These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE Dvar Torah] ‘By a Hair’ – by Laura Marder

Posted on May 2, 2013 by Laura Marder

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What if

What if we were all self absorbed and never helped one another? Could you imagine never grasping a hand if you stumbled, or borrowing a bit of money in a pinch. What would our world look like if we never supported each other? Emotionally. Financially. Physically. Spiritually. Would you ever feel empowered or strong? In this week’s double Parsha Behar / Behukotai it says

If your brother becomes destitute and his hand falters beside you, you shall support him [whether] a convert or a resident, so that he can live with you.

וְכִי יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ וּמָטָה יָדוֹ עִמָּךְ וְהֶחֱזַקְתָּ בּוֹ גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב וָחַי עִמָּךְ


To support him

The Torah uses the word החזקת to describe support. Not help, or fix, or take care of. We are talking about support, with the word חזק (hazak) seen inside the Hebrew. Hazak is strength. We are being instructed to strengthen our brother when he falters. Note, that it is not when he has fallen. For we should be aware and catch the situation BEFORE the falling. We must be proactive and see that someone is faltering and trying to stay up and fight the fall. We are instructed to do this for everyone; family, colleague, stranger. By helping the one who is faltering we are strengthening them and allowing them to stand back up so they can be there to help someone else if they should falter.

The feeling of giving is one of empowerment. The moment when the giver realizes the strength of the position they are holding in life and how they can use their strength to help someone else. The giver does not lose anything, but instead is paid back and gains the feeling of “brotherhood” for the one they have helped. We create a web of support for the world the more we give to people. We all become interconnected as G-d’s creations caring for one another. We are creating a world where our brother can live with us.

In Behar the chapter continues by emphasizing that no interest can be added to the loan of money or food. The giver is not to gain material, only be paid back what they lent. Why is this? I believe it is to make sure that we are getting the greater reward, the reward of feeling the strength of giving without feeling clouded by business concerns. Many themes in this double Parsha touch on reward and punishment as well as dedicating things to G-d. These themes fit into the idea of supporting each other without “interest” because we are receiving instructions on how to gain the greater reward. We know that the punishment is that our fellow man will not be able to live with us without this support. We are dedicating this act to G-d by taking care of G-d creations.

Kiva Loans

I feel very personally connected to this Parsha. It was my Bat Mitzvah portion as well as my first Torah reading at Pardes. I also just ran a fundraiser on Lag B’Omer that has been enhanced in my mind by reading this weeks Parsha. I am always amazed that no matter how obscure the Parsha is there is a personal take away. It may be one thought, or a word, but the Torah somehow always manages to to grow-up with me.

Laura cutting Leah's hair; Mary Brett on hair sweeping duty

Laura cutting Leah’s hair;
Mary Brett on hair sweeping duty

On Lag B’omer I cut hair from 5:30- 9:30 at Pardes. I had the amazing help of Hannah Perlis, Mary Brett, and Naomi Zaslow. Heather Kantrowitz helped as well as baked her famous cookies to sell and add to the donation. Together we raised 700 shekles. The money will be added to my account on Kiva Loans, an organization that sends personal micro loans to people all over the world. These are people who are, as the parsha says, faltering. They are living in difficult areas of the world or have had misfortune in their lives. They are everyday people, mothers, fathers, siblings, just like you and I. They are trying with everything they have to not fall. We, the donors, are there to grasp their hands and help get their businesses or educations on the right track. They then pay back the loans into the account they were loaned from. This allows the giver to give the same money over and over to multiple people. I am really amazed with the organization and the success it has had in having loans paid back. There is officially now a “Team Pardes” on Please create an account and if you donate do it as part of “Team Pardes”. Together we are strong, all here on “Team Pardes” to support each other, it is now our turn to help those who are faltering, even with the smallest donation. I thank everyone who came for the fundraiser. Your money is now a part of a constant donation helping our fellow men and women in this beautiful world we live in together.

Please take a moment to check out and help spread the word of how good it feels to support one another other.

Shabbat Shalom