Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 23   No. 34

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas Bechukosai

The Source of All Blessings

"If you will follow My statutes and observe My Mitzvos and do them. Then I will provide your rains in their right time, the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit" (26:3 & 4).

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To clarify the sequence of decrees and Mitzvos, Rashi explains, "My statutes" must refer to the specific Mitzvah of Torah-study, which is the basis of all the other six hundred and twelve Mitzvos. And he goes on to list seven levels of observance that result in the spate of blessings and seven levels of sin that result in the terrible punishments contained in the ensuing Tochachah. And these seven sins and seven punishments recur over and over again with increasing severity, as Yisrael refuse to learn from their mistakes.

We see that ultimately, the blessings and curses that we earn are all linked to the degree that we study Torah - or fail to. Indeed, Chazal have clearly stated that 'Torah-study corresponds to all the Mitzvos'.

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Rashi's interpretation poses three questions however; 1) Why the Torah describes Torah-study as "statutes" - a term that generally denotes Mitzvos that we do not understand? 2) Why it refers to "My statutes" (in the plural)? 3) What is the significance of the phrase "If you go in My statutes"?

To answer the first question, the Or ha'Chayaim explains that although the basic Mitzvah of learning Torah is in order to fulfil the Mitzvos and concepts that it comes to teach us, there is an additional Mitzvah of studying it for its own sake. In other words, so important is Torah-study that even assuming that it applies even to something that one has learned many times and has mastered. One fulfils the Mitzvah by studying it again. It is more than just a source of knowledge. It is a Divine decree - a statute that transcends logic. Hence Chazal have taught that G-d decreed that one easily forgets what one has learned, to enforce constant revision, in order to ensure that one never becomes complacent and takes a break from one's Torah-study.

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In answer to the second question, one might suggest that the Torah is referring to the written and the oral Torahs, which are considered as two Torahs, the former, the words of Hashem, the latter , the words of sages. On the other hand, the word "Bechukosai" is missing a 'Vav' after the 'Kuf', giving it the connotation of singular, to remind us that the Two Torahs are really two halves of a whole, since even the oral Torah was taught to Moshe at Har Sinai, as the Mishnah informs us at the beginning of Pirkei Avos.

Perhaps one can also attribute the missing 'Vav' to the fact that the Gematriyah of "be'Chukosai" without the 'Vav' - bearing in mind that the dot in the 'Kuf' denotes a double letter (based on the word 'chokak', to carve out) - is equivalent to that of 'Keser' (six hundred and twenty), which is equivalent to the 613 Mitzvos min ha'Torah plus the seven Mitzvos de'Rabbanan.

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The plural form of Bechuosai may also hint at the dual obligation of learning Torah both by day and by night, whilst the missing 'Vav' prompts us to learn to merge the two into one, to become so engrossed in Torah-study that one learns constantly.

The third question is best answered by first referring to the Gemara in Kidushin (Daf 2b), which refers to Torah as 'derech', as we find in the Pasuk in Yisro (18:20) 'and you shall inform them the path on which they shall go". Because Torah is not just a book of instructions. It serves as a guide to a way of life that permeates every facet of our lives. It teaches us how to conduct ourselves in whatever situation we find ourselves, as we say every night in Ma'ariv "for they are our life and the length of our days'.

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G-d's Favoured Number

Throughout the current Parshiyos, the number seven plays a significant role, as we see in connection with the Yamim Tovim and Sh'mitah & Yovel. This trend continues in the current Parshah, as Rashi reiterates a number of times in the Tochachah.

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Based on the Medrash, here is a list of sevens chosen by G-d.

The Generations: Adam, Sheis, Enosh, Keinan, Mahalal'el, Yered - and G-d chose Chanoch, as the Torah writes "And Chanoch went with G-d" (Bereishis, 5:24). See Ba'al ha'Turim.

The Fathers: Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov, Levi, K'has, Amram - and G-d chose Moshe, as the Torah writes in Bamidbar (12:8) "Mouth to mouth will I speak with him".

The Sons of Yishai: Eli'av, Avinadav, Shim'o, Nesan'el, Radie, Otzem - and G-d chose David, as the Pasuk writes in Shmu'el (1, 16:12) "Arise and anoint him, for he is the one".

The Heavens: Shamayim, Shechakim, Z'vul, Ma'on, Machon, - and G-d chose Arvos - as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (68:5) "Praise the One who sits astride Arvos".

The Terms meaning 'land': Eretz, Adamah, Arkah, Chorvah, Yabashah, Neshiyah, and G-d chose Teivel, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (9:9) "He will judge the land (Teivel) with righteousness".

The Years: G-d chose the Sh'mitah-year, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (Sh'mos, 23:10/11) "Six years you shall sow your field and the seventh year it shall lie fallow".

The months: Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tamuz, Av, Ellul - and G-d chose Tishri, as the Torah writes in Emor (Vayikra, 23:24) "And in the seventh month on the first of the month" is Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgement, followed by the day of Atonement and days of Simchah.

The Days: G-d chose Shabbos, as the Torah writes in Yisro (Sh'mos, 20:9/10) "Six days you shall work, but the seventh day is Shabbos for Hashem your G-d".

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Highlights from the Ba'al ha'Turim

And I will remember My covenant with Ya'akov and the land I will remember" (26:42).

The Pasuk begins and ends with 'remembering', the Ba'al ha'Turim observes, because G-d will always remember the merits of the Avos.

We find both Avraham and Ya'akov at the head (mentioned first) of the Avos, but never Yitzchak, he says. This is because he intended to appoint Eisav master over Ya'akov.

In the next Pasuk, he points out, in the phrase "And the land will be bereft (te'ozev) of them", the 'Zayin' in "te'ozev" is bent - a hint that for seven years after the destruction of the first Beis-ha'Mikdash, the Pasuk "Sulphur and salt burning all its land" (Nitzavim, 29:22) was fulfilled.

The total number of letters in the Tochachah (from 26:14, until 26:43) is three hundred and ninety, corresponding to the number of years that the Ten Tribes sinned before being exile by Sancheriv. The Name of Hashem is not mentioned throughout, because they declared that they wanted no portion in the G-d of Yisrael.

And with this he explains the discrepancy between the Pasuk in Divrei ha'Yamim ("u'shevu'oso le'Yitzchak") and the Pasuk in Tehilim ("u'shevu'oso le'Yischak" ['Shin' + 'Tzadei' equal 390]) in that G-d swore that He would not exile Yisrael before they had sinned three hundred and ninety years.

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