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May 10, 1991 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-05-10

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Young Israel of Greenfield
Young Israel of Oak-Woods
Young Israel of Southfield
Young Israel of West Bloomfield
Members of the Young Israel
Council of Metropolitan Detroit

Cordially Invite You To Attend Their

First Annual Joint Dinner


Rabbi Samuel and Hadassah Prero

Monday, June 3, 1991 - 21 Sivan, 5751


The Hyatt Regency - Dearborn


Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

and the Lenny Zimberg Orchestra

Cocktails 6:00 p.m.
Dinner 7:00 p.m.

Couvert $75.00 per plate
Black Tie Optional
For Further Information Call:
Young Israel of Greenfield — 967-3655
Young Israel of Oak-Woods — 398-1177
Young Israel of Southfield — 357-3113 or 358-0154
Young Israel of West Bloomfield — 851-8771


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The Prophecy Of Doom

Torah Portions: 'Behar' and Bechukotai'


Special to The Jewish News


never promised you a rose
garden," annnounce the
realistic advertisements
of the Jewish Agency, pro-
moting aliyah to Israel
despite the objective dif-
ficulties involved in re-
settlement. In a far more
devastating fashion, however,
this could well be the subtitle
of the Pentateuch, though
ultimately the Torah does
promise survival and guaran-
tee redemption to the Jewish
people — but with a great
deal of suffering and tragedy
along the way.
And in this week's double
Torah portion, Behar and
Bechukotai, we are faced with
what is known as the toche-
cha, the Divine chastise-
ments and curses, which are
destined for the children of
Israel if they do not collective-
ly keep the commandments
and perfect the world under
the Divine Kingship:
"You will plant your crop in
vain, because your enemies
will eat it . . . you will flee
even when no one is chasing
you . . . I will send wild beast
among you, killing your chil-
dren, destroying your live-
stock, and reducing your
population, so that your roads
will become deserted . . . You
will huddle in your cities .. .
will send the plague against
you, and give you over to your
enemies . . . You will eat the
flesh of your sons and make a
meal of the flesh of your
daughters . . . (Leviticus
What makes these words all
the more searing is that, dur-
ing the Nazi Holocaust, we
literally experienced the un-
speakable horrors described
by the above verses. But what
makes the prophecy of doom
inexplicable is what comes
before and after it in a seem-
ingly baffling and illogical
biblical sequence: the details
of the laws of the Sabbatical
and Jubilee years, the toche-
cha (chastisement) itself, and
then the laws of vows in
which an individual pledges
his worth to the Holy Temple.
What do these issues of ag-
riculture and intentions have
to do with Jewish tragedy?
I believe the key to under-
standing why the biblical se-
quence is so puzzling can be
found by paying closer atten-

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is
chief rabbi of the city of Efrat
and dean of Ohr Torah
Institutions of Israel.

tion to what the Jews ex-
perienced in World War II.
The Nazi despots first and
foremost declared that Jews
are not free, are slaves of the
state. They forcibly removed
us from our homes and pro-
perties, re-located us in slave-
labor camps, and attempted
to rob us of every vestige of
our self-respect.
How fitting it is that pre-
ceding the catalogue of Jew-
ish enslavement is the bibli-
cal prescription for human
freedom: every seventh year it
is forbidden to till your soil
and all slaves must be freed.
Every Jubilee (50th) year, the
land is returned to its original

The key to
understanding the
biblical curses
can be found in
the Jewish
experience in the

owner. What emerges from
these laws is that human be-
ings are neither servants of
their neighbors nor even of
the land; we are all servants
only of God, and therefore we
are free.
Indeed, even the very land
itself must be allowed to en-
joy a fundamental freedom, a
right to be. In the words of the
Bible itself — subsequently
inscribed on the Liberty Bell
in Philadelphia — "And you
shall hallow the fiftieth year
and proclaim liberty through-
out the land to all its in-
habitants (Lev 25:10)." Had
we only succeeded in getting
across the message of the Sab-
batical and Jubilee years to
the rest of the world, the Nazi
concentration camps would
never have surfaced.
And if the Sabbatical and
Jubilee years teach us that an
individual cannot sell even
the worth of the work of his
hands to any other in-
dividual, the laws of inten-
tions teach us that it is only
the Almighty to whom we can
vow our physical output.
After the Holocaust, when a
Jew was not worth a truck or
even half-a-cent, it is impor-
tant to hear that our physical
labor has value to God.
May we become as in-
numerable as the stars and
succeed in teaching the world
the message of the in-
estimable and ultimate value
of every human being created
in the Divine image.
Shabbat Shalom.

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