes: “And you will eat before Hashem your G-d in the Place that He chooses to cause His Presence to dwell, the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, and the firstborn of your cattle and your flocks, so that you will learn to fear Hashem, your G-d, all the days.” [Devorim 14:23]
Tosofos in Bava Basra 21a asks what the connection is between eating fruit in Yerushalayim fear of Heaven? Tosfos there answers: Since he would see a great sanctity (Kedusha Gedolah) and he would see the Kohanim busying themselves with the Divine Service, he would focus his heart more on Fear of Heaven and learning Torah, as is taught in the Sifrei: “…Great is Ma’aser Sheni (the mitzvah of the second tithe) for it inspires one to study and grow spiritually. When one spends time in Yerushalayim (while he consuming 10% of his annual produce) and sees all the residents of that Holy City occupying themselves with the Service of Heaven, he too will focus his heart to the Fear of Heaven and occupy himself with Torah.”
When a person goes up to the Beis HaMikdash and sees the awe and reverence of how one is supposed to act in the Beis HaMikdash, he has not merely fulfilled a single mitzvah. The experience will impact his performance of all other mitzvos as well! The Jew who goes up to Yerushalayim for the mitzvah of Aliyah L’Regel or for the purpose of consuming Maaser Sheni, sees a city whose primary industry is Avodas Hashem [Service of G-d]! The essence of the city is not steel, it is not computers, it is not airplanes. The industry of Yerushalayim was Divine Service! It would inspire every visitor who went there to improve his own Divine Service and improve the quality and quantity of his own Torah study. The Fear of Hashem is absorbed – literally by osmosis – in the precincts of the Beis HaMikdash.
Now we can understand why “Aliyah L’Regel” can be counted as one of the “Big Three”. This poor Jew was not a righteous person. As Rashi develops the whole evolution of what brought him to that state: He neglected the mitzvah of Shmitah [Sabbatical year’s agricultural restrictions], he wound up needing to sell his property and ultimately even himself, and not only to a Jewish owner but to a non-Jewish owner! Now he is stuck in the middle of nowhere – without parents, without siblings, without friends, without a shul, nothing to maintain his connection to His Father In Heaven!
He does not have society pressuring him to stay a Jew. He does not have peer pressure encouraging him to remain faithful. There is only one thing he will have going for him to keep him from giving it all up – and that is Yiras Shomayim (Fear of Heaven). How is he going to acquire Yiras Shomayim?
The pasuk advises him: Ask your master to give you off on Yom Tov so that you may travel to Yerushalayim. Once the person sees the Beis HaMikdash and the awe that permeates it, he will acquire Yiras Shomayim. He will see the Service of the Priests and will take that dedication and inspiration back with him. That Yiras Shomayim will hold him until the next Yom Tov.
Once we appreciate the link between Aliyah L’Regel and Yiras Shomayim, we clearly understand why this is one of the “Big Three”. As Rabbeinu Yonah writes about Fear of Heaven, “all other mitzvos flow from this”. Yiras Shomayim is the name of the game when it comes to mitzvah observance. One who possesses Fear of Heaven will be an upstanding Jew. When a person does not possess Fear of Heaven – anything can happen.
This is the ultimate wisdom of Shlomo HaMelech [King Solomon]. After all of the Book of Koheles, Shlomo HaMelech gives us the bottom line: “The sum of the matter, when all has been considered: Fear G-d and keep His commandments; for that is man’s whole duty.” [Koheles 12:13].
That is why it is so eminently clear that the “Big 3” in Judaism are Idolatry, Sabbath, and Aliyah L’Regel or — as we now know it to be — “Fear of Heaven”.
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah Portion. The halachic topics covered for the current week’s portion in this series are:
Tape # 011 – Rationing Medical Care
Tape # 012 – Can Teachers Strike?
Tape # 054 – Life Insurance: The Torah Policy
Tape # 055 – Candle Lighting & Havdalah: How Early & How Late?
Tape # 097 – “Ribis” Problems of Interest for the Jew in a Mercantile Society
Tape # 098 – “Cheremei Tzibur”: A Ban on Living in Germany?
Tape # 145 – Kidney Donations: Endangering Oneself to Save Another
Tape # 192 – Making Shabbos Early
Tape # 282 – The Physician’s Obligation to Heal
Tape # 328 – Sh’mita and the Heter Mechira
Tape # 372 – Using Shuls As A Shortcut
Tape # 416 – Supporting Jewish Merchants
Tape # 460 – The Obligation of Checking One’s Teffilin
Tape # 504 – Lag B’Omer
Tape # 548 – Marrying for Money
Tape # 592 – Ribis and the Non-Jew
Tape # 636 – The Kedusha of the Ezras Noshim
Tape # 680 – Is Ribis Ever Permitted?
Tape # 724 – The Chazzan Who Changes His Mind
Tape # 768 – Dos and Don’ts of Treating a Lender
Tape # 812 – How Much Is That Tiffany Necklace?
Tape # 856 – Distractions When Performing A Mitzvah
Tape # 900 – Oy! My Tefillin Are Pasul
Tape # 945 – Overcharing: How Much Is Too Much?
Tape # 987 – Limud HaTorah – Must You Understand What You Are Learning?
Tape # 988 – Bentching – Making Sure You Eat and Enjoy
Tape #1031 – Sh’mitta – How Did the Farmers Survive?
Tape #1032 – The Child Molester – What Must We Do?
Tape #1076 – Cheating in Business: It May Be More Asur Than You Think
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