BECHUKOSAI 5757 & 5762
PREVIOUS: BECHUKOSAI I
II. Divrei Torah
M. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
1. Torah Gives One Joy. "If you shall walk in My statutes and observe My commandments and do them . . . " Rabbi Mordechai Gifter taught that the words "if you shall walk in My statutes refers to laboring in Torah. This concept of toiling in Torah is inherent in the study of Torah. It signifies the ability in Torah study to find all the joy and pleasure for which one could wish. Toiling in Torah does not mean a life completely impoverished from human joys and pleasure, but rather the sublime contentment of the most intimate contact with the Source of all joy and pleasure.
2. Utilize Traveling Time For Torah Study. "You shall walk in my statutes." The Ohr HaChayim comments that the reference to "walking" is to remind us that we should become accustomed to studying Torah even when we are walking or traveling.
3. Don't Just Confess Your Sins, Actually Improve Yourself. "And they shall confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, in their treachery which they committed against me, and also they have walked contrary unto Me. I also will walk contrary unto them, and bring them into the land of their enemies." At first glance, it is difficult to understand the continuity of these two verses. The Torah tells us that they will confess their sins, a positive act. Why, then, does the next verse describe more retribution? The Chofetz Chaim explains that here the Torah teaches us that merely confessing our wrongdoings without sincerely regretting the wrong we have done and without accepting upon ourselves to improve in the future is not worth anything. The most important aspect of repentance is to improve ourselves from now on.
N. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)
1. The Process Is The Product. "If you will walk according to My laws." Rashi cites the Toras Kohanim, noting that "walking according to My laws" means that "you will labor in Torah." How is this implied in the words of the passage? In the prayer we say upon completion of a volume of the Talmud, we express gratitude to G-d for enabling us to study Torah. We compare the efforts of the scholar in studying Torah to the efforts others expend in various activities and we say, "we labor and they labor. We labor and receive a reward, while they labor and do not receive a reward." The Chofetz Chaim asks, "what does it mean that others do not receive a reward for their labor? Isn't a craftsman compensated for his work? The Chofetz Chaim answers that while a laborer is compensated for his work, it is only if such work results in some type of product. Workers are only paid because their efforts have borne, or will bear, fruit. Labor for the sake of labor is seen as futile. This is not so in regards to Torah. "In Torah, the very effort invested in the study of Torah constitutes a mitzvah, even if there is no 'product'". If one does not arrive at a conclusion, the study of Torah is no less meritorious. In Torah, the searching is the finding, and the striving is the goal.
2. The Responsibility of Heritage. "I shall remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham shall I remember." This verse occurs in the midst of the narration of the terrible consequences that will result if the Jews abandon Torah, and the Divine promise of remembering the Patriarchs appears to be a digression from the theme of harsh judgment that will befall Israel. The Shelah explains that it is not all digression, but to the contrary a reason why the Divine judgments will be so harsh. Given our illustrious heritage, our deviant behavior stands out in stark contrast, and we are judged more harshly than if we had originated from less illustrious ancestors. If we remember from whom we derived, and are more cognizant of our heritage, our behavior will reflect our noble origins.
O. Torah Gems (R' Aharon Yaakov Greenberg)
1. True Peace. "You will dwell in your land safely . . . and I will give peace in the land. . . " Isn't this verse redundant? The latter reference refers to internal peace, between yourselves, between one another.
2. Recognizing G-d's Hand. "But will want contrary to Me . . . Then will I also walk contrary to you . . . " The source of all sin is that one denies that G-d controls the world and instead claims that everything which occurs is mere coincidence." Thus, "if you want contrary to Me" - if you say that everything which occurs is purely by coincidence, then "I will also want contrary to you" - I will hide My face from you and you will not see how I control matters. Then will have no place to turn when you are in trouble.
P. Rabbi Frand on the Parsha
The Importance of Peace. "And I will make peace in the land, and you will recline without fear." G-d promises that things will go well as long as the Jews follow His decrees. The land will be fertile and the crops will be plentiful. Then He adds, "and I will make peace in the land." Rashi quotes from Toras Kohanim, "You might say, 'We have what to eat, and we have what to drink. But if there is no peace, there is nothing." Therefore, the Torah adds, 'And I will make peace in the land.'
Q. LilMode U'lilamed (Rabbi Mordechai Katz)
Achdus: United we stand, divided we fall. The admonitions suggests that if the Jews defy Hashem's word, they will be smitten before their enemies. The text suggests that the "enemies" include enemies from "within" the Jewish people. History has shown that some of the worst enemies of the Jewish people have been Jews (e.g., the first person killed in the Maccabean uprising was a Hellenist Jew killed by Matisyohu when he slaughtered a pig on the Altar). History has, however, also shown the unlimited potential when Jews have united (e.g., when the Jews were united behind David and Shlomo, their prosperity was at a peak and the Holy Temple was built). We must heed the lesson of the value of achdus (unity of the entire Jewish people), not only during times of national crisis, but at all times.
R. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
1. Be happy for others' good fortune. "And I will place peace in the land". Rashi states "if there is no peace there is nothing". Many people would feel satisfied with their lot, but for the fact that they're envious that others have more. When one feels sincere love for others, he isn't envious of their success and possessions -- this leads to true peace.
2. Be aware of the dangers in rejecting the Torah. The Chofetz Chaim noted that there are those who are afraid to read the admonitions in this week's Parsha. However, he gives the analogy of someone who was traveling on a dangerous path and, fearful of the narrow road, the wild animals and the other pitfalls on the route, blindfolds himself. Clearly, we can see that this is no solution. Similarly, says the Chofetz Chaim, we must be aware of the dangers of not behaving properly and failing to do good; while the main focus should be on the benefits of behaving properly and doing good, it is important that we also realize the harmful consequences of failing to do so.
3. Act in an elevated manner at home. "A person who sanctifies his home . . . " The Kotzker Rebbe notes that true holiness is not shown when one is involved in spiritual matters such as study or prayer, but when a person sanctifies his seemingly mundane daily household activities, taking advantage of the many opportunities for acts of kindness towards others in the home.
S. Majesty of Man (Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz)
Finding time for Torah study. "If you walk in My laws . . . " The Midrash tells that King David explained a verse in Tehillim (Psalms): "I contemplated my path and my feet returned me to Your testimony," by noting that each day he decided where he had to go and what he had to do, but instead his feet carried him to learn Torah. Clearly, David didn't disregard necessary tasks; however, he possessed the wisdom to discern which tasks were truly "necessary". While we must not shirk our responsibilities to our jobs, families, etc, we should follow David's footsteps and inculcate within ourselves and our children a strong yearning to learn Torah; by so doing, we will find that we do have some time in our busy schedules for Torah study.
T. Project Genesis (Rabbi Mordecai Kamenetzky)
A history lesson. This Parsha contains stern admonitions and treacherous warnings of what will happen to the Jewish people lest they not observe the Torah. Of course the prescient predictions of misfortune are preceded with a bounty of blessing if we keep the Torah. Unfortunately, however, the good comes with the bad, and the unfavorable penalties are not omitted. They are hauntingly clear and undiluted. The Torah details calamity with Divine accuracy. It predicts enemies with foreign tongues will come from foreign lands to capture us. The Torah forewarns that these conquerors will not act like most, to leave the subjugated in their own land. They will, says the Torah, disperse the Jews throughout the entire world. Frightfully, the Parsha foreshadows the horrors of the inquisition and Holocaust with descriptions of barbarism, Jews betraying Jews, and mass starvation. The predictions are amazing in their accuracy; and more depressing, we were the victims. It's a very difficult Parsha, but the Torah must apprise us about the pain and suffering we will eventually endure. This essay is in no way attempting to answer why those bad things happened to good people. But two thousand years before the events, the Torah accurately predicts events that are unprecedented in the annals of conquerors and the vanquished. Yet the Torah doesn't end it's tochacha only with notes of despair. The strong admonitions close with a promise that, though we will be spread throughout the world we will always yearn for our homeland, feel connected to it, and that an enduring spirit and love for Judaism and our Father in Heaven will never cease. Three thousand years and countless massacres, crusades, inquisitions later it still works. Pretty powerful. That would have been a great way to end off quite a depressing portion. It would have even been a wonderful way to end the Book of Vayikrah. But the Torah ends the portion with quite an anticlimactic group of laws respecting a person's right to donate his own value or the value of any of his possessions to the Temple. He can declare his home, his animals, even himself as subject to evaluation. Moreover, the Torah assesses a value to any living soul. And that value, whether 30 silver shekels or 50 shekels, is to be donated to the Temple. What connection is the last part of the Parsha to the stern and ominous portion that precedes it? After the Nazis invaded the small village of Klausenberg, they began to celebrate in their usual sadistic fashion. They gathered the Jews into a circle in the center of town, and then paraded their Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusial Yehuda Halberstam, into the center. They began taunting and teasing him, pulling his beard and pushing him around. The vile soldiers trained their guns on him as the commander began to speak. "Tell us Rabbi," sneered the officer, "do you really believe that you are the Chosen People?" The soldiers guarding the crowd howled in laughter. But the Rebbe did not. In a serene voice, he answered loud and clear, "Most certainly." The officer became enraged. He lifted his rifle above his head and sent it crashing on the head of the Rebbe. The Rebbe fell to the ground. There was rage in the officer's voice. "Do you still think you are the Chosen People?" he yelled. Once again, the Rebbe nodded his head and said, "yes, we are." The officer became infuriated. He kicked the Rebbe in the shin and repeated. "You stupid Jew, you lie here on the ground, beaten and humiliated. What makes you think that you are the Chosen People?" From the depths of humiliation clouded in dust, the Rebbe replied. "As long as we are not the ones kicking and beating innocent people, we can call ourselves chosen." The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the Torah follows the portion of tochacha, the story of Jews kicked and beaten from their homeland, with an even more powerful message. No matter what happens, we have great value as individuals, and as a nation, now and for eternity. Hashem understands that each and every one of us is a great commodity. Lying on the ground, beaten and degraded, a Jewish man, woman, or child can declare his value to the Temple, for no matter how low any nation considers him, G-d values his great worth. And he is considered cherished for eternity.
