Parashat Bechukotie בְּחֻקֹּתַי

The first word in our Parasha is “E’m” “אִם” (if) and it has a profound teachings with its acronym. The two letters “Alef” and Mem” (“א” and “מ”) represent the two major saviors who have, and will save Bnei-Yisrael from complete annihilation and devastation. The first set was Aharon and Moshe (“אהרון & משה”). The second set was Ester and Mordechai (“אסתר and מרדכי”), and the last set will be the prophet Eliyahu and Mashicah (אליהו and משיח”). They all provided and will provide redemption to Bnei-Yisrael when keeping HaShem’s laws (“חֻקּתַֹ”). We also see in the first verse an interesting “condition” that HaShem “places” on Bnei-Yisrael with the three words “if with my laws would you walk” (“אִם-בְּחֻקּתַֹי, תֵּלֵכוּ”). It seems as if HaShem is asking Bnei-Yisrael, will you “walk” with my commandments, laws and Mitzvot? Such condition was set in order to provide Bnei-Yisrael with a reward. This comes to teach us that we must truly pursue the Torah with every step we take, within our daily lives. We must study every part of the Torah and all the Halachot in order to guard, and correctly perform and keep the Mitzvot. HaShem sets a condition whereby if we keep the Mitzvot, we will receive physical rewards immediately, and in a sense Hashem will remove the physical obstacles, since we know that we keep Mitzvot for the sake of Heaven and not to reap immediate rewards. The word “E’m” “אִם” (mother) also represent our Torah.

We see here that HaShem promises “rain on time” (“וְנָתַתִּי גִשְׁמֵיכֶם, בְּעִתָּם”), if Bnei-Yisrael will “walk’ in His ways. HaShem wanted us to benefit from fulfilling the Mitzvot immediately. We notice that HaShem promised Bnei-Yisrael to be rewarded with rain, but from the word “Gishmechem” (“גִשְׁמֵיכֶם” – your rain) we learn that this is only for Bnei-Yisrael’s benefit and not to non-Jews. From this word we understand the divine promise of HaShem for “rain” to Bnei-Yisrael only, meaning that only they will benefit from it. We witnessed such event in Egypt with the plague of blood, as only Bnei-Yisrael had “rain” water to sell and benefit from. The first plague was “Dam” (“דם”), turning the Nile into Blood along with all the other sources of water in Egypt. The question is ‘why blood was the first plague? This was the turning point of having Bnei-Yisrael profit from the plagues. We know that HaShem promised Bnei-Yisrael that they will come out of Egypt with mass wealth and fortune. Since they Bnei-Yisrael were not affected by this plague, they had clean drinking water, and they sold it to the entire world’s population at a large profit. The Talmud refers to money as “Damim” (“דמים” – blood in plural), and this plague came to teach us about the purpose of such divine promise. It is written in verse “ואינו נוטל דמים מן השבט”, meaning that HaShem will not be taking money from the tribe, speaking of Bnei-Yisrael in Egypt.

The Torah places the proof in the first letter of the three words “Eim Be’Chokotai Telecho” (“אִם-בְּחֻקּתַֹי, תֵּלֵכוּ”) as they have a hidden message and prophecy reveled by HaShem. The three letters spells the word “Avot” (“אבת” – Forefathers), alluding to that “if with my laws you will walk as your Forefathers did”, I, HaShem will keep my promises, as promised to your forefathers. We notice that such promise will be the truth from the next three word’s first letters “Et Mitzvotai Tishmoru” (“אֶת-מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ”) as they spells the word “Emet” (“אמת”- truth).

The Zohar teaches us that there are 49 curses in Parashat Bechukotai, that HaShem threatens the Jewish people with, in the event that Bnei-Yisrael transgressed against the Torah. Interestingly they are only warned with physical calamities with these 49. There are additional 98 curses found in the Torah’s portion of Ki Tavo in the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), that represent both a prophecy and warnings in physical and spiritual calamities.

