Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dvar Torah for Parshas Bechukosai

Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La'aretz have been one Parsha off for the past few weeks. Since i am in Eretz Yisrael, I have been following the calender here. Last week we read Parshas Behar, the Dvar Torah can be found here. With Chutz La'aretz laining a double Parsha this week, we will once again be synchronized.

       One of the central beliefs in Judaism is the belief in Olam Haba, the World To Come. This is the belief that after we pass away from this world, there is another spiritual realm where our souls reside for eternity. It is there where we will receive our spiritual reward for our actions done in this world.  (This is a very short explanation to a very deep subject but this is not the time or place.) While learning about this, the common question that comes up is where is Olam Haba mentioned in the Torah?
       Out of the numerous sources, one of them is found in this week’s parshah. “וְהִתְהַלַּכְתִּי בְּתוֹכְכֶם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים…” “I will walk among you, I will be a God to you…” (Vayikra 26:12). Rashi explains that when Hashem says he will walk among us, it must be referring to a place where there can actually be a concept of God walking (and not that the Torah is using anthropomorphism to help us relate to God). This must be in the spiritual realm of Olam Haba. (To understand how Rashi knew that the pasuk was speaking literally and not using anthropomorphism, see the explanation of the Tzeida Laderech, a commentator on Rashi,.)
       After this first question is answered, the immediate follow up question is that while all this is fine, we still needed Rashi to explain to us that the pasuk is indeed talking about Olam Haba. Why did the Torah not tell us straight out that Olam Haba exists and how it works? The Kli Yakar brings seven different ways that different commentators have used throughout history to answer this question. We won’t bring all seven, but let us see a few of them. (For those who are interested, I highly recommend reading through all seven answers. I am positive you will find them very interesting.)
       Parshas Bechukosai starts off with Hashem telling us all the good that will be done if we keep the Torah and Mitzvos. We will have plenty of rain, food, as well as peace amongst ourselves and our enemies, in addition to this promise of Olam Haba. The Rambam explains that the Torah is telling us that if we serve Hashem, He will remove any and all obstacles in our path. However, the ultimate reward which will be given in Olam Haba is not mentioned here in order to make sure that we continue to serve Hashem completely just for the sake of serving Him, without any worries of reward or punishment.
       A second answer is brought from the Ran and is found in the Sefer HaKuzari as well. One of the greatest gifts that Hashem gave us was the ability to have a Mishkan and a Beis Hamikdash where Hashem would rest his Shechinah in this world, giving us a connection to Hashem in the physical world. This idea is mentioned several times throughout the Torah. Says the Ran, if the Shechinah can connect to Bnei Yisrael in the physical world, all the more so after our spiritual selves separate from our bodies by death, they will be able to connect to Hashem. However, this is only when the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash is standing which can only happen when we keep the Torah and Mitzvos. So really there is no need to mention Olam Haba in this context since for anyone who thinks hard about it, it is obvious.          
       A third answer comes from the Ibn Ezra in Parshas Haazinu. He explains there that the Torah was given to each and every Jew without exception. However, the concept of Olam Haba was only given to a select few because since the ideas are so deep, not everyone can understand them. The Kli Yakar explains this as follows, the concept of the spiritual rewards that are waiting for us in Olam Haba is very hard for a physical Human Being to understand, and therefore, only the smartest, most spiritual people were told these ideas.
       From this explanation, we see an amazing idea. The concept of Olam Haba was only given to a few people who were on a high enough spiritual level that they could relate to the spiritual ideas while still in this physical world. It was up to these people to study these ideas and relate over to us that which they could explain on our level. But not everyone has a fair share in the understanding of Olam Haba (at least in this world). However, the Ibn Ezra says that the entire nation received the Torah. Not just a select few, everyone! This means that the entire Torah, without any exceptions, can be explored and understood by every single Jew. There are no parts of the Torah where we can claim that they cannot be understood or applied to our lives. Everything is relevant.
       Everything we do in this world is in preparation for the World To Come. The way we are supposed to earn our way there is by studying the Torah and keeping its’ laws. It is vitally important for us to understand that when Hashem gave us the Torah, he really gave it to us, completely, totally, and without exception. Because we have it completely, every reward possible in Olam Haba is available to us. Nothing is reserved for only a select few, every Jew has equal opportunity to receive. This might be the greatest gift Hashem ever gave us, let’s be sure to make the most of it.

Shabbat Shalom!

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