U. Living Each Day (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)
The deception of underestimation. In this Parsha, we read the very serious consequences that will follow abandonment of the Torah. The, G-d says, "I shall remember My covenant with Jacob . . . and with Isaac . . . and with Abraham." What is the relevance of this statement in the context of the admonishment? Shelah explains that a person is held accountable commensurate with his capacities. Our actions are judged against a very high standard since we are the descendants of the Patriarchs. We had forebears who were saintly people, thoroughly spiritual, and completely committed to Hashem's will. The yeitzer hara (evil inclination), however, never relents. If it cannot undermine our spirituality by one technique, it will try another. It is apt to delude us with misguided humility in order to gain its ends. "Why makes you think that your study of Torah is of any value?" "You act as though you are a tzaddik (righteous person), when in fact you are a degenerate." These negative thoughts are aided by our natural inclination to laziness and comfort. To combat the yeitzer hara, we must be aware of our enormous capacities. Every person has potential that approaches that of the angels (Psalms 8:6). We must maximize that potential, and not allow ourselves to be deluded that we are incapable of reaching the heights of spiritual achievement.
V. Parsah Parables (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky)
It's the effort. In this Parsha, the Torah promises its bounty of blessing -- rain in its proper time, secure borders, peace and tranquillity. All these promises are prefaced, however, by the opening words, "if you follow My commandments and observe my mitzvos." Rashi, amazingly enough, explains this verse in a different light. As a prerequisite to its great blessing, the Torah sets forth the following condition: "if you shall toil in the Torah in order to do the mitzvos." There is obviously a great difference between the literal translation and Rashi's: the Torah seems to say that you must fulfill the mitzvah, whereas Rashi explains that you must strive for its fulfillment. Rashi teaches us that we must "Go in the path of Torah," meaning toil in Torah and work on improving our knowledge, level of commitment and observance. In Torah, it's the effort that counts. (As the Chofetz Chaim said, "In Torah, the very effort invested in study of Torah constitutes a mitzvah, even if there is no 'product'. If one does not arrive at a conclusion, the study of Torah is no less meritorious." A Yeshiva dean was once approached by the parent of one his students. "I'd like to remove my child from the Yeshiva," the man said. "After all, he's only an average student; a Vilna Gaon (a Sage) he'll never be." The dean asked the father how he earned a living. He answered that he owned a business. "I think you should quit your business," the dean said. "By why?" stammered the parent. "Listen," said the dean with a smile, "you may be earning a living, but will you ever become a Rothschild?" The father understood the message. There is no mitzvah to become the Vilna Gaon. The mitzvah is to try to become one.
W. Peninim on the Torah (Rabbi A.L. Scheinbaum)
1. Walking the path of Hashem. "If in My statutes, you shall walk." What does it mean to "walk" in Hashem's way? One must retain his/her spiritual connection to Hashem both in and out of the synagogue or study hall -- in one's home, business, when interacting with others, etc. If you "walk" in Hashem's statutes and affirm your ability to carry yourself n the path of Torah at all times, despite any opposition you may encounter, you will be blessed with great reward.
2. Everyone is valuable. Why does the Book of Vayikrah end with laws relating to (among other things) vows that a person may make to donate to the Temple the monetary value which the Torah assigns to a person his age? The significance is this change of topic lies in the concern that a person might become demoralized after the frightening punishments revealed in this chapter, feeling that he/she has no self-worth. The Torah's message is that he/she always has worth as an individual. In fact, the Torah suggests that in moments of distress a person should make a vow to Hashem, as Yaakov did when he left his father's home. This sign of solidarity with Hashem serves as a source of encouragement and reassurance.
X. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)
Pride with humility. "And I have made you walk upright." Rashi's comment on this verse is "with an upright posture." This is somewhat surprising, since the Talmud considers walking with an upright posture to be a sign of a lack of humility, and indeed frank arrogance. There is, however, a difference whether one assumes an attitude of pride because one is boasting about oneself or seeking popular acclaim in order to appease one's ego, or whether one taking pride in one's own achievement or prominence as being a testimony to Hashem's glory. For the person who knows that any greatness he possesses was bestowed upon him by Hashem and is not of his own doing, being the recipient of honor can be a most humbling experience. This kind of "walking upright" is not only permissible but is desirable.
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