Friday, June 3, 2016

Parshas Bechukosai

This Week’s Parsha – Bechukosai

This week’s parsha is Bechukosai, and a lot of it discusses the blessings we get if we keep Hashem’s holy commandments, and the curses we will get if we, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid don’t. Over the course of history, unfortunately, a lot of Jews have strayed off the course which Hashem told us to follow. For real, we already long ago have deserved to be destroyed, but Hashem in His abundant Kindness has mercy on us. If we, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid don’t do what we are supposed to, and bad things befall us, then we can never say that we weren’t warned. Hashem warned us! Not only that, but He told us some of the good things that we will get if we do serve Him properly. He gives us incentive if we do keep His commandments, and punishments, if we don’t, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. We have all many times done sins which, for real, we deserve to be punished very severely for. But Hashem does not say "Don’t say I didn’t warn you"; He graciously waits for us to do Teshuva/repentance, and return to Him! If we all thought about how much He has mercy on us, and waits for us to return to Him, we would likely all feel a burning desire to return fully to Him, and do only what He wants us to. Hopefully, B’Eizer Hashem/With the Help of Hashem, we will all get these feelings, and go through with them as well. Amein. I really think that people should remember this parsha a lot of times. For this parsha overall is talking about life! The two paths.... Good and bad. And Hashem lets us choose which path we want to take. Hopefully, B’Eizer Hashem/With the Help of Hashem we will take the good path. Additionally on this topic, I will quote an excerpt from my book Derech Avodah – Bein Adam L’Makom: ‘In His Torah, Hashem shows us exactly how to do the right thing. He wants us to do the right thing. It is like a father who doesn't want to have to punish his child, but if the child did something that they weren’t supposed to (Chas V’Shalom) then they have to punish them. The parent will likely not be happy about having to do this, but they have to. Similarly, Hashem doesn’t want to have to punish us, He wants to give us rewards! But if we, Chas V’Shalom do bad things, then He has to punish us, however, it is only for our benefit truly. As the Baal Shem Tov tells us, if Hashem has to punish us, He hurts, Ki’vi’yachol (which means essentially using human terms to describe Hashem, though they don’t apply to Him) more than we do from it.1 Think about this!’

Another thing: The great Kabbalist, HaRav Yitzchok Ginsburgh shlita explains a beautiful thing: The parsha of Bechukosai always falls on the Omer, and he says that it really corresponds to the highest day of the Omer – Lag B’Omer. How does it? So he explains three proofs how it does: #1, Bechukosai is the 33rd parsha in the Torah. This corresponds to the 33rd day of the Omer, which is Lag B’Omer. #2, The Gematria/numerical value of the words ‘’ – the first two words of the parsha – is 561, he observes. If we calculate, 1+2+3+4 etc. all the way up to 33, comes out to a grand total of 561! #3, He says further that there are actually 33 letters in the first passuk/verse of this parsha! Amazing! Now on to the parsha: The first passuk/verse in this parsha is: ‘Eem Bechukosai teileichu, vi’es Mitzvosai tishmoru, vaasisem osam/If you will go in My Statutes and My Commandments you will observe, and you will do them’. Rashi quotes from Sifra, which explains that ‘If you will go in My Statutes’ can refer to learning Torah intensively, with the intention of ‘observing My Commandments’, and then actually ‘doing them’. This is something that is very important. Back to the parsha: The Torah goes on to talk about the blessings and good things which we will get if we keep Hashem’s Commandments. But this is if! Do we really keep Hashem’s Commandment’s properly? Do we serve Him properly? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves a lot. Anyway, some of the blessings which Hashem will give us if we keep His Commandments, are that He will give us the rains in their proper time, the land will give its produce, the tree will give its fruit, Hashem will give us peace, and much more! But then, from very early in Shlishi/the third Aliyah until the end of the Aliyah, Hashem tells us about the terrible things which will happen to us if we don’t keep His Commandments, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. We should really read them, and realize the consequences of our actions. Now, obviously, we know that Hashem is for sure not punishing us out of anger for the bad which we did. He punishes us because He has to! Why would we do anything that Hashem doesn't want us to? Why? What reason do we find to not serve Him properly? We could be serving Him very well, but no, we find some way not to. Say we are learning Torah, and we see the opportunity to play a game, should we abandon our Torah study to play, or keep learning? Obviously, we should keep learning! It is part of serving Hashem.

