We read in Parashat Bechukotai:( 26:21-28) that Hashem relates to us measure-for-measure:’ואם תלכו עמי קרי
'If you behave casually with Me and refuse to heed Me, then I shall lay a further blow to you..If despite these you will not be chastised towards Me, and you behave casually with Me, then והלכתי אף אני עמכם בקרי: then I too will behave towards you with casualness; and I will strike you, even I, seven ways for your sins..If despite this you will not heed Me, והלכתם עמי בקרי: and you behave toward Me with casualness, והלכתי עמכם בחמת קרי: I will behave toward you with a fury of casualness, I will chastise you, even I, seven ways for your sins’.
What is the sin of ‘behaving casually with Hashem’?
Rashi answers:’Our Rabbis said that this word קרי: means temporary, by chance, something that happens only sometimes. Thus, (our verse means):’If you treat the Mitzvot as happenstance, a temporary concern’. Menachem however explains קרי as ‘refraining’..i.e those who commit the sin of ללכת עמי בקרי, who harden their hearts to refrain from coming close to Me’.
The Dubnow Maggid explains:’There are two kinds of עבדי ה׳: those who serve Hashem:The עבד בעצם: the one who is ‘truly’ Hashem’s servant, who serves his master day and night, not resting for one moment from seeking to do that which will fulfill the Will of his Creator.
‘The second kind may be called עבד במקרה: a servant ‘by chance’- when the opportunity to perform a Mitzvah comes before him, he gladly performs it, and he will not willingly transgress a Mitzvah. However, if no Mitzvah should come his way, this would not cause him distress.
‘In these times, no sign of servitude can be seen on him; the yoke of Hashem only appears on him on the random occasions that he is engaged in a Mitzvah.
‘This is what our psukim allude to: Measure-for-measure, Hashem relates to these two types of His servants- the first kind merits that Hashem is constantly ‘with him’, to protect and guide him. The second kind is largely left to the natural order of the world, although if he should on an occasion be endangered by enemies, Hashem will come to his rescue- commensurately with the way that he serves Hashem’.
Rav Gedalia Schorr, based on the teaching of the Rambam, exounds that each person can choose the path he wishes to follow in his life:’At first glance, the world appears to be one of cause and effect: a person can decide, from his observation, that ‘all’ he has to do, is to engage in those things that seem to bring benefit, and to avoid those that seem to bring harm. This choice, to be subjugated to מקרה, to chance, is what is referred to as ‘behaving casually with Hashem’, as he has left Him out of his life.
‘Measure-for-measure, the Torah here teaches, Hashem will leave him to the vagaries of nature, as he has freely chosen.
‘On deeper contemplation, however, a person will glean that there ia a force ‘behind’ nature, that in fact guides and determines all that happens, including his fate.
‘If he chooses to guide his life by what this first cause- Hashem, wants, measure-for-measure, he will merit the protection of Hashgacha Pratit: Divine Providence, beyond and above the vagaries of the natural order of things’.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch notes that the Torah here comes to warn us against choosing the ‘first’ path, that of the natural order of things, as the very existence of our people is a ‘negation’ of this path.
He elucidates:’Our very existence is in no way dependent on the natural order of things; were it to be left to the whims of the nations, there would no longer be a Jewish people. It is only because Hashem ‘bore us on the wings of eagles’, out of the control of the world order, that we exist.
‘Had our fate been determined by the natural order of things, there would be no Israel. We are here only because Hashem said: ‘And it shall be’.
‘And, as the unparallelled chain of punishments related in our Parasha testify, this is our fate whenever we choose to stray from heeding Hashem’s word, and choosing the path of מקרה: the natural order of things’.
Rav Elya Lopian derives from our passage a lesson as to the chessed that Hashem does for us, his children, to return us to the right path, should we stray:’There is nothing that occurs ‘by chance’, everything comes for a purpose; all יסורים: afflictions are intended to awaken a transgressor to repent- יסורים is from the root מוסר, to allude to this.
“But why is it that people are not ‘awakened’ by these signs from Above, even when they are repeated?”
“The answer may be derived from the following: A person is afflicted with a headache, instead of seeing this as a wake-up call from Above, he may decide: many others get headaches, must be something ‘going around’, which, by chance, also caught him. This may necessitate a further Divine wake-up call, a more severe one, a heart attack. But this too, may not cause him to understand the real cause of his predicament, as he says to himself: there are many others who are also currently suffering heart attacks’.
This will continue, until, hopefully, the afflicted person understands that he himself- his transgression- is the the cause of his afflictions, and repents, and merits a רפואה שלימה- a full recovery, physically and spiritually.
But what if the person should not heed the warnings he receives?
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz deals with this conundrum:’We read in the Parasha of צרעת הבית וצרעת הבגד: the tzaraat which can afflict houses and clothing, which is clearly not in the natural order of things.
‘This teaches us how far Hashem goes to teach the errant person that his ways are not acceptable, and that he should repent- even to the extent of performing miracles to teach him this mussar.
‘But if this should not move him, and he continues to hold that everything can ‘just happen’- by מקרה, as it states in our Parasha:’If you behave casually with Me’, that he does not see the hand of G-d in these occurrences, then he will suffer the continuation of our psukim:’I, too, will behave toward you with casualness’, by he himself being afflicted by tzaraat of his body, to which we find parallels in the natural order of things, so that he should refrain from reflecting further, but remain in his chosen path that all that befalls him is in the natural order of things.
‘And there is no greater punishment than this, that a person is left in the hands of the natural order of things; as as long as the father is the one who afflicts, though the afflictions may be severe, nevertheless the comfort is that the father is the afflictor; but when there is הסתר פנים: the father is totally concealed, and all is in the hands of the natural order, there is nothing worse!’.
A parting thought from Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv:’We learn from the Rambam
, that it is an attribute of Hashem, never to distance one of his sons from Him, as it says:’I am Hashem before man transgresses, and I am Hashem after he transgresses’.
‘Thus, Hashem’s mercy is boundless, and therefore for a transgressor not to heed the calls to repent which he receives at every step, is an act of cruelty and ingratitude’.
לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רקבה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.