Parsha Bechukotai 5771: The Tochocha and a Jew’s Connection With Eretz Yisrael

by Moshe Burt

Our Parsha Bechukotai is but another in the series of Parshiyot usually paired with the one it preceeds, in this case Parsha Behar, as a doubleheader.

Therefore, yet another opportunity exists to emphasize, in another way, the connection between the Jew and Eretz Yisrael.

In Parshat Behar, Hashem instills in us to parallel the laws of Shabbos: six days you shall work and you shall rest, refrain from all manner of avodah on the seventh day… to keep it Holy, just as in emulation of Hashem’s creation of the universe; with the laws of Shemittoh: ‘I will command My blessing during the sixth year and it will provide produce for three years’ we see beyond the Hatam Sofer’s explanation that:

The laws of Shemittoh prove that the Torah was given in Shemayim (Heaven). Had the Torah been of mortal origin, how could any human promise, ‘I will command My blessing during the sixth year and it will provide produce for three years’? — something which is beyond the realm of the natural, and a way to test whether Torah is genuine.” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Behar, page 331)

We see that the halachot of Shabbos and the halachot of Shemittoh connect and bond the Jew and his Land — “Eretz Yisrael” for eternity, as expressed in the oldies ballad from the late 1950s; “The Twelfth of Never” sung and recorded by Johnny Mathis, Donnie Osmond and others. For us, the Land of Israel is a one-of-a-kind, unique land granted by Hashem ONLY to His Am Yehudim — his Am Segula: Light unto the other nations and His Land — a land like none other, to be loved, embraced, possessed, tended and cared for.

Or, as this author noted on last week’s Parshat Behar:

It seems… that the mitzvah of Shemittoh, the Shabbat for the land, was given to in order to connect the Shabbos of B’nai Yisrael with the Shabbos year of the Land of Israel. In this way, it seems obvious to this author that Hashem has inextricably linked the two — the B’nai Yisrael and the Land of Israel — for all time.

Hashem seems to be saying to us, to all perceptive enough and with sufficient emunah to hear, that there is but one place that Am Yehudi can call home and where a Jew can be complete — Eretz Yisrael, and that all else is temporary, transient.

And to reinforce that bond and connection, our parsha contrasts the brachot which the B’nai Yisrael will receive for cleaving to and adhering to the laws of Torah with the klalot, the punishments which will befall the Jews if they stray away from Torah or rebel against Hashem’s dominion over the world.

Rabbi Meyer Fendel wrote in a Young Israel Parsha Sheet on Bechukotai in 1995 regarding a posuk from amidst the terrible tidings of the Tochocha (the reproof);

“I will make the land desolate; and your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate.” (Parsha Bechukotai, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 32) He then brings a Rashi on the posuk, “This is good tidings for Israel, that her enemies will not find happiness in the Land and she will remain … barren from her inhabitants.”

Rabbi Fendel then reasons that a question may be asked; “How will Israel benefit if her enemies will… be unable to inhabit the land?” He brings a Ramban which concurs with Rashi but which adds something more:

“This is also a great proof and promise, for in the whole inhabited world, one cannot find such a goodly land which was [once] inhabited and yet is as ruined as she is today, for since the time that we left her, she has not accepted any nation or people, and though they all try to settle her, their efforts are in vain.”

In essence, Rabbi Fendel expresses that the Ramban tells us that the Land ‘went into Galut’ along with the B’nai Yisrael and could not bear harvest to strangers on her soil:

“Herein lies the good tiding, in which … Chazal found a source of hope: the Land would never produce for strangers — but for Klal Yisrael returning home, she would. Eretz Yisrael lay dormant for 2,000 years, … simply because she was awaiting the return of her children.”

“… The Land was so barren and so desolate that one could not fail to see this as fulfillment of the Biblical “I will lay waste to the land.” (Another translation; Parsha Bechukotai, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 32)

And yet Chazal saw the hope and foresaw the return of B’nai Yisrael to the land: “The Land will wait and remain desolate, as a sign both of the sins of Israel and it’s guaranteed return.” (Parsha Bechukotai, Rabbi Meyer Fendel, National Council of Young Israel Parsha sheet, 27 May, 1995)

Earlier in our Parsha, the Tochochah, the admonishment, the reproof, is explicit as to the punishments that will befall B’nai Yisrael if they violate Hashem’s Torah:

“I (Hashem), will set my face against you and you will be smitten before your enemies. They that hate you will rule over you.” (Parsha Bechukotai, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 17)

This commentary in Sefer L’lmode Ul’lamed (page 126) Parsha Bechukotai, page 126) adds another dimension to Rabbi Fendel’s Parsha HaShevua:

“The text implies that included among the enemies will be those from Yisrael, enemies from within. These enemies say our Rabbanim, are the most vicious of adversaries.” They are the most dangerous of all enemies. “They are traitors against their own kind who know where their fellow men are most vulnerable.”

They are Jews who seem to deny their roots and do not accept their Judaism. They put their “Emunah” in mortals — in the prowess of man, in themselves and their self-interests and self-enrichment, in the super-power of the time while seeking to destroy their fellow Jews, Jewish roots, laws, history and heritage.

It is tragic that often the worst enemy of the Jewish people, and those most dangerous to the Jews, are the Jews themselves.

As a result, the B’nai Yisrael is often deceived by it’s own evil rulers, and by disunity and sectorial rivalries, into feeling that all is hopeless, that there is no Divine being. And through apathy, self interest, self-concern and self-enrichment at the expense of our fellow Jews, we play right into the hands of the leftist elitists as well as the corrupt politco, academia, courts and media — all of those who seek to subvert Torah, our history and our traditions to suit their own ends and self-interests.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and to prevent the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.