(Though there are cases in which we should go and play, such as if we had arranged beforehand with our friends that we would play. Not playing would be lying). Or say we are not doing anything, should we find something to do that doesn't matter at all, such as playing or wasting time, or should we go do a good deed such as learn Torah or something? Again, doing a good deed is much more important. It always is. But somebody who picks playing or the like over doing something good, is right there doing something wrong. I can say that I’m almost sure I pick the wrong one of the choices at least once each day. But I must improve! Everyone must! There are many things that lots of people do each day that are not part of serving Hashem. But one of the tricks to not doing aveiros/sins is to always think about what you are doing. Then, before you do something, you can think about if it is good or not. But if you forget even for a second, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid about what you are supposed to be doing, then you might come to do a sin, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid! Always remember what is going on and what you are doing. I will quote another excerpt from my book – Derech Avodah – Bein Adam L’Makom here: ‘Service of Hashem is what every person must do. It cannot be said of it that it is ‘not for me’, as it is for everyone to do. The special mission in life one has may be different from their fellow, but the main thing is the same for everyone: Avodas Hashem. The mission one has is merely how they should do things to serve Hashem. Some are supposed to be in business, making money to be able to give tzedakah, support Torah institutions and scholars, etc. But others are supposed to be the ones in learning, trying to be the scholars. And there are yet others as well. However, there are basic things that every Jew must do. Such as keeping the Mitzvos, learning Torah, fearing and loving Hashem, doing good things, etc. Again, we must do all of these things in our Avodah. Really, the only thing in life is serving Hashem Yisbareich. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you must serve Hashem. If you are supposed to be one who works and gives tzedakah and that kind of stuff, then your work is part of your Avodah. You must have the right kavanos/intentions with your work, knowing that you are making money in order to be able to give, and support. Our whole life needs to be dedicated to serving Hashem. Somebody who is supposed to work must still find time to learn at least some, they must still love and fear Hashem and try to concentrate on what they must, even when they are in the middle of something, and they must still do good things. This is not easy, as when you are working, it is hard to concentrate on something else. Many have discussed the fact that serving Hashem is true life. If someone, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid, doesn’t serve Hashem, then they are not truly living.

True life only comes through serving Hashem. He gave us life, and He gives us abilities that we must use for serving Him. Hashem gave us a holy Neshama/Soul. Rambam brings down that for real, every person’s Neshama/Soul wants to do the right things, but it is up to us to either listen to it, or enslave it, by not doing good things. We must do good things! All of us have been created for a reason: To serve Hashem Yisbareich Shi’mo/Blessed is His Name as well as we can, and to the best of our abilities.’ Now (finally) back to the parsha: Towards the end of the rebuke, Hashem tells us a very comforting thing. He starts out by telling us ‘Vi’zacharti es Brisi Yaakov, vi’aph es Brisi Yitzchok, vi’aph es Brisi Avraham Ezkor, vi’haAretz Ezkor/And I will remember My Covenant with Yaakov, and also My Covenant with Yitzchok, and also My Covenant with Avraham I will remember, and the Land I will remember’. The Baal HaTurim (Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher zt"l) comments and he explains that the fact that the verse begins with remembrance and ends with remembrance, it teaches us that we should always remember the Avos/Forefathers.2 Meaning: The verse begins with remembrance, as Hashem is saying that He will remember Yaakov, and it ends with remembrance, as He says that He will remember the land. Also, the main theme of the verse, seems to be the Avos/Forefathers, thus, it teaches us that we should always remember them. Now, HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l explains a nice thing on this Baal HaTurim: "Remembrance leads to contemplation, contemplation leads to longing and cleaving, longing and cleaving draws the light of the Tzaddikim/righteous ones into the Souls of their students."3 His essay on this subject (which has a lot more to it than I just quoted) discusses the fact that if we remember, read about, think about, etc. Tzaddikim/righteous ones and the great things which they did (and do, if they are still alive), it helps us want to do the great things which they did. We can learn from their great deeds, as he writes beautifully further: "We may never have seen or known the Sages of an earlier generation. But, like orphans whose fathers died when they were small, we are still the sons, and they are still the fathers. Not all of us were privileged to see giants of Mussar, who blazed a path of self-improvement and character building. Nevertheless, we, the students of their students (or farther back than that) are considered like sons when we study them and their deeds. Contemplating their figures will draw their light to us, and our hearts will cleave to them and join them. We will be united with these great Sages, and their merit will stand by us. Then the fear of G-d will be with us forever."4 It is noteworthy that Reb Zaitchik zt"l was a student of The Alter of Novhardok (HaRav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz zt"l), so he did know great Tzaddikim! Actually, he has a great book about some incredible righteous people, called ‘Sparks of Mussar.’

Now back to the parsha: Hashem tells us basically that He will not destroy us and that He will remember back when we were good. A lot of the remaining Aliyah’s (most of which are fairly short) discuss stuff with to the consecration of things. This parsha has 78 pessukim/verses.

Please feel fee to share any thoughts, or ask any questions you may have.  Thanks!

Have a great Shabbos everyone!


1  Parsha in-depth, Parshas Bechukosai.
2 Sparks of Mussar, Introduction, page 2.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications©
3 Sparks of Mussar, Introduction, page 3.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications©
4 Sparks of Mussar, Introduction, page 3.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications©

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