I wanted to point out that these are double the amount of the 49 “curses” in our Parasha (98). All together there are 157 “curses” between both Parashot. It is interesting to point out that the numerical value of the words “Anachnu BeYad HaShem” (“אנחנו ביד י.ה.ו.ה”) is 157, meaning that even though there are 157 curses, we will always be “In HaShem’s Hand”. Our Teshuvah can and will help get us to be “In HaShem’s Hand”.  The question was asked why all 157 curses are not in one place in the Torah. The answer is, the 49 curses in this week’s Parasha are different, and they are not like the 98 curses in Deuteronomy. Keeping the Mitzvah of Shemita can provide the removal of these 49 curses. After the 49 curses HaShem consoled the Jews and promised that if they repent, He would forget their past and give them another chance. However, the other 98 curses are totally different; they are not meant to be forgotten but to be transformed. Indeed, only by converting them to good deeds can a true ‘redemption’ and revelation of the Creator in his creation be achieved. This is why hell is not mentioned in any of these 157 curses; because our job is to transform our physical world into heaven on earth. We learn that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was able to transform these 49 curses into blessings through his teachings in the Zohar while in the cave.

Within the first verse we see the three stages (verbs) of keeping HaShem’s laws and Mitzvot. The three stages are “Walk” (“תֵּלֵכוּ”), “Keep” (“תִּשְׁמְרוּ”) and “Do” (“וַעֲשִׂיתֶם”). This comes to teach us that when we walk, we take the initiative towards HaShem, meaning going to Bait Midrash, Yeshivah and Rabbis in order to truly learn the right ways to perform the Mitzvot. Then, once we know how to perform the Mitzvot, we can truly keep them. Now that we learned, and know the laws we can truly help each at the highest levels, of correctly fulfilling the laws and Mitzvot in the Torah. We are also commanded to “walk” and study the Torah from the verse “U’Velechtecha Baderech” “ובלכתך בדרך” (as you walk on your way) and “Be’Shivtecha Beveteicha” (“בשבתך בביתך” (and you shall study it while you sit in your home), as well as “Be’Shochvecha U’Vekumecha” “בשכבך ובקומך”(when you get up and when you go to sleep). All in order to teach us that we must always have the Torah with us and within us wherever we are. Again, we notice a correlation of the concept of day and night, with regards to the Mitzvot. This verse appears in tour daily prayer of “Shema” (“שמע”) which we are obligated to recite twice a day.

We must have the commandments with us constantly every moment of the day, as we read in the book of Tehilim the statement, of having HaShem with us at all times (“שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד”). In the book “The Kuzari” Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi teaches us that “Tumah” (impurity) is created by the absent of “Kedusha” (purity/holiness). So too when we do not toil in the Torah, we allow unholy thoughts to enter our mind and our life. We see that HaShem gave Bnei-Yisrael the highest of blessings, the same as in Gan-Eden, as there too, every tree bear fruits that ready to eat. Animals lived in peace, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses, size or habitat and any other natural manifestation. It is important to point out here that Rabbi Shemuel Bar Shilat (“שמואל בר שילת”) wrote in the Talmud (מסכת תענית – פ”ד מ”ו) the famous verses “MiShenichnas A’adar Marbim Be’Simcha” (“משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה”) and “MiShenichnas A’av Mematin Be’Simcha” (“משנכנס אב ממעטין בשמחה”). This Rabbi was none other then Haman’s grandson who made Teshuvah and along with another grandson, he lived in Beni-Berak.

By keeping HaShem’s laws we promise to be his chosen people and reap the enormous benefits of such honor and partnership. By keeping all these conditions we also promise to have the utmost peaceful times in Israel. We know such promise to be truth from many miracles that took place when such conditions were fulfilled. In the times of Beit-HaMikadash, Bnei-Yisrael made huge pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year, leaving all that they owned behind and walking without anything but “Bikurim” (“ביכורים” – offerings), gifts to HaShem. Yet the millions of surrounding enemies and their armies never attacked the people of Israel in such opportune times. This comes to teach us that when we truly keep HaShem’s laws, as intended to in Mount Sinai, we shall merit such peace in the days of Mashiach.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin teaches us that when people misbehave and do not keep the laws, they are like animals. The only time animals attack humans is when the humans “look” and Behave like an animal. Rabbi Yehuda describes the generation of when the Mashiach, a descendant of David HaMelech, will come. Among the depictions mentioned is that “the face of the generation will be like that of a dog”. Rashi provides two explanations for this. First, Rashi comments that the people will be literally similar to dogs (“שיהיו דומים לכלב ממש”). This comment of Rashi, in itself, needs to be explained. Furthermore, Rashi explains that the people of that generation will not be ashamed of one another.” Our Sages explain that the term “the face of the generation will be like that of a dog” (“פני הדור כפני הכלב”) means that the “dog” (evil inclination) will be leading and not Bnei-Yisrael.  The Mishna described the generation of redemption “like a dog over a generation.” Harav Elchanan Wasserman הי”ד uses it as a metaphor to the leaders of the generation, that will resembled a dog-walking.  The dog walking before the owner, the dog seems like as if he’s leading the man, as opposed to the truth.

