Parashat Behar בְּהַר‎

Our parasha starts with somewhat an odd sentence “HaShem speaks to Moshe at Mount Sinai” (“וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-משֶֹׁה, בְּהַר סִינַי לֵאמרֹ”). In many previous Parashot we notice that HaShem “speaks” to Moshe, yet not mentioning a specific and exact location. Why? This came to teach us several notions related to the Oral Torah teachings and specifically the importance of the Sabbatical Year, the “Shmita Year” “שנת שמיטה”. The “Shmita Year” is the seventh year of rest for the land following the arrival of Bnei-Yisrael to the land of Israel. Most importantly we see the significant importance of the number Seven, as it is a very holy number and time. HaShem gave Moshe the Written Torah and the Oral Torah all on Mount Sinai, along with all the Mitzvot and the Laws conforming to the profound understanding and teachings of our Divine Torah. The Zohar says that since Bnei-Yisrael were in the desert for forty years and didn’t keep the mitzvah of “Shmita Year” “שנת שמיטה”, HaShem mentioned Mount Sinai to point out that this mitzvah is important as the rest of mitzvot given on Mount Sinai. This Mitzvah will be preformed for the first time 20 years after entering the land of Israel.

We learn in Pirkey Avot, that “Moshe received Torah from Mount Sinai” as it says in the verse “Moshe Kibel Torah Me’Sinai Ve’Mesarah Le’Yehoshuah” “משה קבל תורה מסיני ומסרה ליהושע”, and he “transferred it” it to Joshua, and Joshua transferred it to the elderly (the 70 Sanhedrin), and they transferred it to Bnei-Yisrael”. This term “from Mount Sinai” is a bit puzzling since Moshe received the Torah from HaShem and not from Mount Sinai (it was on Mount Sinai). The Midrash says that all the mountains in the Sinai desert were fighting to be chosen one for Matan Torah (the receiving of the Torah), and they each wanted to have the Ten Commandments given on them. The only mountain that remained humble was Mount Sinai. Moshe witnessed such humility and modesty and decided to adopt these traits. Moshe then asked to have the term “משה קבל תורה מסיני” written as his own learning and way of life.  The Chid”a (Rabbi Yosef Haim David Azulay) said that this Parasha is really the first Parasah of the Book of Sefer VaYikra, but due to the curses in next Parasha of BeChukotai, Moshe placed Parashat Behar (“בְּהַר”) to provide Bnei-Yisrael with the Mitzvah of the “שמיטה” “Shmita Year”. Our Sages say that if we don’t keep the mitzvah of “Shmita”, these curses will be brought upon us.

Mount Sinai is also known as Mount Chorev (“חורב”), and we learn an interesting explanation to this name. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai רבי שמעון בר יוחאי (the author of the Zohar, Book of Radiance) was hiding in a cave with his son Rabbi Eliazer for thirteen years and was taught the secrets of the Kabbala by HaShem’s Angel. By ways of miracles a tree of carobs and a stream of water were available at the entrance to the cave. For the entire time, they ate the fruit of the carob which is call “Charuv” (“חרוב”) in Hebrew, same letters as the name Chorev (“חורב”), aka Mount Sinai. The Gemara teaches us that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar “took off their clothes” and buried their bodies in the sand while they studied Torah. In my humbled opinion I believe that they left their physical “Cloths” their bodies, and went up to Mount Chorev (“חורב”), to receive the Zohar and its secrets, just as Moshe went up to Mount Chorev (“חורב”), aka Mount Sinai. Rashbi was a Tana, a great sage in the early Common Era centuries after the second Beit-Hamikdash. He was also Rabbi Akiva’s direct disciple. Numerous legends have been told about Rashbi, who was mentioned repeatedly in the Talmud and in the Midrash, the sacred Hebrew texts of his time. According to our Sages, Eliyahu Ha’Vavi (Eliyahu the prophet) fought them the “secret” of the Torah, the Kabbalah. Some say it was the Angel Raziel.

We know this from Pirkey Avot, as it is written that “Moshe received Torah from Mount Sinai and he “transfer it” it to Joshua, and Joshua transferred it to the elderly (the 70 members of the Sanhedrin), and they transferred it to Bnei-Yisrael”. The verse “משה קבל תורה מסיני ומסרה ליהושע” alludes to such teachings and transferring of divine information that was only given to the Jews. We also learn from the word “Kibel” (“קבל” – received) the teachings of the Kabbala as its root word is “Kibel” (“קבל”).. We also learn such also from the book of Tehilim about the Oral Torah teachings.

Tehilim (119:6)

כָּל הַמִּצְווֹת שֶׁנִּתְּנוּ לוֹ לְמֹשֶׁה בְּסִינַי–בְּפֵרוּשָׁן נִתְּנוּ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “וְאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אֶת-לֻחֹת הָאֶבֶן, וְהַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה”  “תּוֹרָה”, זוֹ תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב; וּ”מִצְוָה”, זֶה פֵּרוּשָׁהּ.  וְצִוָּנוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת הַתּוֹרָה, עַל פִּי הַמִּצְוָה.  וּמִצְוָה זוֹ, הִיא הַנִּקְרֵאת תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה

All the commandments that were given to Moshe at Sinai were given together with their interpretation, as it is written (Shemot 24:12), “and I will give thee the Tables of Stone, and the Law, and the Commandment”. “Law” is the Written Law, and “Commandment” is its Interpretation. We are commanded to fulfill the Law, according to the Commandment. And this Commandment is called the Oral Law.

The Zohar teaches us that the Sabbatical Year, the “Shmita Year”, is a time for total rest for both the body and the soul. When we keep and honor the “Shmita Year” we are considered as if we “enter” the Promised Land and left the “Galut”, the exile. There will be no lower judgment when we enter Israel, and Bnei-Yisrael will be rested on the wing of the Cherubs, as promised in the book of Yeshayahu, ”He will gather in the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” In the first verse we see the words “כִּי תָבאֹוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ”, “upon your entrance to the holy land”. The Zohar says that HaShem was speaking to the Neshamot (souls) who will descend into the physical land (as man was made out of the land).

HaShem choses to reinforce his promise to Avraham and our forefathers by giving the “Promised Land” to Bnei-Yisrael, as we see in verse 2 “אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נתֵֹן לָכֶם”.  This came to allude to His wish for us to have a complete faith in Him and His commandments. HaShem instructed Moshe to teach Bnei-Yisrael the method of how to place their truest in him, by having a Sabbatical Year, immediately after arriving to the Land of Israel. Despite being in the desert for so many years, and experiencing many hardships on the way to Israel, HaShem provided Bnei-Yisrael with an odd request of not enjoying the Promised Land on the seventh year.

One might challenge such “request” saying, that why do we need such Sabbatical Year after all that we have been through? This “issue” was never mentioned by HaShem when He was speaking to Moshe about His promise to our forefathers. Why? Well, HaShem, just as many times before, guides Bnei-Yisrael towards the ultimate goal of their purpose of full and unshakable faith in Him. The Sabbatical Year is designed to provide such teachings and test. Just as HaShem created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh day, with the profound understanding that He too has full faith in His divine creation and its need for Sabbatical period. We must always trust HaShem as He gave us the entire world and its bounties to enjoy and use, while keeping the Torah and the Mitzvot. The Midrash tells us that the number seventh is the most precious to HaShem as many seventh were blessed by him. There are seven heavens, seven worlds regions (according to the Torah), seven first leaders from Adam to Chanoch, seven forefathers from Avraham to Moshe, Yishai’s seventh son was King David, seven days and Shabbat the holiest, Tishrey is the seventh month as the world is judged on the seventh, HaShem invoke divine favor on all seventh.

