Parshios Behar & Bechukosai
How "Aliyah L'Regel" Sneaks In To Be One of the "Big Three"
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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
Transcribed by David Twersky; Seattle, WA [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
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
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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