Contributing AuthorA contributing author.
Rabbi Wagensberg spoke in his shiur on parshi'ot Behar/Bechukotai with a disclaimer concerning the sensitive content covered and how it might relate to each of our individual situations. The overall themes were that someone - Hashem - cares about us - B'nai Yisrael - afflicts those whom he loves when we don't adhere to his laws, and wants and longs for our tefillot.
Rabbi Wagensberg cited a number of proofs and stories to illustrate these themes. One such proof was the fact that the curses in Bechukotai, as well as later in Sefer Devarim, outnumber the blessings. He cites the "curse" of the Nachash (snake) to crawl on his belly and eat dirt. He also mentions the quote from the 23rd psalm, Mizmor L'David, "My rod and my staff, they comfort me."
Rabbi Wagensberg also cited the quote from "Borei Nefashot" (the after-Brachot for any food not covered by Birkat HaMazon after meals or Brachot Acharonot for snacks without bread), "Borei Nefashot Rabot V'Chesranan" - "the creation of numerous living beings with deficiencies." He also offers another quote, this from Mizmor L'Dovid, "Achtov V'Chessed Yeirdafuni..." - "Goodness and kindness pursue me..."
Rabbi Wagensberg asked about the curse of the Nachash; wasn't this the greatest bracha possible, to make a creature totally self-sufficient for all time? Or was Hashem totally divorcing himself from the creature, leaving it a pariah -- unloved and uncared for? And, conversely, were the brachot conveyed upon B'nai Yisrael by Bila'am really brachot? Or was it the worst possible curse upon B'nai Yisrael? Is it to be understood that when everything is going well for too long, we have to wonder what we are doing wrong?
He then brought a few stories to illustrate the themes of our Parshat Hashevua.
The first story is about children playing ball in the street. The ball is kicked into the gutter and a child runs after it - into the path of an on-coming vehicle traveling at a fast speed. The driver slams on his brakes and the car stops inches from the child. Those in the distance who observed the event merely expressed a "tsk, tsk" and walked on. But the child's father then proceeds to scream repeatedly at the child to "Never, Never do that again", while paddling the child's posterior with his hand. The child, in his immaturity, thinks that his parent is being cruel to him. The child wonders, "Why isn't my father grateful that I emerged unscathed?"
He then told the story of the college student who doesn't communicate regularly with his parents. Yet, despite the lack of contact, the monthly allowance came regularly. However, one month the allowance didn't come. When the student discovers that he has no money, all of a sudden, the phone rings at home.
The point is that Hashem is strictest with and afflicts those whom he loves, because he wants us to follow his laws - his Torah - because he seeks closeness with us and longs for our collective tefillot and unity.
And so, in parsha Bechukotai, we read the portion of the Tochochoh, the admonishment, which is explicit as to the punishments that will befall B'nai Yisrael if they violate Hashem's Torah.
?I (Hashem), will set my face against you and you will be smitten before your enemies. They that hate you will rule over you.? (Bechukotai, Perek 26, posuk 17)
A commentary from the Sefer L'lmode Ul'lamed (page 126) is as follows:
?The text implies that included among the enemies will be those from Yisrael, enemies from within. These enemies, say our rabbonim, are the most vicious of adversaries. They are Jews who seem to deny their roots and not accept their Judaism."
They seem not to have emunah (faith) in Hashem and consider themselves mere ?grasshoppers?. They put their emunah in mortals - in the prowess of man, in the super-power of the time - while seeking to destroy their fellow Jews. They are the most dangerous of all enemies. They are traitors against their own kind, who know where their fellow men are the most vulnerable.
It is tragic that often the worst enemy of the Jewish people and those most dangerous to Jews, are Jews themselves.
As a result, the B'nai Yisrael is deceived by it's evil rulers, those who seek to subvert Torah and our traditions, into feeling that all is hopeless, that there is no Divine being.
The Shem Mishmuel speaks of the significance of the posuk in Bechukotai ?I will remember my covenant Yaakov and also my covenant Yitzchak, and also my covenant Avraham I will remember, and I will remember the land.?: (Bechukotai, Perek 26, posuk 42)
?Our verse describes the position of Klal Yisrael in exile, when their spiritual life is at its lowest ebb. In that situation, they feel depressed and ucertain of their role in the world. Their poor physical circumstances may induce a feeling of failure and hopelessness; they are so troubled by the pressures of life that they despair of the efficacy of their prayers and Torah study. Indeed, this happened to Klal Yisrael in Egypt: ?... and they did not listen to Moshe due to shortness of spirit and the hard work.? (Va'era, Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 9) The work in Egypt was so backbreaking and their lives were so dreadful that they did not have the presence of mind to appreciate the message that Moshe was transmitting to them. So, too, in any exile experience, Klal Yisrael may reach a point of emotional hopelessness." (Shem Mishmuel, pages 288-289)
We have observed today how the minds of the masses of Israelis have been inculcated by Israel's Public Educational system, by the newspapers and electronic news media with the myth of the "absence" of a Divine Being, for "how could the Holacuast have happened if there is a G?d?" These "evil rulers" have taught generations of the masses that it is man who affects contemporary Medinat Yisrael and her victorious wars against overwhelming numbers of her enemies, that the so-called "palestinian" (sic) Arabs "always lived on the land and, therefore, it is theirs" and the bogus propaganda that the Jews "are cruel and perpetrated massacres from Deir Yassin to Jenin last year", etc. And they nurtured a caste system where no one questions those who are ostensibly looking out for the economic "welfare of the working man", but who are, in fact, only seeking protection for their own narrow self-interests and spheres of influence, at the expense of the entire nation. This distorted system has brought about a generation with a lazy work ethic, the Israeli Maynard G. Krebs, who avoids even the simplest work tasks like the plague, while living off of perks such as free electricity.
