Celebrating the Moment

The board room was brimming with suggestions about how to celebrate the upcoming milestone of the company. Each executive had a different idea—one more creative than the next—until the recent hire in the corner said humbly, “why don’t we celebrate how we impact the day-to-day lives of our community?” 

This Shabbat, we will read Parshat Bechukotai and conclude the book of Leviticus-Vayikrah. 261 of the mitzvoth out of a total of 613 are found in this third book of the Torah. 

Interestingly, the final two mitzvot in this book are Maaser Sheni and Maaser Beheyma, which means “the Second Tithe” and “the Animal Tithe.” The Second Tithe was a monetary amount corresponding to approximately 1/10 of the crops set aside four out of every seven years; and it was brought up to Jerusalem as a pilgrimage and consumed there during the holiday season. The Animal Tithe was comprised of 1/10 of every flock that was set aside and brought and enjoyed in Jerusalem.   

Why does the third book of the Torah conclude with these two commandments?

Rabbi Samson Refael Hirsch (1808-1888) explains beautifully it is because as opposed to scores of other offerings and rituals where we are commanded to bring offerings, but the services and offerings are conducted and consumed by the Priests and Levites, these two mitzvoth are fulfilled by every owner himself. The message here is that while lots of services in the temple are rituals reserved for the Priests and Levites, ultimately the goal of all divine service and religion is to impact every man, woman, and child in their homes and daily lives. Therefore, The Second Tithe and the Animal Tithe round off the book of Vayikra because they enter the lives of all people.

On June 12, we will be celebrating the culmination of 100 years of service to the local and global Jewish community, marking the impact we have made on many families and people. 

When we conclude reading a book in the Torah, we chant, “Chazak Chazak Venitchazek,” meaning “be strong and be strengthened.” As we conclude 100 years of communal growth and service, we also recite, “Chazak Chazak Venitchazek.” Let us be strong and strengthened.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence