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Yud-Aleph Nissan, 5745

Yud-Gimmel Nissan, 5745

Tzivos Hashem

Acharon Shel Pesach

Yechidus: 25th Day Of Nissan, 5745

Parshas Shemini

Pirkei Avos: Chapter 1


Pirkei Avos: Chapter 3

Lag B'omer


Pride And Humility

Convention of N'shei uBnos Chabad

Tzivos Hashem

Erev Shavuos


Shavuos, 5745


Parshas Nasso

Prison And Reform -- A Torah View

Graduates Of Bais Rivkah

Shabbos Parshas Shelach

Sichos In English
Volume 26

Pride And Humility

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  27th Day Of Iyar, 574528th Day Of Iyar, 5745  

How do we combine the pride and self-assurance of Torah life with the humility of unquestioning acceptance? Behar symbolizes rising above the restrictions of corporeal existence -- pride. Bechukosai teaches us that all mitzvos should be observed in the manner of statutes, by accepting the "Yoke of Heaven" -- humility. The combination of Behar and Bechukosai teaches us this superior form of Divine service.

[Note: The Pentateuch is divided into 54 weekly portions (some sources put the number at 53, counting Nitzavim and Vayeilech as one) which are read in the synagogue on Shabbos mornings. Since there are less than 54 weeks in a year, and when a holiday falls on Shabbos the usual portion is not read, it is therefore necessary to "double up" and read two portions on several Shabbosim of the year.]

When two portions are combined and read on one Shabbos each one retains its individual theme and at the same time we have the added lesson of the combination.

The loftiness of the mountain symbolizes the power we have to transcend the limitations of the corporeal world. The self-abnegation of Bechukosai -- statutes -- must be present in all areas of Torah observance -- together they mesh and meld into an ideal system of true G-dly service. The staunchness comes from G-d's command and the humility evolves from the steadfastness of the leopard! Every Jew can become a living Mount Sinai.

When Behar and Bechukosai unite on one Shabbos, they form a pattern which says: Your mountain must be a statute and your statute must be a mountain.

In some years the portions of Behar and Bechukosai are read on different weeks, in which case there would clearly be a unique lesson to be learned from each portion. In a year when the two are "doubled up" and read on one Shabbos, thereby constituting one portion, they still retain their individual identities and, hence, their unique directives. There will, however, be an additional lesson which we may garner from the unification of the two portions.

An analogy to this would be a person who has two or more names. Normally every Hebrew name has a certain meaning and context, and when a double name is written, a space is inserted between the two names to show that each name is an entity for itself. Notwithstanding this, the two names do belong to one person and when they are written in a legal document they must be written on one line.

Consequently, when Behar and Bechukosai are read together we have three themes: (A) the lesson of Behar, (B) the lesson of Bechukosai, and (C) a lesson from the combination of Behar-Bechukosai.

Let us therefore approach the individual theme of each portion, and then see the theme of the combination, which surely is the predominant theme when they are united.


A mountain (Har) symbolizes aloofness and loftiness. When this physical attribute is translated into a Jew's Divine service, it symbolizes a state of elevation from the restrictiveness of worldly existence, just as the mountain rises over the valley or plain.

Let us put it this way:

Although, "You are among the smallest of all the nations," (Devorim 7:7) nevertheless, "do not be intimidated by the mockers," for you stand as a lofty peak hovering over and transcending the constricting corporeal existence of the world.

In its Scriptural context the term Behar refers to Mount Sinai, of which the Midrash states: "It was the smallest of mountains." When this aspect is translated into the person's Divine service it reads: True, you must be staunch as a mountain, stand aloof and don't be stymied by any obstacles or worldly restriction, yet, at the same time you must give special care not to step into a framework of pride or haughtiness.

This concept is paraphrased succinctly by the Alter Rebbe in Shulchan Aruch:

"Be strong (bold) as a leopard ... be not ashamed of the people who scoff;" and at the same time, "take care not to become insolent."

This care is, of course, a necessary condition and prerequisite for acceptance of Torah -- for there must be humility -- self-nullification -- "the smallest of mountains"; as we say in the Amidah: "... let my soul be as dust to all, open my heart to Your Torah." (Siddur)

And yet, the portion is called "Behar," indicating that the essential lesson is to rise above the worldliness. The "Sinai" aspect tempers the "heights" to negate the unsavory aspects of "haughtiness."

Yes, a mountain could be unholy! Mountains were used as places for idol worship "... worship their gods on the high mountains" (Devorim 12:2). The Talmud relates that "the Canaanites did not miss one mountain or hill where they did not worship idols." Therefore care is necessary to be a Mount Sinai -- not just a mountain.