We witnessed many times in the past that when one truly “walk in HaShem’s ways”, HaShem will protect him in times of need, just like he did with our Forefathers and Daniel in the Lion’s Den.

The Talmud teaches us that a Jewish person is like a fish and the Torah is like water to a fish, without which it cannot survive. We keep the Torah and the Mitzvot in order to maintain our true existence and not for getting a reward (as we learn in Pirkei Avot). Just like the fish who stays in the water in order to maintain its existence, for without it he shall die, we too would cease to exist without the Torah, as the verse says “The Torah is the Tree of Life to those who hold on to it” (“עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה”.) HaShem with his divine mercy and attributes to Bnei-Yisrael wanted to reward them a “Midah KeNeged Midah” (“מידה כנגד מידה”), measure for measure.

In verse 26:14 HaShem teaches Bnei-Yisrael all about the consequences of failing to observe the laws and Mitzvot. We must learn from such teachings the exact opposite of such consequences, meaning we should see in it the true love of HaShem, as he is loving and caring for his chosen people, Bnei-Yisrael. We know that throughout our existence we experienced both good and bad consequences as direct results of our behavior and choices. These are the most horrific consequences as they speak of days of exile and catastrophe. Unfortunately HaShem had to write such punishments in order for us to truly comprehend such prophecy and avoid it.

These consequences are very harsh punishments to the people of Israel if they will be keeping all the Mitzvot from both Torahs, the Written and Oral Torah. The reason HaShem writes that these are “His” laws, is to make Bnei-Yisrael understand the elevated state he placed upon them as they too are as holy as him by keeping such laws.  We were also been warned about the “enemies from within”, speaking of the Jewish traitors who placed their faith and trust in Idols. They are too part of these consequences, shall we not keep the Mitzvot from both Torahs. Unfortunately just as the Torah describes, we notice today how many “Jews” are supporting Arabs and other enemies of the Jewish people, within and abroad.

There is a hint in verse 26:20 for future prophecy, as HaShem says “And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruit” (“וְתַם לָרִיק, כּחֲֹכֶם; וְלֹא-תִתֵּן אַרְצְכֶם, אֶת-יְבוּלָהּ, וְעֵץ הָאָרֶץ, לֹא יִתֵּן פִּרְיוֹ”). This alludes to Bnei-Yisrael not keeping HaShem’s laws and Mitzvot, and the future scheduled of such punishment and defiance. We learn that from the word “titen” (“תתן”), speaking of not giving, which is 850 in  Gematria, and it is the same number of years Bnei-Yisrael were in exile out of the land of Israel since they first entered it 850 years before.

When Bnei-Yisrael will dwell in the Promised Land, “the land of Milk and Honey”, as promised by HaShem, the land will yield tremendous amount of bounties in all levels of existence. HaShem will even perform a miracle whereby even non-bearing trees will produce fruit just as regular fruit trees. Imaging all the trees in Israel will have fruit; this is a miracle that considered being “above nature”.  HaShem showed us both bounties of spiritual and physical world while we kept his laws. This abundance was given as direct results of keeping HaShem’s laws and Mitzvot as he ordered us to do. As soon as Bnei-Yisrael stopped fulfilling HaShem’s commandments, they suffered these horrific consequences of exile from the holy land. We must repent with a full Teshuvah and see that there is a “silver lining” in this punishment. It can perhaps proof to us that such land can only yield blessed bounties when Bnei-Yisrael dwell in the land, and no other nations.

Eretz Israel (“ארץ ישראל”) which was taken over by HaShem’s messengers since we didn’t fulfill these “conditions” of not keeping the laws, have never really produced the same blessed bounties as it did for Bnei-Yisrael while they were there. This came to teach us and allude to the true purpose of such promised land to the chosen people only, regardless of how powerful and mighty the non-Jewish occupiers were. We should understand that the days of redemption are yet to come, and they will come when we keep HaShem’s laws and Mitzvot as we are commanded to.


Yoram Dahan

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