Behar\Bechukotai: Healing the Spirit and Recalculating

Due to the gap between the Parasha reading in Israel and the one abroad, Torah thoughts for both parshot are posted here.

Torah Mitzion Torani Tzioni Movement

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Torah Mitzion

A Healing for the Spirit Parashat Behar
By Rabbi Eldad Zamir
Former shaliach TMT Cape Town 1997 -1998, Senior Instructor at the Nativ ’Giyur” program in the IDF

In this week's parasha we once again, find the commandment of keeping the Shabbat. In the last verse we read: Et Shabtotai Tishmoru U'mikdashi tirau' ani Hashem - the Sabbaths you shall keep and my Temple you shall fear, I am G-d.

There was once a rich man who had three children that were sick with an unknown disease. Since money was not a problem, the father hired an outstanding physician to stay with him in his home and devote his time and skills to finding a cure for the strange illness that had attacked his children. Eventually, after much effort, the doctor was able to devise a new remedy which brought about a miraculous improvement in the condition of the children. The happy father did everything in his power to show the skilled physician his gratitude and appreciation for helping his children.

Unfortunately, this happy state did not last long. The children again became seriously ill. Once again the doctor was able to find a drug that would ease their suffering. The only trouble was that the children refused to take it and their condition grew worse. The father got upset and every time he saw the doctor he glared at him with great anger and hatred.

One day the physician no longer could hold himself back, so he asked the father: "Why are you angry with me? It's not my fault that your children refuse to take the one medicine that can cure them."

The worried father replied: "Doctor, I am not angry at you. it's just that every time I see you I think how unfortunate this whole situation is. If only no doctor and no medicine could have helped my children, I would have accepted their illness and be thankful that it is not worse. But, here I have you taking care of my children and preparing wonderful drug which could help my children. Yet, they disobey me and do not take it – my frustration is more than I can bear.

We, too, must remember and learn from this parable. We are the children of Israel, the children of G-d and the Shabbat is “the drug” - the healer that can restore our spirit, if only we use it and keep it as directed.

Instead, many of us are like the stubborn children in the story, who refuse to take the one medicine that can heal them. We waste our Shabbat by not doing what Hashem commanded us to do. G-d therefore becomes angry at us.

Shabbat is mentioned many times in the Torah because it is important and a good form of "medicine" that can help us get through the week days.

With G-d's help we shall use this medication correctly.

Comments to:

Recalculating Route - Parashat Bechukotai
By Hanoch Shalev

Former Shaliach (Melbourne 2003-2004), Currently Electo-optical System's Technical Manager in Elbit

"אם בחקותי תלכו" 
הדא הוא דכתיב (תהלים קיט):
"חשבתי דרכי ואשיבה רגלי אל עדותיך".
אמר דוד:  רבש"ע! 
בכל יום ויום הייתי מחשב ואומר: 
למקום פלוני ולבית דירה פלונית אני הולך 
והיו רגלי מביאות אותי לבתי כנסיות ולבתי מדרשות, 
הדא הוא דכתיב: ואשיבה רגלי אל עדותיך.

(ויקרא רבה, ל"ה, א)

The Midrash on our parasha recalls a verse from Psalms and elaborates upon King David's inability to stick to his planned route for the day for his legs bring him to the Beit Midrash and Synagogue instead.

And I wonder, how does King David's incapability to stick to his planned routine answer the Midrash's hidden question, which is – what does it mean to "Stride in the laws".

Our personal learning route starts off with the understanding that King David's demonstration is ideal and the implications are the total and consistent preference of going to the Beit Midrash over the daily mundane routes and routine.

This interpretation, in itself, is disturbing to me. I always held King David to be a model of synergy and balance between the strength of sword and the sensitivity of the harp. It is hard for me to accept a total overriding of one's earthly obligations for complete Torah study. This is why we must demand, לדרוש, from the Midrash a deeper understanding to lead us to a broader view of the psukim.

To ascend to the right height we must delve deeper down into the verse, pasuk, in Psalms. Notice, that the word used in our parasha is "תלכו", based on the verb of "הליכה",(walking)  but the pasuk in Psalms uses "דרך" and "רגל". It seems that the verb "הלך" is multi-interpretable and the Midrash is trying to break it down.

The word "דרך" – derech - refers to a way or a route. This is a high level plan that is usually based on a desired destination and the means to get there. From this definition, the Midrash can imagine King David planning his desired destinations and required subsequent routes. On the other hand, the word "רגל" – foot- refers to the particular step or stride. This is a very low level awareness of where to put your foot each step along the way.

I think that this distinction has laid a pathway to resolve both sides of the pasuk in Psalms and with that resolve my high expectations from King David's holy balance and from the Midrash.

Our new understanding has set two levels of awareness and obligation. There are the destination and daily goals that have to be reached and achieved. We shall focus and getting there and accomplish our earthly responsibilities. But along the way, we must stride and take many steps towards the final destination, and King David teaches us that we must take into consideration all that we have learnt in the Beit Midrash and all that we have prayed for in the Synagogue to decipher where and how we must put our foot every step of the way.

And so, with that in mind, we can start to clarify how the Midrash has answered its hidden question – How to stride in the laws. We now understand that we're actually requested to consider the laws while we stride. Our "הליכה" can be for many practical reasons. But we are expected that when we walk the walk, go the distance, we do so using the laws per each step. The route might be inevitable and set by constraints and an external agenda, but we must own our steps, and be responsible for the way we reach our destination.
Having that in mind opened my eyes to reading the verses themselves. I realize now that this understanding is the pshat of the whole paragraph.

ויקרא כ"ו
אם בחקתי, תלכו; ואת מצותי תשמרו, ועשיתם אתם...
והתהלכתי, בתוככם, והייתי לכם, לא-לקים; ואתם, תהיו לי לעם.
אני ה' א-לקיכם,
אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים, מהית להם עבדים 
ואשבר מטת עלכם, ואולך אתכם קוממיות.

It is as if G-d is saying:

If, when you roam around, minding your own natural business, you take each step in accordance to my laws, than I too, when minding my own natural business of supervising and setting the laws of nature, will express myself through rain, produce and peace. You will walk through using my laws and I will walk amongst you through a healthy natural course. This relationship, in itself will show the world that I am your G-d, because you demonstrate every step of the way that you choose to be my people.

And FYI, that is exactly why I took you out of Egypt…