This week we read the Torah portion Behar. In Parshas Behar, the Torah tells us of the mitzvah to help a fellow Jew who has come upon hard times. “And if your brother becomes poor, and his hand (means) falters with you (in your proximity), you shall strengthen him…” (Leviticus 25:35). This is the basic commandment to help a Jew. The Torah uses seemingly extra words when it describes the situation of this Jew who is in need of help. It is described as he is poor “with you”. What is the expression of “with you”? The Jew who is giving the help has not fallen upon hard times. Why would the Torah describe the person who is in need as being “with you”?
Rabbi Moshe Travitsky is the founder of the Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center outside Philadelphia and the Rosh Kollel of the Bensalem Community Kollel. For more information please visit: www.BensalemOutreach.org
Passover is the holiday of freedom. In the prayers of the holiday we call Passover zman chairusainu (the time of our freedom). In the maariv (evening) service that we say every night, we mention that Hashem took us out of Egypt at this time lchairus olam – for eternal freedom. This coming Monday night we will gather with family and friends, as we mark the most celebrated Jewish occasion of the year – the seder. Yet, as thinking people, we have to ask ourselves, what does this message of freedom mean to me? Certainly there are people in this world who are slaves, who are denied physical freedom – but there were Jews who celebrated a seder in the most challenging of circumstances – when they certainly had no freedom. What of those heroes and heroines who recited the Haggadah in the Nazi concentration camps? Were they celebrating freedom there?