From curses to blessings
אם-בחקתי תלכו וגו’ ואולך אתכם קוממיות: ואם-לא תשמעו לי וגו’ אלה החקים והמשפטים אשר נתן יקוק בינו ובין בני ישראל בהר סיני ביד-משה
If you walk in my statutes…I will lead you upright. And if you don’t listen to me…[such and such will happen]…These are the statutes and laws that Hashem gave between Himself and the Jewish people, on Mount Sinai, through Moshe
Parshas Bechukosai is also known as the Tochacha, the Rebuke. A large portion of the parsha describes all the curses that will, G-d forbid, befall the Jewish people if they don’t remain faithful in their observance of the Torah. However, it begins describing all the wonderful blessings that we should receive if we are in fact properly following Hashem’s laws.
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Accumulation, not Regression
היום שלשה ושלושים יום, שהם ארבעה שבועות, וחמשה ימים לעומר
Today is thirty-three days, which are four weeks and five days of the Omer
Lag BaOmer is the culmination of a mourning period that takes place during Sefiras HaOmer. Why have we been mourning? Our Sages tell us that in the days between Pesach and Shavuos, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died. What was the reason? We are told that they didn’t treat each other with כבוד, often translated as respect or honor. How could this be? Furthermore, another version of the story says that עיניהם צרות בתורתם, they were selfish with their Torah. A third version says they didn’t fill the land of Israel with their Torah. How can we make sense of this?
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Admitting the ability to deny
וכי תזבחו זבח-תודה ליקוק לרצנכם תזבחו
When you bring a thanksgiving offering, you shall offer it willingly
When the Torah instructs us regarding bringing a thanksgiving offering, it tells us to offer it willingly. This is quite surprising, as shouldn’t this be true regarding all offerings? In fact, the Torah tells us in general to bring offerings willingly. Why then does the Torah specify this requirement with thanksgiving offerings?
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Looking beyond the surface: slow growth to actualize potential
וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את-עמר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה
You shall count for yourselves, from the day after the Festival, from the day you bring the waved Omer offering, they shall be seven complete weeks
We find ourselves in the period of the year known as Sefiras HaOmer, literally the Counting of the Omer. From the second day of Pesach, we have a mitzvah to count up every day, leading to the Festival of Shavuos. Coming off the heels of Pesach, you would think this is a joyous time of year. Indeed, the Ramban likens this period to Chol HaMoed, the intermediate Festival days. However, this time period is also known as a time of mourning, as we commemorate the time in which Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students died. Why did they die? Our Sages say it was because they didn’t treat each other with כבוד, usually translated as honor. How could they not honor each other?
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