Chaooch (“חנוך”) was the smartest of men (after Adam) both in Torah and Mitzvot, and he ascended to Heaven alive. It is worth mentioning here that the word “Chinuch” (“חינוך” – education) and the name “Chanoch” (“חנוך”) have the same root.

The Seven Heavens’ names according to the Kabbalah are:

  1. “Vilon” (“וילון”): also called “Araphel”: The first Heaven, governed by the Angel Gavrieal, is the closest of the heavenly realms to the Earth; it is also considered the abode of Human. It is where daily acts of Beresheet occur, like sunrise and sunset.
  2. “Raqi’a” (“רקיע”): The second Heaven is dually controlled by the Angel Zachriel and Rephael. It was in this Heaven that Moshe stayed, during his visit to paradise. Also, “Raqia” is considered the realm where the fallen Angels are imprisoned and the planets fastened.
  3. “Shechakim” (“שחקים”): The third Heaven, under the leadership of the Angel Anahel, serves as the home of Gan-Eden and the Tree of life. It is also the realm where Mann, the holy food of the Angels (and Tzadikim), is produced. Both Paradise and Hell are accommodated in the “Shechakim”, with Hell being located simply “on the northern side”.
  4. “Ma’on” (“מעון”): The fourth Heaven is ruled by the Angel Michael, and according to the Talmud (Hagiga 12), it contains the heavenly Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Altar.
  5. “Machon” (“מכון”): The fifth Heaven is under the administration of the Angel Samael, an Angel referred to as evil by some, but who is to others merely a dark servant of God.
  6. “Zebul” (“זבול”): The sixth Heaven falls under the jurisdiction of the Angel Sachiel.
  7. “Aravoth” (“ערבות”): The seventh Heaven, under the leadership of the Angel Cassiel, is the holiest of the seven Heavens because it houses the Throne of Glory attended by the Seven Archangels and serves as the realm in which HaShem dwells. Underneath the throne of Glory is the abode of all unborn human souls. It is also considered the home of the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the HaYyot.

In Kabbalah, the number seven corresponds to the seven attributes of the heart which are loving-kindness, might, beauty, victory, acknowledgment, foundation, and kingdom. The word “Sheva” (“שבע” – seven) in Hebrew has the same letters as the word “Savea” (“שבע” – full, satisfied), to teach us that when we keep the Sabbatical Year, we will always be satisfied and filled with Mitzvot.

When Bnei-Yisrael are united under HaShem’s laws and Mitzvot no one can attack or win against them. Only when Bnei-Yisrael are divided such division allows for evil forces to penetrate the camp of Bnei-Yisrael and cause havoc and widespread destruction, same as in the times of Balak and Bilam, King David and king Solomon, Haman, Hitler and other wicked messengers sent to teach Bnei-Yisrael a lesson. Only when we are truly united with Hashem and our fellow Jewish people, we will live in peace and HaShem will dwell amongst us. The Zohar teaches us that such divisions always call for war and exile just as our Beit-HaMikdash were destroyed. We notice in verse (26:8) “And five of you will pursue a hundred [enemy soldiers]”. Or HaChaim says that “This refers to our weakest soldiers; our weakest soldiers; when we do the will of Hashem our weakest soldier will be able to defeat twenty enemies. Our strongest soldier will be able to defeat a thousand or more. Interestingly enough we see that today one soldier behind a missile can defeat thousands, just as HaShem promised.

We see a beautiful secret in verse 26:6 as HaShem says that “I will give peace in the land”. Although he says “I will give peace” in the future, the word used “I gave”, for it comes to teach us that he gave such peace in the past with Yakov and Eisav. We learn this from the equal numerical value, of 376, of the words “Peace” (“שלום”) and “Eisav” (“עשו”), meaning that during the time of both Beit-HaMikdash we had peace with Eisav’s offsprings and B’H with the third and final Beit-HaMikdash the peace will be eternal.

Yoram Dahan

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