MAY 26-27, 2000 22 IYAR 5760
DAY 37 OF THE OMER
"But if you will not listen to me and will not perform all of these misvot" (Vayikra 26:14)
Our perashah lays out before our eyes the future of the Jewish people, the blessings and happiness that will be bestowed upon us when we observe His commandments, the trials and tribulations that will befall us if the Torah is abandoned. When we read the future suffering predicted for our people we get a sense of "this sounds like too much!"
Let's explain with a parable. If someone becomes ill, G-d forbid, a great effort is made to cure him. This is true for all people. However, let's say that the patient is a very important person and his illness is life-threatening. A greater effort is made. Now imagine if the sick person is a person that the entire world needs and relies on. If his life is in danger it reaches a different level entirely. Specialists will be flown in from all over the world, the most difficult treatments will be considered as a possibility. Even if he is about to die, new and exotic treatments will be brought in, never giving up hope.
Our Sages teach us that the sufferings mentioned in our perashah are treatments of healing to the Jewish people. The extent that Hashem is ready to go to heal us, and the extreme nature of these treatments indicates that the patient, the Jewish people, is someone the world needs and relies on.
Let us pray that we maintain good spiritual health from now until the final redemption. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"If you behave casually with me" (Vayikra 26:21)
When describing the decline of the Jewish Nation after they sinned and were exiled from their land, the Torah uses the word "keri" a few times, which means coincidence. Whenever the Jewish people say that the punishment which befalls them is only a natural occurrence, a coincidence, Hashem has to resort to stronger methods in order to show us that He is the cause of everything. Just like a father first chastises his son with a slight tap, and if there is no response has to resort to stronger methods, so too Hashem, who is our Father, "talks to us" and wants us to get the message before it becomes harsher. Whenever we hear of tragedies in our community, fighting in the land of Israel or other calamities, we must realize it is not natural, it is a message. Each one must take the message to heart and apply it based on his or her own way of life, to try to improve and find favor in the eyes of Hashem. Even when we see the temperature drop 40 degrees in one day, or the stock market go up (hopefully) or down many hundreds of points from day to day, these are happenings meant to show us that there is no natural occurrence which doesn't have a Creator masterminding His plan. Let's keep our eyes open! Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim
"If you will walk in My statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) Rashi: "Toil in the Torah."
The Mishnah says (Abot 6:5) that there are thirty traits one must acquire to attain the crown of royalty. There are twenty-four traits that are preconditions for the crown of priesthood. But the crown of Torah is the most difficult to acquire. It is gained through forty-eight steps.
The Gemara that says, "[If one says] I have toiled and I have found, believe him," is difficult to understand. Aren't "toiling" and "finding" incompatible? "Toiling" implies exertion, while "finding" implies coming across something without even trying. The answer is that once one toils, he will find that he attains things easily. Like all beginnings, work at Torah is difficult at the start. It wears a person out. But during the course of study, one will sense progress, satisfaction and joy.
Without a doubt, somebody who studies Torah with constancy and perseverance can rest assured that he will be a gadol baTorah. This is the message of the Tosafot (Ketubot 63a) about Ben Kalba Sabua. He wished to be released from his oath that prevented him from giving any of his money to his son-in-law, Rabbi Akiba. The Sages were able to annul the oath because Ben Kalba Sabua said he never meant that the oath should apply were his son-in-law to become a great man. But Tosafot asks, Rabbi Akiba's greatness was a condition that did not exist at the time his father-in-law made the oath. Annulment of an oath cannot be based on conditions that came about after the oath. Tosafot answers that this is considered a condition that did, in fact, exist at the time of the oath.
For Rabbi Akiba had already committed himself to the study of Torah, "and it is natural that one who goes to study becomes a great man." Tosafot teaches us that as long as one commits himself to study, he is assured of greatness.
As the Or Hahaim said so succinctly on the verse "You shall rejoice in all the good," the only thing that can be referred to as "all the good" is studying the Torah. It is the only absolute goodness. Shabbat Shalom.
"And I will place peace in the land" (Vayikra 26:6)
Rashi states: If there is no peace, there is nothing. There are many people who would really feel satisfied with what they themselves already have. But because they see that others have more, they feel envious of those people. They actually feel pain when they see that someone else has what they do not. But when a person feels sincere love for someone else, he is not envious of that person and it does not bother him if that person has more than him. Therefore, the only way for people to really experience a total blessing with what Hashem has given them is for there to be true peace among people. This is the peace in which people feel love for one another and are happy for their good fortune.
The only way you will be able to enjoy what you have is to master the attitude of feeling good for the good fortune of others. Envy prevents you from living life to its fullest. The more joy you feel for others, the better your own quality of life. (Growth through Torah)
[It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.]
"Swift as a deer" (Pirkei Abot 5:20)
What lessons should be learned from the deer? A deer runs swiftly and does not tire. Likewise, a Jew should not claim that he is too tired to do a misvah.
Alternatively, a deer runs to flee the hunter. Likewise, one should run from the endeavors of the yeser hara - evil inclination - to capture him in his net.
Alternatively, according to the Midrash, when a deer runs, it constantly looks backward to see if anyone is chasing after him. From this one should learn that although it is human nature to endeavor to go forward and make progress in life, a Jew must always look back and constantly check if he is properly attached to our source - Torah and misvot.
Unfortunately, there are those who, while running forward, run so far away that they lose their entire connection to our beautiful heritage.
However blessed one may be, he must always "look back," i.e. see to it that his life and all his business activities are in the spirit of the authentic Torah tradition.
Alternatively, the analogy to a swift deer, whose nature is to look behind him while he runs, is a message to parents. There are many parents who themselves are immersed in Torah and misvot. Many are immersed totally in acts of kindness helping worthy institutions and individuals.
These parents may be swift in their progress and accomplishment, but they must also look back and see what is happening with their own children. The Mishnah is thus saying, "Do not suffice with just improving yourself, but take your children along with you and inculcate in them the same love as you have for Torah and misvot. (Vedibarta Bam)
Answer to Pop Quiz: 50 silver shekalim.
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