Parshas Bechukosai 5778

A Person only Merits to see Hashem’s Miraculous and Wondrous Hand in the World through Dedicated Toil in Torah Study

“אם בחוקותי תלכו ומשפטי תשמרו” (ויקרא כו:ג)

“If you will walk in the ways of My statutes and you will guard My laws” (Vayikra 26:3)

Asks Rashi, maybe the phrase “אם בחוקותי תלכו” / “If you will walk in the ways of My statutes” is referring to the fulfillment of the mitzvos? He answers, when the posuk states “ואת מצוותי תשמרו” / “and you will guard My laws”, it is referring to the fulfillment of the mitzvos. Therefore, how can we explain“אם בחוקותי תלכו”? [We must say that it is teaching us] that you should toil in Torah learning!

There are commentators (Sifsei Chochomim and others) who explain that Rashi’s explanation stems from the fact that the posuk states “אם בחוקותי תלכו” / “If you will walk in the ways of My statutes” and not “אם בחוקותי תלמדו / “If you will study My statutes”.

To what can this be compared? To a person who stands at the edge of a forest. Looking at the forest he sees only the trees and vegetation and the small animals which are found at the edge of the forest. However, he cannot see and certainly cannot imagine that which is found deep in the forest. However, if he “walks” into the middle of the forest, he will see different and exotic types of trees and vegetation as well as rare and amazing-looking animals which only exist in the depths of the forest.

The same scenario applies to Torah learning. One who learns Torah superficially is as the person who stands at the edge of the forest. Although he will acquire some Torah knowledge, he will not be able to understand the deeper meaning of the Torah. Only one who toils in Torah and “walks” into the depths of the Torah, similar to the person above who walked into the depths of the forest, will he merit to see the wondrous gems found in the inner recesses of the Torah. This is as Dovid Hamelech said “גל עיני ואביטה נפלאות מתורתך” / “Reveal to my eyes and I will see wonders from your Torah” (Tehillim 119:18). And in this vein he said as well “שש אנכי על אמרתך כמוצא שלל רב” / “I am filled with joy learning Your sayings as one who discovers a great bounty” (ibid. 119:162).

Regarding a person who toils in Torah it is written “מה רבו מעשיך ה’ כולם בחכמה עשית מלאה הארץ קניניך” / “How great the multitude of your creations, You made all of them with great wisdom, the earth is inundated with that which is owned by You” (ibid. 104:24). That is, one whose toil in Torah takes him deep into the forest of Torah will notice the multitude of Hashem’s creations and will recognize that great wisdom was implemented in order to create them and that all these creations are only here to show in a myriad of ways Hashem’s connection to and dominion over this world.

With this we can understand the adjacent posukim“ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם ונתנה הארץ יבולה ועץ השדה יתן פריו” / “And I will bring your rains in their times and the earth will give forth its produce and the tree of the field will bear its fruit” (Vayikra 26:4). Rashi explains that “בעתם” / “in their times” refers to Friday nights when people do not go outdoors and “ועץ השדה” / “and the trees of the field” refers to barren trees who will bear fruit in the future. That is, in response to the great effort the Torah learner puts forth in his study by which means he reaches above and beyond the understanding of most men, so too his Torah has a wondrous impact on the society around him.

The Torah gives us three examples of this, from the lightest case to the most powerful one. Firstly, the Torah tells us that it is within the power of Torah learning to control when rain destined to fall will actually fall. Secondly, and even greater than the above, we learn that toil in Torah causes the earth and the trees to bear its fruit even if the correct conditions for growth are lacking. Thirdly and lastly, and the most powerful effect of all, dedicated Torah study can cause barren trees to bear fruit.

All these cases clarify to us the great power of one who toils in Torah study; that he is given the power to break the rules and limitations of natural law and in doing so bring great blessing upon himself and upon his surroundings. This is as the posukim found further on in our Parsha read “וישבתם לבטח בארצכם. ונתתי שלום בארץ” / “And you shall sit securely in your land. And I will bring peace on the land…”

With the above, we can now understand why the Torah uses the phrase“אם בחוקותי” / “If in My statutes” and not “אם במשפטי” / “If in My laws” for a statute is a law whose reason man’s limited mind cannot fathom and this is the idea of toiling in Torah study – to reach a level of understanding that which one had absolutely no connection to before his toil! May we merit to toil in Torah and be blessed for doing so!

Iyar 5778

Toil in Torah Casts Blessing on all of One’s Activities

“אם בחוקותי תלכו… ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם ונתנה הארץ יבולה…” (ויקרא כו:ג)

“If you will walk in My statutes… And I will bring your rains in their times and the earth will give forth its produce” (Vayikra 26:3)

Now, the posuk does not state “If you will spread salt on the clouds (like the Chinese did during the Olympics) I will bring your rains in their times and the earth will give forth its produce” rather “If you will walk in My statutes… And I will bring your rains in their times and the earth will give forth its produce”! Similarly, it does not state “If you will plant a fruit tree, the fruit shall grow in its time” rather “If you will walk in My statutes… and the tree of the field will produce its fruit”. That is, although it is proper for a person to put forth the necessary effort to supply his family’s basic financial needs, he should reach a crystal clear understanding that through his sitting in the Beis Hamedrash and toiling in Torah study Hakadosh Baruch Hu sends blessing and prosperity in all of his endeavors, both spiritual and physical, whether in the home or in the field, etc.

