One of my favorite aspects of Rav Miller on the parsha is his description of the true-to-life experience of Jews millennia ago in the Tanach.
Using plain & simple language, he brings it all to life.
Yovel, Plus You as a Ger in This World
- In Rav Miller's dvar Torah for Parshat Behar (pages 1-3), you get to experience what the Yovel year was really like at the close of the 50-year cycle in which property reverts to its original owners.
- Then (pgs. 3-7), using both stories of modern times & the Chafetz Chaim, Rav Miller details our temporary dwelling in This World and what that really means for us.
- Pages 7-11 introduce the concept of geirus/geirut—usually understood to mean “convert,” it also means a temporary dweller in This World. (Also like how Moshe Rabbeinu said, “I am a ger in a foreign land.” He was born Jewish, but a ger, a temporary dweller in This World.)
In the Pele Yoetz chapter entitled Ger, Rav Eliezer Papo also discusses ger/geirut according to this interpretation. With Rav Miller, you get a glimpse into what Duties of the Heart/Chovot Levavot says about this idea, plus a modern-day analogy to make things clearer, what a mezuzah should inspire within us, and then the following amazing yet true story of a connected Jew with his heart & mind in exactly the right place:
I once knew a Mr. Herman zichrono l’vracha from the Lower East Side.
Now, Mr. Herman was one of the very few devoted frum Jews in the olden days of America.
B’leiv v’nefesh [Heart & soul] he was devoted to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
And he told me once that when he saw that all his money was going lost, that his business was quickly failing - it was at the time of the Great Depression.
So he right away took a thousand dollars - in those days a thousand dollars was a small fortune - and he gave it away to tzedakah on the spot.
He said, “Why should I lose that too? Why should I lose my chance at exporting more goods into the Next World?”
And so Mr. Herman was a smart businessman…
Everyone can be great. It’s not at all a matter of renown or charisma.
Just quietly live for the Next World.
No one will write a book or even newspaper obituary about you (may you live in good health until 120), but you’ll be written in Hashem’s Book, and that’s all anyone really needs.
This section also helps you figure out how much you should invest in your material world here on Earth.
It goes according to individuals and their different situations, so Rav Miller doesn’t offer hard ‘n’ fast rules, but pages 7-11 can help you figure out how to clarify things for yourself.
God's Truth is Even Better than Science Fiction
- Then (pgs. 11-14) you get some insights into David Hamelech and certain popular verses of Tehillim, insights you may never have considered before. (I hadn’t.) And you get to delve into the fascinating idea of how you and everyone you know are just figments of Hashem’s Supreme Imagination.
(This is not depressing, like how it is in sci-fi novels, but actually very comforting and inspiring.)
- Pages 14-17 offer more insights into popular Tehillim, plus helpful hints on how best to utilize your alone-time and how to do hitbodedut in the most crowded, noisy circumstances.
The Pre-Mashiach Jewish Reality: Stuck between a Rock & Hard Place
"… a Jew is always hounded in this world; the Jew walks on the street in Europe and the goyim cast slurs on him; they tell him, 'Get out of our country you dirty Jew. Go to Israel!' And if he does, so the Arabs tell him to get out, the U.N. tells him to get out."
- Anyway, Rav Miller explains on page 17 why this dynamic exists and what it means for us.
One Torah, One People
- Here (pgs. 17-18) Rav Miller speaks of Hashem as your Best Friend and what that means. And he sounds exactly like Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender.
Because all the real talmidei chachamim glean from the same sources and come to the same conclusions.
It ends on the heart-warming note of what you should remember about Olam Hazeh / This World whenever you look at a mezuzah:
"It’s the place where we spend our fleeting lives preparing to enter our permanent home in the Next World, where we will meet the Hashem Echad who was our One and Only True Friend in This World."
So even if you’re in Eretz Yisrael and already past this parsha, it’s very worth reading Rav Miller’s dvar Torah on it for the wealth of soul-nourishing Torah hashkafah it contains:
Rav Avigdor Miller on Parshat Behar: We Live in You