Parshas Behar/Bechokosai – Torah Themes

Great Remembrance


After reading the curses in Bechukosai, there is a verse (Vayikrah 26:42) that evokes strong comfort. Hashem says, “I will remember the covenant with Yaakov, and with Yitzchok and the covenant with Avraham…” What is peculiar is that the name Yaakov is spelled קוביע with an extra vav that is not normally found there. What is this about?


Five Times

Rashi brings down that in 5 places Yaakov’s name is spelled with an extra vav and in 5 corresponding places Eliyahu’s name is spelled missing a vav. Yaakov took the letter vav from Eliyahu’s name (spelled אליה in those 5 places) as a collateral to ensure that Eliyahu will come speedily to announce the final redemption.


One of the 5 verses with Eliyahu’s name spelled missing the vav is Malachai (3:23), “Behold I will send Eliyahu (missing vav) the prophet (to announce) before the great day…” What is the depth here?


Yalkut Reuveni explains all of this further. In our parsha, he brings from the Zohar that Yaakov took a vav that was removed during the destruction of the beis hamidash and put it in his name so that it will help the Jews in the time of mashiach.



Original Sin

The Torah describes the cunning snake as, “vihanachash (והנחש) hayah arum.” The letters of vav-hey that precede nachash have profound significance. Hashem’s full name is Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, but evil, which is represented by the snake and Amalek cause “ki yad al kes y-ah (ה-י), that Hashem’s name is incomplete as it is only Yud-Hey, but missing the Vav-Hey at the end until Mashiach (Rashi). It is the letter vav that Yaakov gave to Eisav (עשו) and the letter Hay that was stolen by the snake by man’s sin. Man was thus banished from Gan Eden. Eisav will be defeated and be brought down to simply as small pesky fly called an עש (based on Sefer Kaneh and Peliah).



The Pirkei Drebbi Eliezer (31) describes how each part of the ram used at the akaida, in place of Yitzchok, was used. Its left horn produced the shofar at matan Torah and its right horn will be used to announce the coming of mashiach. Its ashes became the foundation of the mizbayach, its sinews were became the ten strings on David’s harp; its skin produced the belt that Eliyahu Hanavi wore. When Yaakov asked Lavan to give him his wife, he said, “…אליה אבואו, give me my wife so that I can be with her.” He was hinting to the vav that he took as a collateral from Eliyahu. By marrying Leah he would bring about Eliyahu (spelled without a vav) (Kanfei Yonah).


Torah Study

The Ra’aim (Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi, 1455 – 1526) in his supercommentary on Rashi says he does not know what the significance of the five times and why the letter vav was taken. He suggests that the number 5 represents the five books of the Torah. Yaakov made Eliyahu swear by the Torah that he would redeem us. It has been suggested that the depth here is that Moshiach will come in the merit of our Torah learning and observance. Hakol kol Yaakov, when the voice of Yaakov is strong, this overpowers the hands of Eisav. Incidentally, this also explains why the derasha of hakal kal Yaakov, when Yaakov’s voice is weak (he is not keeping the Torah), then Eisav’s hand are stronger than Yaakov, is said in the negative. It is because until Mashiach comes, that is the status quo, Eisav has the power to overcome Yaakov.


Fifth Power

Others have pointed out that just as at the Pesach seder we have a fifth kos for Eliyahu, so too here five represents Eliyahu. It is interesting because Chazal say that the four kosos correspond to the four leshonos of geula, and that the fifth expression of vihaveisi, I will bring you to Eretz Yisrael, is for when Eliyahu comes and heralds the redemption.


Shake on It

Maharal (Rabbi Yehuda Loewe of Prague, c. 1520 – 1609) has an entirely different approach. He explains that the verse in Mishlei (6:1) says that when you take a collateral from someone you should give a handshake. Thus, the letter hey, which is 5, represents the palm, which has 5 fingers and signifies the handshake. The letter vav looks like fingers and so it was used. More so, in Ahalos it says that the hand has 30 limbs in it, which is five (hey) times six (vav).


Maharal continues to explain that Eliyahu’s sole mission is to redeem the Jews. (This is why he specifically got a belt from Yitzchok’s ram. That ram represents the mission of the entire world, to bring Torah and mashiach, all built on the mesirus nefesh of Avraham and Yitzchok at the akeida. Note specifically that a belt is an item that binds the top half and bottom half of the body, like the middah of tiferes which is Yaakov–YT) Thus, Eliyahu has intrinsically not fulfilled his own mission, and thus his own name is inherently incomplete until he heralds the final redemption. Yaakov, the final father of Klal Yisrael, holds Eliyahu accountable.


Holy Eating

Shlah (Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz, 1565 – 1630, Shaar Haosisyos, p. 63) explains at length that Chazal are always warning one to be careful when eating so that the kaneh (windpipe, trachea) doesn’t precede and clog up the veshet (esophagus). Simply put, when one leans improperly or talks while eating, he can choke. The reason is simple, the kaneh, windpipe, is for talking and the veshet, esophagus, is for food. Shlah explains that hakol kol Yaakov is the kaneh. We must use our body for Torah learning. Veshet, esophagus, is Eisav, one who runs after food and pleasure. (With this we understand why we knock out the teeth of the Rasha at the seder, to teach him not to pursue food, but to use the evening to talk about Hashem. Also, it’s interesting that ‘esophagus’ sounds like Eisav.) The windpipe is long like the letter vav has five sections, represented by the five times Yaakov took a vav from Eliyahu.


It is awe inspiring to see the depth that Rashi’s brief words evoke. Yaakov wished to ensure that Eliyahu would redeem us. Our job is to fill our lives with Torah to help bring the redemption to reality.

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