These "evil leaders", the historical revisionists who create "historical fact" and inculcate it to masses of Israelis, so that lies become truths and truths become lies, deny our connection with our Jewish roots - the Temple Mount, Hevron, Kever Yosef, Kever Rachel, etc. They relate to these significant Jewish locations as being "ancient biblical sites", which are meaningless in today's "reality." They relate to my Eretz Yisrael as just another piece of real estate like anywhere else in the world. And so, the Prime Minister has put Shilo and Beit El on the "chopping block."
Of even more recent historical vintage, our revisionists ignore the fact that the newly appointed "Prime Minister" of the "p.a." (sic), an innovation of the quartet's "Roadmap", is none other than the bloody financier of the Munich Olympic Massacre, Abu (Mahmoud Abbas in a business suit) Mazen. "The Road Map" as we know is the latest in a long line of Oslo mutant plans. And so, the Prime Minister has permitted pistol-packin' Arab security men into his office during the recent meeting with Abbas-in-a-business-suit. And, what do ya? know, today we hear that the Israeli Navy has caught another weapons ship bound for Gaza, loaded down with Hizbullah weapons being sent to the "p.a."(sic). Deja Vu, yet again, after two Gulf Wars, two loan guarantee packages and now two huge caches of Arab weapons within 14 months.
Yes, we've had short periods of seeming quiet, while the "p.a." (sic) retools, which have caused a dumbed-down public to be lulled into amnesia, only to be rudely awakened by a new spate of Jewish bloodshed. "The Great Hope", rather "The Great Nope", Abu Mazen is showing yet again that another Israeli Leader wears no clothes.
Perhaps their self-hatred of their Jewish roots, traditions, historical roots and historical connection to the land is far more dangerous to B'nai Yisrael than Arafat, Abu Mazen or the "p.a." (sic), Hamas, Hizbullah, the Arab nations, the EU, the UN, or the American Adminstration combined.
And so we fought "Operation Defensive Shield" last year, when total victory was snatched from the clutches of the IDF by the political leaders who reflect the thought processes of a mind-numbed public. This public who cries "Ma la?asot?" - "What to do?" - and "Why?", because it has been inculcated for decades by the "evil rulers" who control Israel's institutions, education, Histadrut, the courts and news media. These are the institutions which dictate to the masses what "truth" and political-correctness happen to be today.
"...they feel depressed and uncertain of their role in the world. ...they are so troubled by the pressures of life..."
"... and they did not listen to Moshe due to shortness of spirit and the hard work."
My friends, Hashem needs to hear from us. He needs to hear the anguished cry of our matzav, both personal and national. Our tefillah and learning must rise to the next level and beyond. And we must do our physical hishtadlut. A year has gone by since the Likud Central Committee Meeting said no to a "Palestinian" (sic; cough, choke) state and Prime Minister Sharon paid no heed. And now, the mere facts don't stand in the way of these evil facilitators of the mis-directed "Roadmap." Jewish survival and sovereignty in our Land is on the line.
And another year has gone by that Jonathan Pollard continues to languish in prison due to the travesty of justice and cruelty to which he has been subjected and suffered daily for 17 years, and for which the "evil rulers" within Israel, with skeletons to hide, have been party to.
May we strive to perfect our internal and private middot and d?rachim; modesty, humility and our other mitzvot, chasadim, tzedakah, total honesty and having ahavat chinom for our fellow Jews on all levels - personal, business, learning, etc. As we say each night, when counting the Omer, "May it be your will, Hashem... that in the merit of the Omer count that I have counted today, may there be corrected whatever blemish I have caused in the Sefirah..." If we will care enough about our brother to help him and treat him, at all levels - b'derech, at business, at home - as we would want to be treated ourselves, and if we finally recognize that the emet of the unity of B'nai Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael overrides the various agendas, then Arafat, Abu Mazen and the Arabs, Dubya, Cheney, Zinni, Powell and Clinton, before them, are as nothing.
As Rabbi Moshe Ungar would say each Thursday evening at his Gemara shiur back in Phildelphia, in "the old country", that then we'll be zocha to demand, compel Hashem to do "what he wants to do, to bring us the Moshiach and the Ge'ula Shlaima, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v'yameinu - speedily, in our time, like achshav - immediately - like, chik-chak.
Moshe Burt, an Oleh Chadash, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of the Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.