This is as is mentioned in the Gemora (Sanhedrin 99b) Rav Yitzchok the son of Avudimi explained the posuk “נפש עמל עמלה לו כי אכף עליו פיהו” / “A person who toils (in Torah), that toil toils on his behalf because he placed a saddle on his mouth” (Mishlei 16:26). (He explained) He toiled [in Torah study] in this place (ie. in the Beis Medrash) and his Torah toils for him in another place. That is, his Torah radiates from the place he studies casting its blessings on all of his activities and endeavors. Regarding this, the posuk states “יפוצו מעיינותיך חוצה” / “your internal efforts will produce wellsprings (of blessing) beyond your place of study” (Mishlei 5:16). Similarly, the posuk states“שתולים בבית ה’ בחצרות אלקינו יפריחו” / “Planted in the house of G-d, they will flower in the courtyards of our G-d” (Tehillim 92:14). That is, he sits and learns in the Beis Hamedrash and his Torah causes all his mundane endeavors to succeed and flower.

Additional support for the above can be seen in that the Torah is compared to rain, as it states “יערף כמטר לקחי תזל כטל אמרתי” / “My teachings shall pour as rain, My sayings shall drizzle as dew” (Devorim 32:2) and this rain is referring to Torah teachings as it uses the word “לקחי” / “My teachings” which refers to Torah teachings as it states “כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם תורתי אל תעזבו” / “For a good teaching I gave to you, My Torah, don’t leave it” (Mishlei 4:2). From here we learn that just as rain falls to the ground and only after many months does the crop appear on the land, so too Torah learning is the source of success of all one’s endeavors even though the success may arrive at later times and be seemingly unrelated to the original Torah study.

Similarly, we find in Gemora Sanhedrin (92a) Rav Sheshes said, one who teaches Torah in this world will merit to teach it as well in the World-to-Come as it says “ומרוה גם הוא יורא” / “to teach, also he will teach” (Mishlei 11:25). These words give great support to that which we mentioned above, for if one’s Torah teaching in this world can merit one to teach Torah in a world completely separate from this world, surely one’s Torah learning in this world can bring blessing to his other endeavors which are found within the confines of this world!

Kislev 5777

The Benefit Derived from our Brothers Living in the Diaspora

“אף אני אלך עמם בקרי והבאתי אותם בארץ אויביהם או אז יכנע לבבם הערל ואז ירצו את עונם” (ויקרא כו:מא)

“Also I will act with them without rhyme or reason and I will bring them in the land of their enemies or then their unbridled heart shall be humbled and then their sin will be atoned for” (Vayikra 26:41)

Rashi explains that the phrase ““ואז ירצו את עונם / “and then their sin will be atoned for” teaches us that their sins will atoned for through their suffering (at the hands of their enemies). That is, living in the diaspora in the land of their enemies is not only a punishment but also a remedy for their spiritual lackings. This idea has almost been forgotten in these generations where many of our brethren have merited to move to Eretz Yisrael.

Now, there are those who reprove our brethren who live in the diaspora saying that they are not fulfilling their obligation to live in Eretz Yisrael. However, our posuk teaches that there is another angle to their living outside of Israel, and that is that the difficulties they have through living in golus/exile in the land of the nations bring atonement to their sins. And also, it is possible that these difficulties help to atone as well for the sins of those living in Israel! This is especially needed today where a majority of our brethren in Eretz Yisrael do not fulfill their Torah responsibilities as required.

In any case, Hashem’s primary request from us is not that we should come to live in Israel (as concludes Rav Moshe Feinstein ob”m that in our generation we are not obligated to move to Israel) but that we should keep His Torah. Proof of this is that the punishments written in this Parsha are meted out to those who decline to follow the laws of the Torah as it says“ואם לא תשמעו לי ולא תעשו את כל המצוות האלה” / “And if you will not listen to Me and you will not perform all these mitzvos” (Vayikra 26:14) and it does not say “because you did not come to live in the land of Israel”.

Therefore, before a person considers aliya he should make sure that he is prepared to fulfill all of the laws particular to the land of Israel. And so brings Tosfos (Kesuvos 110b) that Rebbeinu Chaim said that at this point in time there is no mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael for there are many laws pertaining to the land of Israel that we cannot keep!

However, one who already lives in the land of Israel has a great obligation to fulfill the laws of the Torah and especially the laws particular to the land, and he must be careful not to transgress even a single mitzvah as it says“דבר אל בני ישראל לאמר נפש כי תחטא בשגגה מכל מצות ה’ אשר לא תעשינה ועשה מאחת מהנה”” / “Speak to the children of Israel saying when a person sins accidentally in even one of the mitzvos of Hashem which he must avoid transgressing” (Vayikra 4:2).

In conclusion, while the person living in Israel may rebuke his friend who still lives in the diaspora telling him that he is slowing down the process of redemption, it may be that his friend is actually the one who is preparing for the future redemption by means of the atonement he receives for his sins and for the sins of his people (as they were collectively sent to onto golus/to live in foreign lands and therefore the atonement of individuals generates atonement for the whole as well) and this as well will help bring the redemption of the Jewish people!

Iyar 5777

Have a nice Shabbos!

Shabbat Shalom!

Yona Vogel


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