Parshas Bechukosai: The Covenant of the Patriarchs & The Land of Israel

In this week’s parsha (in chutz la’Aretz), Parshas Bechukosai, we read the tochacha: the great rebuke foretold to us, shall the nation throw off the yoke of Torah and mitzvos.  The Torah promises us that terrible tragedies will befall our people.  The pasukim are painful, difficult and punishing. 

The Torah prophesies that: 

G-d will thrust upon us the fever, wasting eyes, pining eyes and panic; we will be smitten before our enemies, we will run when no one is chasing us; our might and pride will be broken, our heavens, like iron, and the land, like copper; our energy will be exerted in vain and our enemies will eat the fruits of our labor; wild beasts will bereave us and decimate our flocks; the sword will be brought upon us and we will be under siege in our cities; ten women will bake bread in the same oven and all that will result will be crumbs; we will consume the flesh of our sons and the flesh of our daughters we will consume; our cities will be destroyed and our sanctuaries desolate; our Land will be desolate…(Vayikra 26).

Amongst these terrible klalos (curses) the pasuk tells us: וְזָכַרְתִּי, אֶתבְּרִיתִי יַעֲקוֹב; וְאַף אֶתבְּרִיתִי יִצְחָק וְאַף אֶתבְּרִיתִי אַבְרָהָם, אֶזְכֹּרוְהָאָרֶץ אֶזְכֹּרand I will remember the covenant with Yaakov, and also the covenant with Yitzchak, and the covenant with Avraham I will remember, and the land I will remember (Vayikra 26:42).

There are many interpretations into this beautiful verse.  In the midst of our suffering, our trials and terrible tribulations, G-d will remember (keviyachol) the covenant He made with the Avos and the Land, and He will wake up (keviyachol) to redeem us.  

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav, zt’l, teaches: “The very fact that Israel is isolated internationally, that the vast majority of Klal Yisrael is sympathetic towards her and ready to suffer all manner of charges against her by Jew-haters; the fact that we identify with the State and see all who oppose it as Jew-haters, the very fact that we know that this is our own problem which no outsiders can understand, sanctifies us with the sanctity of the Patriarchs. 

וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֵת אֶרֶץ מְגֻרֶיךָ, אֵת כָּלאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, לַאֲחֻזַּת, עוֹלָם; וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם, לֵאלֹקיםAnd I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be your G-d’ (Bereishis 17:8).  

“Take away Eretz Yisrael, and the Jews of the diaspora will be engulfed by a tremendous wave of estrangement and assimilation.  All the dramatic, tragic experience of the sanctity of the Patriarchs, the existential difference of Jewish history, would, far be it, be wiped out.  And who can say that we would be able to salve the sanctity of Sinai if the Jew ceased to feel the Patriarchal sanctity in its full tragic depth.

“How apt are the words of the Torah: וְזָכַרְתִּי, אֶתבְּרִיתִי יַעֲקוֹב; וְאַף אֶתבְּרִיתִי יִצְחָק וְאַף אֶתבְּרִיתִי אַבְרָהָם, אֶזְכֹּרוְהָאָרֶץ אֶזְכֹּר (Vayikra 26:42) – I will ensure that the Patriarchal covenant will never be forgotten.  

“When you reach the stage of: וַאֲבַדְתֶּם, בַּגּוֹיִם; וְאָכְלָה אֶתְכֶם, אֶרֶץ אֹיְבֵיכֶםyou will be lost amongst the nations, and the land of your enemies shall consume you (v.38); when you will be in turmoil, dumbfounded, afraid, when you no longer want to be recognized as Jewish, when you hide yourselves like Jonah in the bowels of the ship, when you will be frightened by the lot of Abraham the Hebrew, of the Patriarchal covenant – it will not avail you, in spite of all, to forget the ancient covenant.  I will bring about you something new that will always remind you of your Jewishness, that will exemplify the fact that you are different though you are physically the same as other people.  וְזָכַרְתִּי, אֶתבְּרִיתִי יַעֲקוֹב; וְאַף אֶתבְּרִיתִי יִצְחָק וְאַף אֶתבְּרִיתִי אַבְרָהָם, אֶזְכֹּר.  I, G-d, will remember the Patriarchal covenant so that you will be forced to remember it.

“The covenant of Abraham will boom forth from the radio, all the newspapers will point out the Jew, his particular problems, his stubbornness as well as his cast-iron determination.  The shadow of Abraham our father will pursue you.  Do you know how?  By Eretz Yisrael.  וְהָאָרֶץ אֶזְכֹּרand the Land I will remember!  Do you know why I am determined to uphold the Patriarchal covenant, the paradoxical history of Jewry in all its tragedy and grandeur?  Because: וְאַףגַּםזֹאת בִּהְיוֹתָם בְּאֶרֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶם, לֹאמְאַסְתִּים וְלֹאגְעַלְתִּים לְכַלֹּתָםלְהָפֵר בְּרִיתִי, אִתָּם: כִּי אֲנִי ה’, אֱלֹקּיהֶםBut despite all this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them nor will I reject them to annihilate them, to annul My covenant with them, for I am Hashem their G-d (v.44).  

“Because I want the continued existence of the people with Torah and mitzvot, with Shabbos, kashrus, tefillin and tzitzis; because I do not want you to thrust the covenant of Sinai aside – וְזָכַרְתִּי לָהֶם, בְּרִית רִאשֹׁנִים: אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיאֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֵי הַגּוֹיִם, לִהְיוֹת לָהֶם לֵאלֹקּיםאֲנִי הI will remember for them the covenant of the ancestors, whom I took out from the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be a God to them. I am the Hashem (v.45).

“To save the covenant of their ancestors at Sinai, I must realize the Patriarchal covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that is, to be at one with the suffering and joy of Klal Yisrael (The Rav Speaks, p.150-152). 

As we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim (28 Iyar/Sunday May 29) once again, and give thanks to the RS”O for the privilege of our Medina, our mekomos ha’kedoshim liberated in our day and time, the zechus we have to walk, enjoy, benefit from, pray in and connect to our Land, let us pray for the day of the ultimate redemption, when our nation and our Land will be blessed with only brachos and everlasting shalom.

בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום, 



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