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Parshas Bechukotai – The Weekly Torah Portion – Judaism

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Serving HaShem

‘If you will follow in my decrees, and you will keep my mitzvos

and do them. ‘ (V’yikra 26.3)

Chazal explain that the words ‘to follow’ mean that you should be occupied in the learning of the Torah. In this verse we see all three levels [with which one can serve HaShem,] speech, thought and action. [‘To follow’ means learning Torah which is the level of speech.] ‘My mitzvos you shall keep’ refers to one’s will to do them, as Rashi* says, ‘on the condition that you will do them [later. This is then the level of thought.] Through one’s speech and thought [in doing the mitzvos] one will merit to actually do the action of the mitzvos. Doing the action of the mitzvah is the hardest thing of all.

The main purpose of ‘in order to do them’ is to correct yourself. This follows from what Chazal say that ‘and to do them’ means that ‘you do to yourself’ [i.e. that your actions effect yourself.] The reason is that the 613 mitzvos correspond to the limbs and sinews of the persons body. Through the performance of the mitzvos [and the purification that comes to the person through them] he will merit to receive a neshama* that is called a ‘new creation.’ [This means that he will receive a greater spiritual strength above what he had before.] All of this comes to the person through his exertions in learning of Torah as we have learned in the Zohar*. (p. 209 sefer Sefas Emes teachings of Rebbe Yehuda Aryeh Leib of Gur)

* * * Sacrificing for HaShem ‘I will make desolate your sanctuaries and I will not smell your

pleasant aromas [from your sacrifices]’ (V’yikra 26.31)

The holy Maggid* of Koznitz said, ‘If only I could merit to see fulfilled the verse “I will make desolate your sanctuaries…” in my time.’ [It is very hard to understand his meaning in this. These are words of a curse, and he wanted to see them fulfilled?] We have been taught that all of curses in this portion of chastisements are really blessings, but that they are said in a hidden manner, and are not revealed openly to those who read it. [We know that nothing bad that comes from HaShem, as it says,] ‘From Him does not proceed any evil things.’ However to our physical eyes it  appears to be curses. [To explain this statement of the Maggid] we have to understand that all of the 10 martyrs [who were killed by the Romans as is related in Chazal] and all the others like them who were killed and slaughtered because of His Holy Name’s sake, their death brought great joy to HaShem. It is not possible to measure the amount of joy they brought to Him. However we pray to HaShem that we should not be brought into these trials. That there should not be this type of joy Above with our physical deaths. It should be sufficient to Him that we are willing to give over our souls to him for His Name’s sake when we recite the Shema*, and when we pray with all our strength. This idea is learnt from a teaching on the verse, ‘They shall pelt them with stones, their blood is upon them.’ The meaning is that a person is required to imagine that he is undergoing each of the four different types of death penalties that the courts would give, when he is saying the Shema (and at similar times during his prayers.) This is the meaning of the verse, ‘you shall pelt him with stones’ i.e. this refers to the punishment of ‘stoning.’ ‘Their blood [Heb domihem] is on them.’ This means that this occurs through their imagination [Heb midomei] alone, with a complete heart [and not physically. When they have this in mind it] is considered as if they had been physically killed for His sake. This is the meaning of this verse. HaShem is telling us that He will not have joy from the Holy Ones who are being physically killed, but He will have joy in us, who give over our souls to Him when we recite the Shema and pray with all our strength. And from this sincere acceptance with our thoughts [of the four types of death penalties] he will consider it as if we had actually been killed. This is what our verse says: ‘I will make desolate your sanctuaries’ [Heb. mekdushim] I will nullify the slaughter of the Holy ones [Heb kedoshim] and make that a desolation [i.e. something that will no longer exist.] ‘And I will not smell your pleasant aromas [from your sacrifices]’ He will not longer have any desire to accept this sacrifice of those who are physically killed for His Name’s sake.

This is the meaning of what the Maggid said, ‘If only I could merit to see fulfilled the verse “I will make desolate your sanctuaries…” in my time.’ If only we could merit that HaShem would no longer desire the physical sacrifices, but he would find joy in those who sacrifice themselves through learning Torah, prayer, and good deeds with their full soul. (p. 26b sefer Ateres Yeshuah teachings of Rebbe Yehoshua of Dzikov.)

Copyright (c) 1999 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.

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