Sedra of the week: Behar Bechukotai

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Sedra of the week: Behar Bechukotai

Assistant rebbetzin at St John’s Wood Synagogue, Dina Golker, looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Throughout this past year, millions of people have lost their jobs, financial security has diminished and lifestyles have changed completely. 

The psychological insights on poverty in this week’s parsha are so poignant. In Parshat Behar it says: “If your brother becomes impoverished and his hand falters with you (imach) you shall hold on to him….so that he can live with you.”

It is interesting the word imach, with you, is written after “and his hand falters”, because the verse would read just as well without it.

Rav Meir Leib Frey suggests that imach teaches us an important lesson. He compares this verse with a line in the Talmud, which says: “Poverty in a person’s home is more difficult than 50 plagues.” The Talmud also uses an interesting choice of words: “In a person’s home”.

Rav Frey draws a parallel between two types of poor people: one who has always struggled and another who appears to have all the trappings of wealth, but more recently his lavish lifestyle has become a complete facade. 

The Talmud means poverty is more difficult when it is hidden inside a person’s house, where no one would ever believe it. This second type of poor person is who the Talmud is referring to, where other people’s knowledge is limited.

Similarly, the Torah is saying that when your brother or friend becomes poor “and his hand falters with you”, that is no one else knows about it but you, with whom he was financially on par beforehand. 

In these situations, it is incumbent upon those who know to help reinstate our fellow Jews to their original wealth, so “your brother will continue to live with you” according to the same lifestyle he was used to. 

  • Dina Golker is assistant rebbetzin at St John’s Wood Synagogue

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