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[Dvar Torah] Bechukotai

This weeks’ parasha, Parashat Bechukotai, is the last in the Book of Vayikra.  In it, we learn of the blessings and curses that G-d will bestow upon us if we do or don’t follow His covenant. These curses mentioned in the parasha are some of the worst that are written in the Torah, so much so that when reading it in the synagogue, it is customary to recite them in an undertone. 

But, immediately after the curses, G-d says: “Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away… I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of Egypt…” This unusual change of tone brings me to two questions: 

Why does G-d say he will never cast them away in the curses and not during the blessings? And why is this said at all? 

Rabbi Sacks teaches us that this statement is revolutionary. He writes: “In the ancient world, cultures believed that the gods were at best indifferent to our existence, at worst actively malevolent. The best humans can do is avoid their attention or appease their wrath. In the end, though, it is all in vain” In this context, G-d’s promise to keep His side of the covenant, even if we don’t, “...is a turning point in the history of the human spirit. It is the birth of hope… This is one of the most fateful of all biblical assertions. It tells us that no fate is so bleak as to murder hope itself. No defeat is final, no exile endless, no tragedy the story’s last word”.

Another question that arises is: what’s the purpose of all these punishments? 

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi says that these curses are actually disguised blessings given by G-d. He reveals that before a blessing can be bestowed upon someone, it must go through the heavenly court to make sure the recipient is worthy of this, but if a blessing is disguised as a curse, it can be given straight to the recipient and not go through the heavenly court. This teaches us that even though coping with the curses - negatives - may sound terrible, they are actually wonderful blessings that we can learn from and grow. 

As we finish our exams and approach the closing of another school year, we must remember that not all bad things and difficulties are fully bad, but can actually be lessons to build upon, and in the future, may be revealed as blessings. A bad grade on a test or an action we regret may at first seem like the worst thing.  However, if we view this as a learning experience  it can help us in the future, whether that be making us study harder or simply finding ways to use our time more wisely.

The message I think we can all take from this parasha is that all it takes is a change of heart and a different perspective to make everything work out. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Yair, Grade 9