Bechukosai 5784: The Klalos and Jewish Destiny

With this week’s parsha, Parsha Bechukosai, we close the book of Vayikra once again.  Bechukosai is a short parsha which deals with two main topics: the klalos (curses) that will befall Israel in exile (Vayikra 26), and arachin (valuations), when one dedicates the value of a certain item to the Beit haMikdash (Vayikra 27).

The parsha begins with a series of eleven pasukim that delineate the brachos (blessings) that will be showered upon Israel when the nation goes in the way of Hashem, keeps the mitzvos, and toils in Torah.  These blessings include: the rain will fall in its time, the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will give forth fruit; the nation will eat to satiation and dwell securely in the land; there will be peace in the land and wild animals will cease from the land, and no sword will even pass through the land; the nation will chase its enemies and they will fall by sword; we will be fruitful and many, and Hashem will walk amongst us and be for us a G-d, and we will be His nation, and He will lead us with upright, strong and proud stature (Vayikra 26:3-13).

And then, the Torah warns us that if the nation does not go in the ways of Hashem, terrible disasters will befall us (Vayikra 26:14-46).  The disasters are many, and they are painful.  Our cities and land will lay desolate, we will fall before our enemies, we will be pushed into the cities where plague will break out, there will not be sufficient food, the land will not yield its produce, our enemies will eat what we sow and grow, there will be panic, fever, and wasting away, we will flee before our enemies and even run from the sound of a rustling leaf, parents will consume the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters they will consume, G-d will not accept our offerings and our temple will be destroyed and laid waste, we will be scattered amongst the nations of the world and the sword will follow us, we will be lost amongst the nations and we will have no upright bearing in the lands of our enemies… and so on, and so forth.

These verses are amongst the most painful in the Torah (along with the klalos of Ki Savo, found in Sefer Devarim).  Anyone aware of any epoch in Jewish history recognizes the klalos that have befallen us time and again.  It is difficult for us to understand and comprehend, with our limited, mortal, finite vision, how such events can happen.  There is no answer to how or why the exile is so long, so bitter, so painful and so dark.  Hashem is Ha’tov Vi’ha’meitiv – the One Who is good and does good; yet in this world, the good is sometimes difficult to discern.  We do not say it does not exist, for Hashem created the world only to do good to His creations; but at times, it is hidden from our eyes.

While it is true that the Torah tells us the klalos will befall us when we reject the mitzvos and do not go in the ways of Hashem, Eichah tells us that the prophet, the nation, and our city of Yerushalayim cry out to the Heavens and weep and declare: כִּי אִם־מָאֹ֣ס מְאַסְתָּ֔נוּ קָצַ֥פְתָּ עָלֵ֖ינוּ עַד־מְאֹֽד, For even if You have utterly rejected us, have You not raged sufficiently against us? (Eichah 5:22).

In regard to Oct. 7, Gitty Beer, one of the United Hatzalah members who raced to the South on that date (at great and very real danger to their own lives, and who continued to work in the south in the days following Oct. 7) relates: “Near the entrance to Kfar Aza there is a gas station.  Inside there is a convenience store whose shelves had been emptied by soldiers who took whatever there was on the shelves and left notes with their contact information so that they could pay the owners at a later date.

“When we pulled into the gas station on Tuesday afternoon (three days after the massacre), I saw an old man sitting near one of the outside tables and eating a yogurt.  By this time, it was rare to see civilians in the area, and he was so out of place that he caught my eye.  His clothing was shabby and tattered, and he had a very neglected appearance about him.  He seemed to be about 80 years old.

“I approached him and asked gently, ‘What are you doing here?’  ‘I got hungry so I came to look for food,’ he replied.  ‘Where did you come from?’  ‘I was in the safe room in my house in Kfar Aza.’  I was shocked.  ‘But there is no one here anymore!  Everyone was already taken from Kfar Aza!’  ‘I don’t know anything about that,’ he replied. ‘My wife and I came outside, and we didn’t see anyone, but I was hungry, so I went to look for food.’

“When I heard the old man’s words, my heart broke.  The world had just come to an end in their village, and suddenly, these two old people just appeared out of nowhere, roaming around, with no idea of what had occurred.  It was mind-boggling.  I took the couple to an ambulance and gave them something to eat and drink, and we sent them to the hospital, where they would meet with a social worker who would take charge of their case” (Angels in Orange, The Shaar Press, p.116-117).

