Torah Weekly

For the week ending 1 June 2024 / 24 Iyar 5784

Parshat Bechukotai

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah promises prosperity for the Jewish People if they follow G-d's commandments. However, if they fail to live up to the responsibility of being the Chosen People, then chilling punishments will result. The Torah details the harsh historical process that will fall upon them when Divine protection is removed. These punishments, whose purpose is to bring the Jewish People to repent, will be in seven stages, each more severe than the last. Sefer Vayikra, the book of Leviticus, concludes with the details of erachin — the process by which someone vows to give the Beit Hamikdash the equivalent monetary value of a person, an animal or a property.


One Story, Two Messages (at least)

“I will provide peace in your Land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you…” (26:6)

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the ‘Tochacha’ in which Hashem repeatedly sends the Jewish People ‘messages’ to repent, and the dire consequences of ignoring those messages.

In fact, Hashem is sending us messages all the time. But often the message can be understood differently by different people.

Case in point: My wife and I were sitting on a plane waiting to take off on a flight out of Tel Aviv Airport. The departure time came and went. The captain announced: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m sorry but we have to change one of our tires. It’s going to take an hour.”

About half-an-hour later, a middle-aged fellow made his way to the front of the plane, and started to complain to the Chief Stewardess: “I’ve been looking out of the side of our plane, and there’s another plane just sitting there. Look! There it is! Why don’t we all just go over to that plane, take all the bags and off we go? Why are we wasting time just sitting here!”

She tried to explain to him, but he became very insistent. “Why are we just sitting here? No one is using that plane. All we need to do is take the bags and we can be on our way! I don’t understand your problem.” He seemed a little ingenuous. Maybe this was the first time he had flown?

By this time, the Chief Stewardess was doing a good job hiding her laughter, which several passengers around us were not managing to do. I thought at first that he was joking, but I soon realized he was absolutely serious.

Both myself and my wife make videos. She, for South American ladies, and I, for Ohr Somayach, so we’re always looking for parables to turn into lessons, and she asked me what I learned from this episode. I said, quoting a statement of our Sages in Yoma 38b:

“No one can touch what is prepared for another, even by a hairbreadth.”

That plane is for them. And this plane is for us. What is for me is for me, and what is for you is for you. To think otherwise is the mistake of all jealousy. A jealous person thinks to himself, “If it weren’t for that guy being in the world, I could have what he has. “Hey buddy! You’re driving my car! You’re married to my wife! You’re breathing my air!” The truth is that if ‘buddy’ didn’t deserve that car, it would never have rolled off the assembly line in Detroit, (or more probably nowadays, Guangzhou, in China.) His wife may never have been born, and the total volume of air in the world would have been proportionately smaller.

My wife said, “I think the message is that we should always ask Hashem for things, even if they seem impossible for us, for if we approach Hashem with simplicity and total faith, sometimes the unlikely can become likely and the impossible, possible.

Hashem sends us messages every day. We just have to hear them.

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