All Torah and mitzvos are included in the directive: "If you follow My statutes (Bechukosai),..." nevertheless, a more precise reading of the word Bechukosai reminds us of the group of mitzvos known as Chukim -- statutes. This teaches us that all mitzvos should be observed in the manner of statutes by accepting "the yoke of heaven." The Holy One, blessed be He says: "I have laid down a statute, I have issued a decree" (Bereishis Rabbah 19:1), and, "You have no right to criticize it" (Yoma 67b). Your observance in action should be completely and absolutely pure, and that leaves no room for questions or doubtful thoughts.

It is here of course where the yetzer hora -- evil inclination -- comes along and argues: "'... this is your wisdom and understanding,...' Torah must first be understood and grasped intellectually -- following that you can do the mitzvos!"

This was the rationale of the "Yevsektzia" -- (secret police for Jewish matters in Soviet Russia). "How can you coerce young children to accept the Jewish lifestyle, including Torah study and observance of mitzvos? It is religious coercion," they reasoned, "wait until the child matures and becomes intellectually independent -- then he will be able to decide and choose for himself what his path in life will be."

"Why are you concerned about what he will choose?" they said, "You call it the 'Torah of Truth,' certainly he will eventually choose the proper and true path!" The fact of course is that, in the meantime, the opposite side will be invigorated. As the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya:

On the contrary, with the passing of time it (the animal soul) has gained strength, because the man has indulged it considerably, in eating and drinking and other mundane pursuits.

(Tanya Ch. 13)

As a result of which: "Jeshurun thus became fat and rebelled." (Devorim 32:15)

"Well that is not his fault," they respond, "That is because of the nature which G-d gave to man!"

When we are faced with these arguments, whether from man or spirit, we must turn to Bechukosai. Bechukosai teaches us that, first of all we must observe Torah and live as a Jew in action, without reason or rationale; later we will learn and understand as much as the human intellect can grasp. "We will obey!" comes before "we will hear!"

Paradoxically, a quick analysis of these two lessons of "Behar" and "Bechukosai" will point out their opposing themes. On the one hand we demand strong self-reliance, and raised loftiness -- the role of the mountain. On the other hand we find self-abnegation and bittul, absolute self-denial. No mountain, not even a plateau. You have no right to criticize or question -- complete submission! Being opposing directives they clearly must apply in different settings.

One must show staunch loftiness regarding the external worldliness -- not to be intimidated by restrictions, limitations or derisive scoffers etc.

At the other end of the spectrum, when we are dealing with the "strange G-d within you" -- meaning the yetzer hora (see Shabbos 105b), or other aspects of our own inner negativeness, then we must not succumb to the false notion that the mind is supreme or that understanding supercedes all. Quite the contrary, your Divine service should put doing before understanding, humility first!

When Behar and Bechukosai are united on one Shabbos, a new directive emerges. When these two divergent philosophies unite they coalesce to form a pattern that says: Your "mountain" must be a "statute" and your "statute" must be a "mountain."

You must be staunch and aloof but it must not stem from your own self-importance, rather, only because of G-d's command. If you had been hesitant or diffident and really had trouble engendering that attitude of loftiness -- because you knew your own weaknesses -- now you can reach that peak, because it comes not from you, but from the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Now in the opposite realm -- when you are "doing" and then "thinking" because you realize that it is a statute and decree and you have no right to criticize, then your action should not be humble -- it should not be subdued or second rate. Embarrassed? No! Add the loftiness of the mountain -- and the steadfastness of the leopard.

There are several double portions read during the year -- but these two have a special symbiotic unity. The first verse in Behar is: "G-d spoke to Moshe at Mount (Behar) Sinai" (Vayikra 25:1). The closing verse of Bechukosai is: "These are the commandments that G-d gave Moshe for the Israelites at Mount Sinai." (Ibid 27:34)

May G-d grant that every Jew will attain all of these aspects in the fullest measure -- to become a living "Mount Sinai." [When one studies all the halachos in Rambam and then knows the whole Torah he will become a "Mount Sinai."] In this manner the Torah Jew will be capable of influencing the whole world. This is described in the Talmud:

When the Torah was given to Israel the sound thereof travelled from one end of the earth to the other, and all the heathen kings were seized with trembling in their palaces.... They all assembled by the wicked Bilaam and asked him: "What is this tumultuous noise that we have heard?..." "He has a precious treasure in His storehouse, ... and He has desired to give to His children, as it is said 'The L-rd will give strength unto His people.'" Forthwith they all exclaimed: "The L-rd will bless His people with peace." (Zevachim 116a)

Thus the gentile nations of the world will take heed and give honor, homage and glory:

And kings shall be your foster fathers and their queens your nursing mothers. (Yeshayah 49:23)

It is through our devoted actions while still in golus, in all these matters, with joy and glad hearts, that we will merit the coming of our righteous Moshiach.

May he come and redeem us, and lead us, walking upright, to our Holy Land, speedily and truly in our days.

  27th Day Of Iyar, 574528th Day Of Iyar, 5745  
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