Parshas Behar: Transforming Deceit, Oppression & Plague Into The Age of Redemption

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In this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Behar, we learn that it is forbidden to emotionally abuse others.

“Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I YKVK am your God.”

Leviticus 25:17

This Hebrew letters in this verse, added together, have the numerical value, or Gematria, 2683.

There are three Bible verses with this same Gematria. When three verses have the same Gematria, it means that they are all teaching the same lesson.

Genesis 8:16: “Come out of the ark, together with your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives.” (God to Noah)

Commentary by the Chizkuni, citing Bereishis Rabbah 35,1: “According to an argument between Rabbi Nechemyah and Rabbi Yehudah, according to one Noach was punished for not taking advantage of living with his wife again immediately and siring more children by being debased and castrated in his wife’s tent.”

Leviticus 25:17: “Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I YKVK am your God.”

Commentary by Rashi: “Here Scripture warns against vexing by words (wounding a person’s feelings) — that one should not annoy his fellow-man, nor give him an advice which is unfitted for him, but is in accordance with the plan and the advantage of the adviser. But lest you should say, “Who knows whether I had any intention to do him evil?” Scripture therefore states: “but thou shalt fear thy God”! — He Who knows men’s thoughts, He knows it!”

Deuteronomy 33:24: “And of Asher he [Moses, before he died] said: ‘Most blessed of sons be Asher; May he be the favorite of his brothers, May he dip his foot in oil.'”

Commentary by Sforno: “Asher will enjoy an exceptional blessing, not shared by the other tribes. It is in the nature of things that wealthy people attract the jealousy of those who are not so blessed with wealth. Asher will not be subject of jealousy, but, on the contrary, will be well liked by all the other tribes. The reason is that he will sell the abundance of olive oil over which he disposes at low prices to his fellow tribes.”

Here, the connective thread is: Run away from deceit.

  • Don’t be mean to your spouse.
  • Don’t be cruel or misleading to your neighbor.
  • Don’t pretend to offer your customers a “good deal” when you’re really taking advantage of them.

The sinfulness of deceit and the misuse of one’s power of speech are closely related.

The Gematria of Gossip

We see a hint about emotional abuse in the first portion of Leviticus 25:17, “Do not wrong one another,” [“Ve-Lo To-nu Ish”], which has a Gematria of 1737.

“וְלֹ֤א תוֹנוּ֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־עֲמִית֔וֹ”

The second word in this phrase pronounced “To-nu,” from the root word “Ya-na,” which means “to oppress, suppress, treat violently, maltreat, vex, do wrong.”

In his commentary, Rashi clarifies that the word refers to “wronging verbally.” Specifically:

  • “Provoking”
  • To “offer advice to him that is unsound for him but according to the mode of life or the benefit of the advisor”

Leprosy is the Biblical punishment for “malicious gossip.” Leviticus 13 centers on the subject of leprosy—determining whether someone has it or not. If they have it, they are considered “impure.”

Leviticus 13:41 describes the person who is examined for leprosy and does not have it. (“If he loses the hair on the front part of his head and becomes bald at the forehead, he is pure”). It also has a Gematria of 1737.

This suggests that the punishment for gossip is the same as the punishment for:

  • intentionally causing people emotional trauma.
  • giving advice that benefits you, not the other person

However, since words are subject to interpretation, one’s comments must be carefully inspected to determine what the true intent was: God will take care of that.

The Gematria of a Plague

Another word for “plague” is “pandemic.”

The root word “Ya-na,” which means “to oppress,” verbally and violently, has a Gematria of 65.

65 is also the Gematria of the word “plague.”


Recall that God struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues. Not only wouldn’t he let the Israelites leave Egypt on God’s command, but he also oppressed them to the very soul.

“Ancient Egypt, with its demonic program of systematically eliminating an entire people, the Hebrews, from the face of the earth….perverted all ten attributes of its soul. The negative energy engendered by the perversion of so many human spirits returned back to Egypt in the form of ten plagues that befell the country.”

Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, “Ten Ways to Destroy Your Life: The Inner Story of the Ten Plagues,”, January 11, 2010

When tyrants run wild oppressing the people of Earth, then Earth vomits up a terrible physical plague in response.

In myriad ways, the Torah is telling us: Be sincerely kind to other people, and you will be harnessing an incredible positive force in the material realm.

If you believe that you can destroy, believe that you can repair.”

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Goodness not only heals our souls, but it also actually heals our planet.

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal (Dossy). All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.