This year, Parshas Behar takes on special meaning as we are in the midst of a Shmittah year and many classes are busy learning the mitzvos for Shmittah and Yovel. Unfortunately, in golus we are not able to fulfill the mitzva of blowing the Shofar on Yom Kippur of the Yovel year, which is the time that all slaves are set free.
Sefer HaChinuch discusses the significance of the blowing of Yovel Shofar He points out that the matter of sending away one’s servants is very difficult for a slave–owner to carry out because of the very substantial financial loss.
The Chinuch says that in order to give the people the strength and the encouragement to fulfill this very difficult command, the Torah requires the sounding of the Shofar throughout Eretz Yisroel. The blowing of the Shofar gives everyone the sense that they are not alone in making this sacrifice. Everyone is incurring the same financial loss.
The Chinuch is offering a tremendous insight here, that there is no greater encouragement to human activity than the fact that everyone is doing it. “If everyone else has to do it, it is easier for me to do it as well. That is why even though I know I have to send away my slave and it will cost me a fortune, I am strengthened by the fact that I know everyone is doing it as well.” Human nature is that we are tremendously influenced by our peer and social pressure - by how we perceive what others find acceptable. It is true to the extent that we will do something that we know is bad for us because everyone else is doing it.
The importance of community and having good friends is the lesson to be learned from this. A person will act better than he would usually act due to community standards. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. A person will act worse than he would otherwise act because “everyone else is doing it.” Our children also have a difficult time withstanding the forces of peer pressure. They will usually do whatever their peers do since they are so dependent on what their friends will say.
It is our obligation as their parents to encourage them to have good friendships, and surround them with good role models and good standards so that they will be able to withstand the “but everybody does it” syndrome.
Rabbi Gidon Goldberg
Head of School