Dvar Torah Parshat Bechukotai 5776 2016

In last week’s Portion Hashem relates to Moshe numerous laws which he should relay to Bnei Israel that they must observe. This week’s Portion continues with Hashem’s words to Moshe, and Hashem says: אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ, “If you will follow My decrees…”. (Lev. 26,3) Rashi quotes the Midrash and says that this “is an admonition that you should study the Torah strenuously”.

There is an interesting story told about the Chafetz Chaim. A young man once came to him and bemoaned the fact that he has been studying Torah strenuously for many years and he still does not see any scholarly blessing in his studies.
The Chafetz Chaim said to him, “Did the Torah ever say we must be scholars? The Torah tells us that we must study Torah strenuously. We do not have to become scholars.”

Every person today must allow time to study. Some may find it difficult to set aside time for study but we must recall that years gone by in Europe Jews would work hard all day to earn a living. Yet at the end of the day’s work they would hurry to the Synagogue or Bet Midrash to pray and to learn.

We must all adopt the habit of devoting some time in our daily activities to study at our own level and fulfill the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah.

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Dvar Torah Parshat Bechukotai 5774 2014

Studying and gaining knowledge has many different goals. A scientist will try to increase his knowledge of the universe, the earth, or of physical laws so as to improve our understanding of the world. With this information he may be able to develop new inventions that will make life easier. Medical studies and pharmaceutical experimentation help to improve the health of everyone.

The study of Torah is not to make life easier or healthier. Living according to the Torah precepts properly, offers a way of life that makes society and personal existence more meaningful.

he Torah says: אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ, “If you will follow My decrees…”. (Lev. 26,3) The Torah continues by enumerating the many blessings with which Hashem will bless you. In explaining this verse Rashi says: הוו עמלים בתורה על מנת לשמור ולקיים, “If you will study the Torah conscientiously with the intentions to keep and to fulfill it teachings…”.

According to Rashi’s explanation, which of course, is based on the Rabbinic understanding, the road to good observance starts with the study of Torah for the purpose of fulfilling its requirements. The promise of a good life and a good society revolves around the diligent study of Torah.

Dvar Torah BeHar-Chukotai 5773 2013

If the Jewish people in Israel would live according to the laws of the Torah, אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתַי (Lev. 26,3) we are promised among other things that rain will fall in their due time and the land would give its produce. What follows is a description of prosperity and plenty in the Land of Israel. The Sifra, which is the Halachic Midrash on the Torah, goes a step further based on the blessing Hashem gave to Avraham, וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה , “…and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Gen.12,4)

The Sifra states that all nations of the world will come to you to purchase food because of your prosperity. In the ancient world which was limited in scope this promise seems feasible. In the modern world, which has expanded to encompass the entire globe, this blessing is still true but has acquired a different meaning.

In today’s world its implication could refer to fields of modern technologies and discoveries. In this sense it is certainly true that the entire world turns to Israel to take advantage of its new expertise, skills and innovations. This little country has offered the world far more proportionately than any other country on the earth.

Even Israel’s greatest enemies are constantly using the gifts coming from Israel even though they refuse to recognize their source and certainly would not give Israel credit for its contributions to modern advancements.

Dvar Torah Parshat BeChukotai 5772 2012

We read this week what is known as the Tochacha, dire warning of the evil and misfortunes that will befall the Jewish people in the Land of Israel if they abandon the Torah and do not follow its practice. After all these dreadful and disastrous tragic events befall the country and the Jews do not repent, the Torah goes a step further and warns that the cities will be destroyed and enemies will inhabit the land.

The Torah warns that the land would become desolate: וְשָׁמְמוּ עָלֶיהָ אֹיְבֵיכֶם הַיֹּשְׁבִים בָּהּ, “…and your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate.” (Lev. 26,32) Rashi, quoting the Sifra (BeChukotai 2) maintains that this statement is a kind benefit for the Jews. The land will be so desolate that no enemy will be able to prosper on it.

History has proven this to be true. All the conquerors of Israel throughout the ages, and there were many, were never successful in making the land flourish. The land was a barren expanse for centuries with very few people living on it. It was only when the Jews started coming back, and started rebuilding it, did it start thriving and prospering.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bechukotai 5771 2011

If the Jewish people will keep the Torah and follow the dictates of the Torah, Hashem promises in this week’s Sidra that He will bring many blessings upon our people. One of the assurances is: VA’ACHALTEM LACHMECHEM LASOVAH VISHAVTEM LAVETACH BE’ARTZECHEM, “…you will eat your bread to the full and you will dwell securely in your land.” (Lev. 26,5)

It is a known fact that many citizens of Israel leave the country to earn their livelihood in other lands because of higher salaries, better living conditions and greater security. This causes what we called a “brain drain”, depriving Israel of great strength in many fields.

The guarantee offered by Hashem is that if the Land of Israel will be the embodiment of what the Torah envisioned for it, then it will be blessed with all its needs and no one will be compelled to seek his fortunes elsewhere.

This is a promise we would like to see fulfilled in the near future, when the Torah will be honored in Israel by all and the blessings will be bestowed upon us.

Dvar Torah Parshat Behar Bechukotai 2009 5769

We read the Tochacha, the evil that will befall the Jewish people if they abandon the Torah. Immediately following this portion we read the laws pertaining to the values of people in various stages of their lives if they are eager to contribute their value to the sanctuary. Why the juxtaposition of these two passages?

A wonderful explanation was given by a great Rabbi. After reading the Tochacha and the dire horror that is predicted, one may loose all sense of his personal worth. How can he feel that his life has any value if such disastrous and dreadful predictions threaten him?

Hence the Torah sends a word of encouragement. Every person has value. The Tochacha is a declaration of what will happen to him for disregarding the Torah, but it does not diminish the value of a person. We must all live up to the potential we are granted when we are born. Everyone is different and everyone is obligated to live up to his own promise.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bechukotai 2008 – 5768 דבר תורה פרשת בחוקותי

We read the terrible predictions that will befall the Jewish people if they abandon the Torah. Towards the end, however, we are told: VEZACHARTI ET BRITI YAAKOV. “Then I will remember My covenant with Yaakov, and also My covenant with Yitzchak and also My covenant with Avraham …” (Lev. 26,42) Hashem will remember the covenant He made with the forefathers to give their descendants the Land of Israel.

What is strange about this Pasuk is that when mentioning the forefathers they are mentioned in reverse order, first Yaakov then Yitzchak and then Avraham. They should have been mention in chronological order, starting with Avraham.

Someone once told a parable to explain it. A boy bought candy in a store and paid for his purchase. The storekeeper then gave him a few extra candies without charging him. Another boy standing nearby saw this and said to the storekeeper if you gave him free candy give me some as well. The storekeeper told him that the boy had purchased and he gave him extra. You have not bought anything, why should I give you free candy.

Likewise, had the Pasuk started with Avraham and Yitzchak, the descendants of Esav and Ishmael would have come with a claim that they too should get a share in the land. Their forefathers had followed the teachings of Hashem. The Pasuk started with Yaakov since all his descendants remained in the Jewish fold. They deserved the land. No one else can claim the same gift from Hashem. The gifts to Avraham and Yitzchak’s descendant were only added on to those of Yaakov. Yaakov’s descendants deserved the extra gifts.