Weekly Torah Commentary — Behar May 4, 2018

Torah reading:  Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2

Haftorah reading: Jeremiah 32:6 – 27

Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I am the Lord your God.  Lev. 25:17


Why do some people take advantage of others?
Why do some people use others to reach their own goals?

The first thing that will come to your mind when you try to answer such questions is that the people who do this are just plain mean. I agree, but what drives a person to act this way? And why do other people never feel like using others even though they might gain many benefits if they did so?

Let me suggest the following reasons, though there are probably more:

Helplessness  Human beings generally will use the least effort to achieve their goals and/or unmet needs.  If they feel helpless to succeed on their own merit they use others to gain their ends. When they do, they reveal nothing about you, but a whole lot about themselves.

Lack of control over one’s own life: When someone feels as though they’ve lost control over their life, they often resort to taking advantage of others in an attempt to regain control.  A popular way of feeling ‘in control’ of one’s life is controlling others.  A hen-pecked husband, for example, may try to compensate by controlling his co-workers on the job.

Inferiority: Feelings of inferiority and worthlessness prompt some to compensate by becoming arrogant, introverted or fostering a superior attitude.  When a person takes advantage of another he might feel superior to him and as a result compensate for his feelings of insecurity.

Narcissism, codependency & double standards: Narcissists and codependent people use others in order to feel better about themselves. In order not to feel guilty or to experience shame those people usually try to convince themselves that they are better than others and therefore the ‘others’ deserve to be taken advantage of.

It’s noteworthy that the verse from this week’s Torah reading says Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of others.’  That tells me that the importance of this commandment lies in our righteous fear of the Lord or the lack of it!  It’s really not primarily about one’s ego or emotions.  It’s deeper than that.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, it says in Psalm 111:10.

And in Proverbs 10:27, we read: The fear of the LORD prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be shortened.

Again in Proverbs 14:27, The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
that one may avoid the snares of death.

If we knew that all of our secret thoughts, words, and actions would be displayed publicly so that everyone could watch them and evaluate them, it would make a profound difference in the way we live! We have an instinctive concern about what others think of us and how they will judge the things we do.  How much more should we be concerned about God’s evaluation of our thoughts, words, actions, attitudes, and motives?

Each of us will give an account of our lives to God, and He is fully aware of everything we think, desire, speak, and do. The fear of the LORD is the result of an awareness of these truths. It can be defined as a continual awareness that you are in the presence of a holy, just, and almighty God, and that every motive, thought, word, and action is open before Him and will be judged by Him.  It means that we live with a profound awe, respect and reverence towards Him and His Truth as we learn it from the Scriptures.

Understanding that, it makes perfect sense that the Torah reading this week would say, Show your fear of God….. by not taking advantage of one another.’

Our motivation for treating others with respect comes from our respect towards God who created us all! To take advantage of others for selfish purposes demonstrates disrespect not only to the one you take advantage of, but to God Himself.

In Tune with Torah this week = understand that taking advantage of others can manifest in several ways but the bottom line is a self-serving attitude that cares more about oneself than the other person.  But the Bible tells us not to think of our own interests only, but to care about the concerns and interests of others.

Selfishness is at the root of every sin and failure.  There’s a delightful little book I read recently which contained this wonderful statement:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.  (from The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller)

Shabbat Shalom