Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
We the People
In Bechukotai, in the midst of one of the most searing curses ever to have been uttered to a nation by way of warning, the sages found a fleck of pure gold.
Moses is describing a nation in flight from its enemies:
I will bring despair into the hearts of those of you who survive in enemy territory. Just the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to running, and they will run scared as if running from a sword! They will fall even when no one is chasing them! They will stumble over each other as they would before a sword, even though no one is chasing them! You will have no power to stand before your enemies.
There is on the face of it nothing positive in this nightmare scenario. But the sages said: “They will stumble over each other” -- read this as “stumble because of one another”: this teaches that all Israelites are sureties [i.e., responsible] for one another.”
The Concept of Freedom
Everyone wants freedom. It is a basic human need. To some extent, even animals seek freedom and show signs of unhappiness if they do not have it.
However, the question of what freedom consists of has not been clearly answered. Many people spend their lives chasing something they call freedom. But at some point they may well turn round and say they have been deceived.
Our Parshah gives us a insight into the nature of our freedom. Perhaps it challenges some of our assumptions.
We all know that a central theme in Judaism is the fact that we escaped from the slavery of Egypt -- and reached "freedom." But in this week's Parshah G‑d says about us: "The Jewish people are My servants. They are My servants because I brought them out of the land of Egypt..." (Leviticus 25:55).
Of Sevens and Eights
"A bull, sheep or goat that is born to you shall remain under its mother for seven days. From the eighth day onward it is acceptable as an offering to G‑d" (Leviticus 22:27). Why does the Torah refer to the newborn animals by their mature names instead of the usual calf, lamb and kid? This teaches us that an animal is born with its entire potential already actualized. It cannot develop into something greater then it already is.
Its qualities will never erode, but its inherent faults will always remain.
Young At Heart
Not so for human beings. Man is always capable of more. Rabbi Akiva, for example, was forty years old before he learned to read Hebrew, yet he became the greatest Torah scholar in history. Every human being, background and affiliation not withstanding, can transform him or herself and thus make great strides forward.