Parashat Behar, which focuses on the laws concerning land ownership in Israel, urges Bnai Yisrael to support members of their community in need (Leviticus 25:35-38). The Midrash in Leviticus Rabbah 24:3 extends the need for us to support individuals who are going through tough times to the need for us to take care of our own bodies, which may be in poor conditions. The Midrash states: At the end of a day of studying, Hillel the Elder walked out of the Beit Midrash (house of study) with his students. Hillel the Elder’s students asked him, “Where are you headed?” He answered, “To perform a religious duty.”
“That’s a religious duty?!” exclaimed the students as their teacher approached the bathhouse. Hillel the Elder responded, “If the statues of the kings, which are erected in theaters and circuses, are washed by the man who is appointed to look after them, all the more so should I, who has been created in the image of God, take care of my body!”
This Midrash emphasizes the need for us to care for our bodies, which are entrusted to us by God. Let’s remember the message of this Midrash the next time we hesitate to head to the gym, or refrain from some much-needed pampering. Perhaps we can bill God for the massage!
These Parshiyot mark the conclusion of the book of Vayikrah. Chazak Chazak V’Nitchazek!