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או אז יכנע לבבם הערל

Then at last shall their obstructed heart be subdued. (26:41)

Parashas Bechukosai contains within it the first Tochacha, Rebuke/curses, whose purpose is to teach mussar, ethical direction, reproof, in order to inspire them to wake up and repent. This is alluded to by the above pasuk: the rebuke/curses will liberate them from the fetters of the yetzer hora, evil inclination. Additionally, rebuke is a good thing – in that it assures us that Hashem cares. Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, explains that a child who misbehaves knows that he is in for a punishment when his parents become aware of his misdeed. What if they ignore it, ignore him? This implies…

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ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם ונתנה הארץ יבולה ועץ השדה יתן פריו

Then I will provide your rains in their time and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. (26:4)

“Rains in their time” means the time most convenient for people – such as Friday nights when people are generally at home or close by. When we get “wet,” it is for a reason. Hashem defrays anything that might prove to be a nuisance from inconveniencing us. The Midrash, however, adds that, at times, an entire community or even a city might have rain in the merit of one person who needs the benefit it provides. Chazal go so far as to posit that, at times, Hashem may send rain for the benefit of one field, even one blade of…

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שש שנים תזרע שדך... ובשנה השביעית שבת שבתון יהיה לארץ

For six years you may sow your field… But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land. (25:3,4)

The mitzvah of Shemittah teaches us that Hashem rules the universe. He is the only force in the universe, not the laws of nature. By allowing his field to remain untended and unguarded, the Jew declares to the world that life is not about material bounty. When Hashem says, “Stop,” we halt our work, our production – whether it is Erev Shabbos or Shemittah. We ascribe to a Higher Power, and we believe with complete faith that Hashem will provide for our needs. During the Shemittah year, all of the produce of that year is hefker, free for all to…

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וידבר ד' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר

And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying. (25:1)

Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai concerning the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical/seventh year. Rashi asks: Why Shemittah? How is Shemittah linked to Sinai? He explains that the Torah is teaching us that just like Shemittah is detailed with rules and fine points, likewise, this applies to all mitzvos; their rules and details were taught to them at that time as well. The laws of Shemittah were not repeated again prior to the Jews’ entrance into the Land. As such, everything took place at Sinai, with Shemittah serving as the exemplar, prototype, for all other mitzvos. Is this…

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ואם תלכו עמי קרי ולא תאבו לשמע לי

If you will behave casually with Me and refuse to heed Me. (26:21)

The pasuk introduces us to a new aspect of/on sin: Casualness. We persist in thinking (or acting as if we think) that all of Hashem’s carefully and meticulously calibrated punishments are merely coincidental: “Things happen.” When we act toward Hashem with casualness, He responds, in turn, by making it more difficult to discern the Divine Hand when things happen to us. This leads to Hester Panim, Divine concealment, Hiddenness of Hashem’s Countenance, making it harder for us to perceive the truth. The concept of keri, casualness, applies likewise (not equally) in our interpersonal relationships with our fellowman. We pass people…

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אם בחקתי תלכו

If you will follow My decrees. (26:3)

Rashi explains Im bechukosai teileichu; “If you will follow My decrees” – she’tiheyu ameilim baTorah; “That you will toil in Torah.” This is the deal breaker. It all begins and ends with Torah. One who does not toil (study is not enough; it must be toil) in Torah is not ensured success in mitzvah observance. Only one whose life is all about Torah – who studies Torah amid sacrifice, placing it on a pedestal above all else – can hope to follow in Hashem’s decrees. David Hamelech says (Tehillim 119:72), Tov li Toras Picha meialfei zahav va’kesef, “The Torah of…

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אם בחקתי תלכו

If you will follow My decrees. (26:3)

Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, renders this pasuk homiletically by translating the word im (if) innovatively. Im contains the same Hebrew letters as eim, mother, which leads the Rosh Yeshivah (Shaar HaShomayim) to transform the message of the pasuk to assert that the mother, the akeres ha’bayis, mainstay of the Jewish home, is the one who catalyzes the spiritual growth of her children. She is the one who initiates the process, who ensures their proper entrance to Torah study and mitzvah observance. Furthermore, he explains, the Torah alludes to the manner of conveyance that will achieve the greatest results: B’chukosai teileichu;…

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ואף גם זאת בהיותם בארץ אויביהם לא מאסתים ולא געלתים לכלתם

But despite all this, while they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them. (26:44)

In the closing words of the Tochachah, Rebuke, Hashem consoles His tormented Nation. They might be in exile, but it is not the end. The atrocities that have accompanied them throughout the exile, the travail that has been their constant shadow, does not mean that Hashem has rejected them. No, says Hashem. Even in exile they remain His People, and the Covenant He made with them remains in full force. Parashas Bechukosai contains within it the first set of kelalos, curses, which comprise the Rebuke. The second set, which is larger, is in Parashas Ki Savo. The distinctions between the…

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'איש כי יפלא נדר בערכך נפשת לד

If a man articulates a vow to Hashem regarding a valuation of human beings. (27:2)

Just as people may vow to contribute specific values of money to the Bais Hamikdash, so, too, may one vow to contribute the value of oneself or of another person. The word erech means valuation. Thus, one who contributes the erech, value, of a person, follows the Torah’s guidelines concerning valuation. The Torah values people according to age and gender.  The value of a Jew is measured in spiritual sanctity which we, as human beings, are unable to evaluate. Thus, the Torah gives specific guidelines with regard to equal values of Jews. Noticeably, the parsha of arachin, evaluations, follows immediately…

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אם בחקתי תלכו

If you will follow My decrees. (26:3)

Rashi interprets “following” in Hashem’s decree as, Shetiheyu ameilim baTorah, “You will toil in Torah; engage in intensive Torah study.” If one studies Torah in a lackadaisical manner, it undermines the importance of Torah. One does not take chances; his mind will not wander when he is holding dynamite. He will be very careful. Likewise, one who lacks the respect for the Torah as manifest by his lack of intensity, will ultimately reject the Torah and everything for which it stands. Horav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz, zl, was a gadol, Torah giant, whose ameilus, toil, was evident when he gave shiur,…

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