The pasuk tells us: וְכָשְׁל֧וּ אִישׁ־בְּאָחִ֛יו כְּמִפְּנֵי־חֶ֖רֶב וְרֹדֵ֣ף אָ֑יִן וְלֹא־תִֽהְיֶ֤ה לָכֶם֙ תְּקוּמָ֔ה לִפְנֵ֖י אֹֽיְבֵיכֶֽםEach man will trip over his brother, as if fleeing from the sword, but without anyone chasing after you; you will not be able to stand up against your enemies (Vayikra 26:37).  On the words: every man will trip over his brother, Rashi, quoting the Sages, teaches: Each man will stumble because of the sins of his brother, שֶׁכָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲרֵבִין זֶה לָזֶה, for all of Israel are guarantors and are responsible for one another (ibid).

The fate of one Jew is the fate of another, and the destiny of our nation is the destiny of us all.  Lest any one person think he can escape the story of Am Yisrael, the Torah tells us otherwise: you are all responsible for one another.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt’l, the Rav, teaches: “Our fate does not distinguish between aristocrats and common folk, between rich and poor, between a prince garbed in royal purple and a pauper begging from door to door, between a pietist and an assimilationist.  Even though we speak a plethora of languages, even though we are inhabitants of different lands, even though we look different – one may be short and dark, the other tall and blond – even though we live in varying and unequal social and economic conditions – one may dwell in a magnificent palace and the other in a miserable hovel – we still share the same fate. If the Jew in the hovel is beaten, then the security of the Jew in the palace is endangered.  Do not imagine that you can escape to the king’s palace from the fate of all the Jews.’  (Esther 4:13). Both Queen Esther, garbed in royal apparel, and Mordechai the Jew, clad in sackcloth, were caught in the same web of historical circumstances.  Chaverim kol Yisrael, All Israel are knit together’ – we will all be pursued unto death or we will all be redeemed with an eternal salvation” (Megillat Esther Masoret HaRav, p.87).

In the aftermath of Oct. 7 and the terrifying and terrible events that have occurred in the eight months since, we can only daven that the verses of nechama (comfort) in our parsha shall come to fruition immediately and in our days.

וְזָכַרְתִּ֖י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י יַעֲק֑וֹב וְאַף֩ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֨י יִצְחָ֜ק וְאַ֨ף אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶזְכֹּ֖ר וְהָאָ֥רֶץ אֶזְכֹּֽרand I will remember the covenant of Yaakov, and also the covenant of Yitzchak, and also the covenant of Avraham I will remember, and the Land I will remember (Vayikra 26:42).

May the mercy of HKB”H be aroused (Tehillim 79:8), may our enemies fall before us and not vice versa (Vayikra 26:7-8), may the groan of the captives come before Him (Tehilim 79:11), and may HKB”H remember us while we are in the land of our enemies, never utterly rejecting us to annul the eternal covenant of Am Yisrael with our Merciful Father in heaven (Vayikra 26:44).

May we learn the lesson of collective responsibility (quoted above) and recognize finally that we have sufficient enemies without; and only our brothers are our friends within.

When we return unto each other with ahava and achva (love and brotherhood), and return unto Hashem with passion, love and desire for His Torah and mitzvos, perhaps then the geula will come and we will merit the promise of: וְנָתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּשְׁכַבְתֶּ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין מַחֲרִ֑יד, and I will put peace in the land, and you will lay down and fear no one (Vayikra 26:6).  For as Rashi comments on this verse: אִם אֵין שָׁלוֹם אֵין כְּלוּם, if there is no peace, there is nothingמִכָּאן שֶׁהַשָּׁלוֹם שָׁקוּל כְּנֶגֶד הַכֹּל, from here we learn that the blessing of peace equals all other blessings (ibid).    

עַד־מָ֣ה התֶּֽאֱנַ֣ף לָנֶ֑צַח תִּבְעַ֥ר כְּמוֹ־אֵ֜֗שׁ קִנְאָתֶֽךָUntil when, Hashem, will Your wrath burn forever?  Will your jealousy burn like fire? (Tehillim 79:5);

הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ האֵלֶ֨יךָ֙ וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה חַדֵּ֥שׁ יָמֵ֖ינוּ כְּקֶֽדֶםreturn to us, Hashem, and we will return to You, restore our days as of old (Eichah 5:21).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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