Friday, May 16, 2014

Dvar Torah for Parshas Bechukosai

       Parshas Bechukosai contains one of the most serious passages in the Torah, known as the Tochachah. The Tochachah appears twice in the Torah, once here and once in Parshas Ki Savo in Sefer Devarim. It informs Bnei Yisrael about the potential downfall that awaits them if they do not keep the Torah.
       If you look closely at the pesukim, there are several key differences between the Tochachah written here and the one in Ki Savo. The Ramban explains that the Tochachah here is telling Bnei Yisrael what will happen by the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash and the following exile in Bavel, and what will happen by the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash and in the subsequent exile we remain in until this day. He proceeds to prove this directly from the words in the pesukim in fascinating fashion.
       There is a separate reason for the destruction of each Beis Hamikdash and each exile was different as well. The first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed as a result of Bnei Yisrael serving Avoda Zara. The pasuk in this week’s parshah says, “וְהִשְׁמַדְתִּי אֶת בָּמֹתֵיכֶם וְהִכְרַתִּי אֶת חַמָּנֵיכֶם וְנָתַתִּי אֶת פִּגְרֵיכֶם עַל פִּגְרֵי גִּלּוּלֵיכֶם“I will demolish your edifices and cut down your sun idols; I will make your corpses (fall) upon the corpses of your idols” (Vayikra 26:30). We see the pasuk speaks clearly about Hashem destroying Avoda Zara belonging to the Jews. The very next pasuk reads, “ וַהֲשִׁמּוֹתִי אֶת מִקְדְּשֵׁיכֶם וְלֹא אָרִיחַ בְּרֵיחַ נִיחֹחֲכֶם“And I will make your holy places desolate, and I will not partake of your pleasant fragrances” (26:31). Hashem says He will not be partaking of these aromas, meaning that they must be coming from korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash (otherwise it would be obvious that He wouldn’t be partaking of them). So we see that the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash will be directly connected to the fact that Bnei Yisrael will have idols. This actually did happen many hundreds of years later. (See Yirmiyahu 32.)
       Additionally, the Torah also “predicts” exactly how long that exile would last. (You will understand why I put that word in quotations later.) The pasuk gives the reason for the first exile as, “אָז תִּרְצֶה הָאָרֶץ אֶת שַׁבְּתֹתֶיהָ כֹּל יְמֵי הָשַּׁמָּה וְאַתֶּם בְּאֶרֶץ אֹיְבֵיכֶם אָז תִּשְׁבַּת הָאָרֶץ וְהִרְצָת אֶת שַׁבְּתֹתֶיהָThen, the land will be appeased regarding its’ sabbaticals. During all the days that it remains desolate while you are in the land of your enemies, the land will rest and thus appease its’ sabbaticals.” (26:34). The pasuk is saying that the land will remain empty of the Jewish people until the amount of desecrated shmittah years can be had by the land. Rashi in Pasuk 35 makes a calculation and figures out that seventy shmittah years had been ignored by Bnei Yisrael since they had entered the land with Yehoshua. The length of the first galus in Bavel was seventy years!
       There are also references in the pesukim for how Bnei Yisrael returned from that galus. Looking at Perek 26 pesukim 40 and 42, they don’t mention anything about the nation making a full repentance (though it does mention them regretting their sins in the Sifrei Neviim,) or Hashem completely forgiving them for said sins. It also only mentions that Hashem will remember His promise to the Avos and the fact that Eretz Yisrael lies desolate; it does not mention anything about the nation. We know that when Bnei Yisrael came back from Bavel, only the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin returned, along with a smattering of Levi. They came back very poor people and with Eretz Yisrael still under Persian rule. It’s very clear that these pesukim are speaking about events that actually happened hundreds of years from this point when they were said to Moshe!    
       The Tochachah written later in Sefer Devarim is referring to the second exile. If you read through the pesukim there, they make no mention of when the exile will end and show that the entire redemption depends on the repentance done by Bnei Yisrael. We know ourselves from everything that has been taught to us about our current exile that this is true. The pesukim also do not reference any particular sin like they do in our parshah. Rather, the pasuk simply states, “ וְהָיָה אִם לֹא תִשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל מִצְו‍ֹתָיו“And it will be, if you do not obey Hashem, your God, to observe to fulfill all His commandments” (Devarim 28:15).
       Among the curses foretold are that the nation that will drive you out of the land will come from far away and speak a language you do not recognize; this was not stated here in Parshas Bechukosai. This is exactly what happened. In the time of the first exile, the Jews were exiled to Bavel, a country bordering Eretz Yisrael with a language very similar to Hebrew. In the time of the second exile, the enemy came from Rome, far away from Eretz Yisrael, and spoke Latin, a language not at all similar to Hebrew.
       The promise of redemption is different as well. In Sefer Devarim, Hashem promises to bring all of the tribes back from galus, and promises to punish the two nations who always pursue us through the Galus. (See Devarim 30:7.) According to the Ramban, these two nations are Esav and Yishmael, the two nations who have consistently tortured us throughout these last two thousand years.
       These are just a few of the many different clues the Ramban finds in the pesukim both in Parshas Bechukosai and in Parshas Ki Savo. I strongly encourage anyone who is able to look through it themselves.
       As with every bad event we read about in the Torah, if we look closely, it is possible to see Hashem giving us a sign that all will be ok. The obvious explanation here is that Hashem does promise to bring us back out of this galus, and if the pesukim in our Parshah came true then surely the pesukim in Parshas Ki Savo will come true too. However, there is something more to take out of this. Nowadays more than ever, we are challenged from many different directions as to the truth of the Torah. Many educated people have come up with different explanations that the Torah might not be from Hashem, Chas V’Shalom, and sometimes these “proofs” can appear concrete enough to challenge our beliefs. When we look at parshiyos like this one, where everything that would unfold over the next millennium was foretold with such precision in the pesukim, can we have any doubt that the Torah comes directly from Hashem?

May we merit the Geulah B’Karov!

Shabbat Shalom!

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