Behar/ Bechukosai

This week’s Parsha is Parshas Behar and Bechukosai. The Parsha contains the mitzvah of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year when in Israel the land must lay barren for an entire year. The Torah then proceeds to list several commandments regarding the relationship of one Jew to another. One mitzvah is the commandment to help another Jew. “And if your brother will become poor, and his means falter imach – with you, you shall strengthen him,…” (Leviticus 25:35) While the mitzvah to help another Jew is certainly self-explanatory, there are a number of points that are brought out by our commentaries.

The famed Netziv explains that there are two situations that are being addressed in this verse: 1) When a person is still able to earn money, he has a field or a business, but he can’t get the field planted, or the business running without capital. Such a person we don’t have to give charity, but we must find a loan for. 2) The second situation is when a person has no way of providing for themselves at all. A loan won’t help, for they have no way to repay it. They need real charity. They must be helped with charity, so that we can make sure that they don’t perish.

The choice of the word imach as opposed to itach, which also means with you, is also very important. Why are there two different words that both mean with you?

There are two ways to take something with you. If you go on a trip you can take a jar of peanut butter with you. However, the peanut butter does not become part of you. It is not attached to you. It is simply accompanying you for the trip. This would be itach – with you, but not attached to you.

Another way of taking something with you would be if you are leaving on a trip and your father tells you a piece of advise – whenever the gas tank gets below a quarter of a tank make sure to fill up, so you aren’t stuck on the road. You will take this advise with you, but it will be imach – it has become part of you. When the Torah wants us to be concerned about our fellow Jew, it doesn’t just want to be itach - something that we think about once in a while. It wants it to be imach – part of our very thought process, part of whatever we do. The concern for the welfare of our fellow Jews must be forever on our mind, never forgetting about them.

If this is so on a physical plane, certainly on a spiritual plane, where the stakes are eternal, we must bear this in mind. If other Jews are poor – if they are ignorant of our rich heritage and traditions, we must constantly think about that and try to reach out to them.

Finally, Rashi tells us that the mitzvah to help our fellow Jew is to make sure he or she is helped before he or she collapses. Rashi gives a famous example of a load about to fall off a donkey. Before it falls down, it is possible for one person to prevent it from falling off. Once it falls down, it may take ten people to get it back up again. Similarly, if you know a person is falling, help him before he collapses. Don’t wait until he is already fallen to try to help him.