AUJS WEEKLY DVAR TORAH - Behar & Bechukotai
Written by Josh Bartak
THIS WEEK WE READ PARSHAT BEHAR AND BECHUKOTAI TOGETHER
BEHAR & BECHUKOTAI OVERVIEW
-Laws of Shmita (every 7th year) and Yovel (every 50th year)
-Obligation to support people in need
-Prohibition of charging interest to other Jews
-Rewards for following the Torah ways
-Rewards & punishments in relation to keeping the Torah
A LESSON IN HELPING OTHERS OUT
Parshat Behar teaches us an important lesson about how we should give of our time and money towards other people in need. This lesson relates to what we learnt a couple of weeks back about not standing by when others need help. We learn from the Parsha that we have the obligation to support poor people and help them to get back on track. If they are in financial trouble and you lend them money, you cannot charge them interest for it.
Although the Torah is talking about money in this passage, I believe the obligation to help other people extends to many other areas beyond just finances and also lies in the simple areas of life. If you know of someone in emotional distress and you’re in a position to help them through it, then you must do what you can. If someone is having a hard time doing an assignment then you should help them if you can. It could even be as simple as someone being lost and you directing them to where they need to go.
However, this obligation does not start after the troubles have already hit and they person has already hit rock bottom. It very much applies to when they first begin to experience difficulty. Here it’s a lot easier to make a difference for them and prevent the trouble looming ahead. If you give someone good business advice at the time they are beginning to lose money, you can help them remain prosperous as opposed to waiting till they become poor and only trying to help then. If you see something is about to fall over, it is a lot easier to grab it than to clean up the mess on the floor afterwards. I was on the train last week and a girl called her friend to ask for a lift to the airport because the train was massively delayed and she’d miss her flight otherwise to which her friend agreed to do. There are plenty of other examples and you can think of many in your life where you helped people to prevent problems before it was too late.
Now you might ask what’s in it for you? What do you gain out of helping people when you seemingly get no payment for the efforts you go to? After all, the Torah forbids us to charge our fellow Jews interest on money we lend them and if you invested the money into a bank, instead of donating it, you’d earn interest and be better off. The answer I believe lies in a deeper idea about our attitudes towards ourselves and others. We live in a society where all too often, we make this situation about ourselves. Sure we’ll help people out sometimes but it won’t be out of a genuine desire. We tend to perform cost/benefit analyses too much when it comes to giving assistance to others. Therefore the Torah wants to teach us that when we help other people who are experiencing difficulties, we should do so focusing purely on their needs.
Whether your help someone out financially, emotionally or just by giving them a lift to the airport, make it all about the other person. Ironically, when you give for the right reasons you'll feel an enormous amount of satisfaction. No matter what you give to someone who's in need whether it's money, your time, or advice make it all about the other person. When you give for the right reasons you actually end up feeling very good. If you believe that what goes around comes around, when you help people out when they face problems there will come a time when you have a problem and people will be only too happy help you out too.
AUJS Victoria Religious Officer