Correspondence, Consequence, and Correction
This parsha contains one of two mournful rebukes in the Torah, foretelling and warning us of our eventual defection and its consequences. It is read in a low tone to reflect its solemn content. At the very end of this rebuke, after a description of the nation’s seven levels of descent, and of the difficult circumstances that
In this curious phrase — ya’an u’vayaan [in accordance with, and by that which accords with] — Rav Hirsch understands the entire mechanism of punishment. The fate decreed for the Jews in exile will 1) be in direct relationship to their sins and will 2) require actions and forbearance amounting to the antithesis of those sins to directly atone for them.
Two sins are described as weighing heavily on the people as debt. First, they rejected the
Accordingly, two consequences resulted: their national communal life was shattered, and their personal happiness was eclipsed. For centuries they had to live in foreign states as aliens without any civil rights or protection of the law. Their pleasures in joys of life were likewise curtailed. Ya’an — in accordance with… U’vya’an — and by that which accords. Just as the reproving punishment corresponded to the sin, so too, their atonement is to be effected by a corresponding virtue. Social advantage, personal gain and pleasure had been their primary concern, whereas the Torah and its commandments were made secondary to these and were left to chance.
For centuries the Jews were forced to live in circumstances and situations in which almost every observance of a mitzvah would entail the sacrifice of one of life’s pleasures or the renunciation of a human right. During many periods of the bitter exile Jews were challenged to remain faithful to the mitzvot, paying with imprisonment or martyrdom. No matter what sacrifice and hardship, persecution and sorrow that would befall them and their children, the Jews were to regard observance of the mitzvot as their first and essential concern. All other concerns — including the material prosperity and social position that once lured them away from Torah — must be sacrificed for a committed life. In order to atone for their former indifference to Torah, they will now have to forgo promotion of their personal happiness. U’vya’an — by this corresponding virtue — will they atone for their sin and return to the Land.
- Sources: Commentary, Vayikra 26:43