Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman
Parshat Bechukotai is known as the Torah portion of admonishment. It is the Torah portion which describes the age-old formula that "if you go in My decrees and observe My mitzvot and perform them, then I will bring you rain in its proper time. . ." (Leviticus 26:3-4).
Parshat Bechukotai is known as the Torah portion of admonishment. It is the Torah portion which describes the age-old formula that "if you go in My decrees and observe My mitzvot and perform them, then I will bring you rain in its proper time. . ." (Leviticus 26:3-4). In other words, if you keep the commandments, you will be blessed spiritually and materialistically, while if you abandon them, G-d forbid, the opposite will be true.
Interestingly, if you analyze the series of curses found in Parshat Bechukotai, you will see an amazingly accurate depiction of today's society. The verses tells us that if you disdain my statutes, I will bring upon you confusion (see Leviticus 26:14-17). This means to say that you will have no peace of mind, no tranquillity. Since you had no patience in doing the mitzvot and were instead thinking, "when will services be over?" or "when will Shabbat be over so I can get back to my 'real' life -- to my materialistic pleasures," then midah k'neged midah (measure for measure) you will have no patience, tranquillity, or true enjoyment even in your physical pleasures. As a result of this curse, one finds that with all of our technological advancements that do everything faster and more efficiently -- from cars and jets to computers and microwaves to instant everything -- even so, man has no time! He is always running and has no time to stop and think, "Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I headed?" And with all of these 20th century comforts, how can one explain the phenomenon that more people have mental and emotional problems, have more worries, anxieties, and ulcers than ever before! More people are under psychiatric care and are turning to drugs and suicide. The bottom line is that with all of these time-saving discoveries, man in fact has less time, less patience, less sensitivity, and less peace of mind and happiness than in any other generation. We always seem to be late, racing to every meeting or event. We simply have no time -- and this is called progress! Therefore, we see the fulfillment of the verse: "You will flee, but there will be nobody chasing you" (Leviticus 26:17).
All of this results in a strange paradox that, although we have more materialistic wealth and comforts than any other generation in history, nevertheless we live in the most impoverished society when it comes to actual satisfaction. We are never satisfied! We simply are not happy with our lot. We are witnessing the result of the prophetic verses in this week's Torah portion: "You will eat and not be satisfied" (Leviticus 26:26) and "I will cast upon you confusion. . .causing eyes to long and souls to suffer" (Leviticus 26:16).
But all of this need not apply to the Torah Jew. The Jew, seeking spiritual wealth and using the materialistic world as a means to that end as it was meant to be used, sanctifies the physical world into a mishkan (Tabernacle) to Hashem. (Please see Danny Gimpel's article entitled "Holy Desires" in Issue XXII on Parshat Kedoshim for further discussion of this concept.) The choice is ours and the formula is and has always been the same: "If you observe My mitzvot" then you will enjoy this world and the
Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman, who resides in Atlanta during the week, is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
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