This is a double parsha, made up of parshas Behar and Bechukotai. The seven aliyot of this week’s reading are indicated by special aliyah markings within those two parshas in the Chumash. Parshiyot Behar and Bechukotai are power-packed doubleheaders, this one emphasizing the connection between the Jew and Eretz Yisrael.
The lunisolar Hebrew calendar contains up to 55 weeks, the exact number varying between 50 in common years and 54 or 55 in leap years. In leap years, parshah Bechukotai is read separately. In common years, parshah Bechukotai is combined with the previous parshah, Behar, to help achieve the needed number of weekly readings.
Behar: The thirty-second reading from the Torah and second-to-last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Behar (בהר), which means “On the Mountain.” The name comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which could be literally translated to read, “HaShem then spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 25:1). This portion from the Torah introduces the laws of the sabbatical years, the jubilee and laws concerning redemption. In most years, synagogues read Behar together with the following portion, Bechukotai.
Bechukotai: The last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Bechukotai (בחקותי), which means “In My Statutes.” The name comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words “If you walk in My statutes …” (Leviticus 26:3). This last reading from Leviticus promises blessings and rewards for Israel if they will keep the Torah, but punishment and curses if they break the commandments of the Torah. The last chapter discusses laws pertaining to vows, valuations and tithes. In most years, synagogues read Bechukotai together with the preceding portion, Behar.
Note: On the Shabbat the Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person "goes up" to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading. Here are this week`s aliyot:
1st Aliya: Parshas BeHar begins with the laws of Shemitah (Sabbatical Year)and Yovel (Jubilee). The land lay fallow every 7th year, and after the 49th year, (7×7) it lay fallow a 2nd year for the 50th as well.
2nd Aliya: Hashem (God) promises (25:21-22) that He will provide for the nation, regardless of the land being fallow. No one will go hungry. The return, at Yovel, of all hereditary lands to their original owners is commanded.
3rd Aliya: The difference between the sale of a property in a walled city vs. an unwalled city is established. Continuing the theme of providing and dependency, we are commanded to provide for our impoverished brethren. Just as Hashem provides for us, we must provide for each other.
4th Aliya: The freeing of all Jewish slaves at the Yovel is detailed. The Torah discusses redeeming a Jewish slave from a non-Jewish owner, and the formula for how much to pay the non-Jewish master. We begin reading Bechukotai. The opening verses describe the wondrous successes awaiting the nation, so long as they follow Hashem’s Mitzvot (commadments).
5th Aliya: This Aliya is called the Tochecha (the rebuke). It is a lengthy description of the terrible punishments awaiting the nation, if they do not follow the Torah. It is customary for the Baal Koreh (Reader) to have this Aliya, and to read it faster and more quietly than the rest of the Parsha.
6th Aliya: The established prices for endowments of individual worth, or that of an animal, are listed.
7th Aliya: The final portion deals with endowments of property to the Bait Hamikdash (Temple).
This is the conclusion of Sefer Vayikra, which began with parshas Vayikra several weeks ago. In that parsha God called Moshe to the Mishkan for the first time after it was built and began the installation of the priests and the laws of their service in the Mishkan. This book of the Torah is also known as Torat Kohanim (Law of the Kohanim) because most of the laws that we’ve seen over the last few weeks have been about the Kohanim either directly or indirectly.
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