Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dvar Torah for Parshas Bechukosai

       Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and CHU"L have been one parsha off for the past several weeks. This week, we finally catch up! Click here for a Dvar Torah for Parshas Behar, which is being read this week in CHU"L in addition to Bechukosai.

       Perhaps the most well-known part of Parshas Bechukosai is the section of pesukim known as the Tochachah. This is a collection of punishments and curses that will befall Bnei Yisrael if they do not follow the Torah. However, before we read those pesukim, there is an incredible section that describes all of the blessings and rewards that will come to us if we do keep the Torah. It is on one of these blessings that I would like to focus this week.
       One of the blessings goes as follows, “וְנָֽתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּשְׁכַבְתֶּ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין מַֽחֲרִ֑יד וְהִשְׁבַּתִּ֞י חַיָּ֤ה רָעָה֙ מִן־הָאָ֔רֶץ“And I will grant peace in the land, and you will rest without fear. I will remove wild beasts from the land…” (Vayikra 26:6). The land the pasuk is referring to is Eretz Yisrael. The Ramban explains that when the pasuk says that Hashem will remove wild animals from the land, it doesn’t mean that He will remove the animals from the land; rather, it means that He will remove the wildness from the animals. What does this mean?
       He explains that when the world was created, even the most dangerous of beasts was not wild. They were actually tame and freely interacted with animals of all types, including man. All beings were vegetarians and lived in peace with each other. It was only once man sinned that these dangerous animals were possessed with a desire to kill man and each other. While we are allowed to eat and enjoy meat, and it has a place in our religious activities with korbanos, the way the World was set up was that all of Creation should exist in harmony.
       The bracha that Hashem gives us is that if we keep the mitzvos in Eretz Yisrael, He will return Eretz Yisrael to the original state of Creation. This includes making peace between man and animals, so we won’t have to fear attacks from them.
       Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky explains in his sefer, Emes L’Yaakov, this blessing of nature returning to its original state. The parsha begins with the words, “אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כוּ“If you follow My statutes” (26:1). The blessings and curses in this parsha are dependent on how we perform the חוקים, the laws that have no clear explanation for why we must do them. While other mitzvos have either a logical explanation or one given to us by Hashem, chukim have neither. This doesn’t mean there is no explanation for these mitzvos, it just means that the reason is beyond our understanding. Hashem has a reason why this mitzvah is important for the betterment of the world; it’s our job to do it even without a full understanding. This is what the pasuk is asking us to do; “אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כוּ”, will we follow Hashem’s plan even when we don’t completely understand.
       Hashem’s plan doesn’t just extend to how we act, but to how the world functions as well. He created the world with a specific way He wanted things to work; these aspects of creation are also known as chukim, the basic functions of the nature. (In this case the definition of a chok goes beyond the idea of the will of Hashem beyond our comprehension; it also means that this was a basis for how the world was to work.) But due to circumstances that we humans brought about, the world couldn’t continue with these chukim. However, it is possible for the world to return to this level of functionality.
      This is the connection between the act of doing mitzvos and the reward of being saved from wild animals. The reason why the world doesn’t run the way Hashem originally designed it, including that we have to fear animals, is because of man’s sins. If we follow the chukim that we can follow, the ones that are dependent on our actions, Hashem will bring back His chukim, the ones that depend on His actions. Upon reaching that stage, the world will operate the way Hashem truly intended it to.
       The idea of animals acting peacefully with each other and with us is also one of the promises of Mashiach. (See Yeshayahu Perek 11.) So if we follow the message of the Torah, we can bring Mashiach; what could be better!

Chazak Chazak V’Nischazek!

Shabbat Shalom!  

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