Behar-Bechukosai 5778

פרשת בהר-בחקתי

Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

Hashem’s Rebuke is a Reflection of His Mercy

The Tochacha (words of rebuke) in this week’s Parsha concludes on a positive note. Hashem promises [1] “ואף גם זאת בהיותם בארץ איביהם לא מאסתם ולא געלתים לכלתם להפר בריתי אתם כי אני ה’ אלקיהם וזכרתי להם ברית ראשונים אשר הוצאתי אתם מארץ מצרים לעיני הגוים להיות להם לאלקים אני ה – and yet in spite of all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to completely annihilate them, and to break my covenant with them, for I am Hashem their G-d. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I took out from the land of Egypt in full sight of all the nations to be for them a G-d, I am Hashem.” However, the words of rebuke in parshas Ki Savo end with the alarming words [2] “והשיבך ה’ מצרים באניות בדרך אשר אמרתי לך לא תוסיף עוד לראתה והתמכרתם שם לאיביך לעבדים ולשפחות ואין קנה – and Hashem shall bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way whereof I said to you, you will no longer see it; and you will be offered for sale to your enemies for slaves and handmaidens and no one will even want to buy you.”

The Zohar HaKodosh [3] states, “This variation in the text was questioned in the Beis Medrash (study hall). Why do the words of rebuke in our parsha end with consolation as opposed to the tochacha in Parshas Ki Savo?”

The Zohar provides the answer that in Parshas Ki Savo the pasuk [4] says “ישלח ה’ בך – Hashem will send upon you”, “יככה ה – Hashem will smite you”, “…יתן ה – Hashem will give…” This means Hashem Himself will smite you; this is in fact a great consolation. The idea that Hashem, the Merciful One, is personally involved in our chastisement virtually guarantees that the punishment will be meted out with His mercy.  In this week’s parsha, however, it is written [5] , “ואם בזאת לא תשמעו לי והלכתם עמי בקרי והלכתי עמכם בחמת קרי – if you will walk with me unenthusiastically, so too, will I walk with you in wrath and apathy.” Hashem is informing us that his relationship with us is middah kineged middah, i.e., reciprocal. If you show indifference to Hashem’s mitzvos and his Torah, Hashem will (heaven forbid) counter similarly. This is a retribution too horrific for a Jew to bear. Therefore this week’s parsha must by necessity provide consolation.

The great Chasidic Rebbe R’ Mendel of Kotzk [6] explained the pasuk [7] “גם חשך לא יחשוך ממך – even darkness does not obscure anything from You.” He suggested reading this verse as, “Darkness is not dark if it comes from You.”

There is a well known statement by the great Rebbe Reb Zusha of Anipoli [8], “Even if You Hashem send me to Gehenom, I will happily go to fulfill your desire.” Although the simple understanding of this quote is based on the Mishnah [9] “אל תהיו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב על מנת לקבל פרס, אלא הוו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב שלא על מנת לקבל פרס – do not be like servants who attend their master with intent to receive reward (don’t serve Hashem because you want a reward), rather be like servants who attend their master with intent not to receive reward (serve Hashem just for the sake of serving Him).” Perhaps an alternative explanation can be based on our discussion up until now. Reb Zusha was actually saying, even if Hashem sends him to Gehenom, which is terrible and horrible, he would gladly accept his sentence! Since this is Hashem’s will, there is G-dliness even there. As such, he is not alone and therefore he is comforted.

This is what the Rebbe of Kotzk meant to teach us. Even darkness is not dark when we realize it emanates from G-d.

As long as we understand that everything comes from Hashem, our faith and trust in His infinite goodness can sustain us even through the most arduous of times. It is when we unfortunately lose sight of this reality that suffering becomes intolerable. If we are at the mercy of unalterable laws of nature, the hardships in life may be pointless. But if they come from Hashem, then we know that they have meaning. As miserable as they may be, we can believe that they are for an ultimate good. If we do not see hardships as emanating from Hashem, they may be excruciatingly depressing.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Dovid Sochet

[1] Vayikra/Leviticus 26:44-45
[2] Devarim/Deuteronomy 28:68
[3] See Zohar Chadash 73B
[4] Devorim/Deuteronomy: 28 throughout the entire perek.
[5] Vayikra/Leviticus 26:27-28
[6] Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern of Kotzk 1787–1859
[7] Tehillim/Psalms 139:12
[8] Rabbi Meshulam Zusha 1718–1800
[9] Tractate Avos 1:3