Parshat Bechukotai 5779: The Tochochah and Casualness, Stubbornness or Indifference

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua for Bechukotai is being sponsored by Dr. Pinchas and Penina Klahr of Ramat Beit Shemesh Lilui Nishmas for Pinchas’ parents: Nosson Karpel ben Shmuel Zanvil Tzvi and Pessia Toiba bat Rav Yehuda Dov and Penina’s dad – Rav Matisyohu ben Rav Yaakov (Weisenberg). To the Klahr family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Bechukotai 5779: The Tochochah and Casualness, Stubborness or Indifference

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat Bechukotai, the last parsha in Sefer Vayikra, deals with the Hashem’s enunciation of the blessings and curses of the Tochochah: Hashem’s Admonition of B’nai Yisrael. defines “admonition” thus:

1. an act of admonishing.
2. counsel, advice, or caution.
3. a gentle reproof.
4. a warning or reproof given by an ecclesiastical authority.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes context regarding our Parshat Bechukotai in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, page 241:

As Parshat Bechukotai and sefer Vayikra draw to a close, Hashem delivers a stinging rebuke and warning to Am Yisrael. Known as the Tochocha Haketana, the small rebuke (in contrast to a second, larger rebuke found in Sefer Devarim), this section contains a series of frightening prophetic descriptions of the tragedies that will befall the nation should they fail to follow in Hashem’s ways.

At the core of this tochocha, a word is found that, in this conjugation, appears nowhere else in the Torah text. Here, however, this term, keri, is repeated no less than seven times within the span of twenty sentences [within Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26]. According to most authorities, tis term apparently connotes “casualness” or “happenstance” and is derived from the root kara, to happen.

Rabbi Goldin provides interpretations of various commentators: (ibid, pages 242-243):

Both Rashi and his grandson, the Rashbam… introduce a basic translation upon which most commentaries build. These scholars translate keri to mean “casual” or “inconsistent” as stated above from the root kara, to happen. If the nation sins by worshiping Hashem in an erratic, inconsistent manner, Rashi and the Rashbam explain, Hashem will respond in kind and will relate to the nation haphazardly and unpredictably as well. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 21)

To interject, this author would surmise that a breakneck, speed-of-light, Arnoldis Chapman-style 100 mph davening of Shemonah Essrei, Aleinu, etc. could fit a description of “casual” or “inconsistent.”

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid, pages 243-244):

Other commentaries, including Rabbeinu Bachya and the Ohr Hachaim, choose a related but different path. The term, keri,… describes a flawed world outlook that can lead to immeasurable sin. [Such] an individual… perceives no pattern to the events unfolding around him. In place of Divine Providence, this individual observes only random coincidence; and in place of punishment for sin, accidental misfortune. For such an individual, teshuvah becomes increasingly unattainable. In a haphazard world governed by arbitrary forces, after all, there exists little incentive for change. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rabbeinu Bachya and the Ohr Hachaim on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 21) [random, haphazard world governed by arbitrary forces = climate change and twelve years to the end of the world unless green reform?? This author quiping facetiously!]

…The Ohr Hachaim perceives in Hashem’s reaction — “And I [Hashem], too, will walk with you with keri; casualness… (Rabbi Goldin citing the Ohr Hachaim on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 24) — a carefully calibrated “measure for measure” for the nation’s failing If the people refuse to see a Divinely pattern in the world around them, Hashem will withdraw making it even more difficult for them to perceive His presence. The punishments to follow will seem even more random, bearing no obvious connection to the nation’s sins. The peoples’ failure to recognize Hashem’s imminence will thus prove frighteningly prophetic, for Hashem will respond with “distance.” (Rabbi Goldin citing the Ohr Hachaim on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 24)

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch interprets the sin associated with the word keri as indifference to Hashem’s will. Those [so] guilty… find considerations other than Hashem’s will central to their lives and their sporadic obedience to Torah law is thus purely coincidental. Hashem responds to this sin in kind… by removing His Divine protection from the nation and allowing the natural course of world history to determine their fate. The welfare of the Jews will be advanced only, coincidentally, when that welfare happens to correspond to the interests and needs of the powerful nations around them. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posukim 21, 23- 24)

Finally, a group of other scholars, including Onkelos, …explain the term keri to mean “stubbornness” or “harshness.” If the nation stubbornly refuses to obey based on Hashem’s law, Hashem’s response will be harsh and unforgiving. (Rabbi Goldin citing Targum Onkelos on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posukim 21, 23)

Near the conclusion of the Tochochah, Torah states the following (Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posukim 40-41, 44-45) :

“They will confess their sin and the sin of their forefathers, for the treachery with which they betrayed Me, and also for having behaved toward Me with casualness. I, too, will behave toward them with casualness and I will bring them into the land of their enemies — perhaps then their unfeeling heart will be humbled and then they will gain appeasement for their sin. …While they are in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul my covenant with them — for I am Hashem, their God. I will remember for them the covenant of the ancients, those whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be God unto them — I am Hashem.”

This conclusion of the Tochochah, as enunciated in Torah, seems stated in another way in Tehillim Psalm 81 which has been cited here in previous Parshat HaShevua over recent years:

“I am Hashem, your G’d, who elevated you from the land of Egypt, open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But My people did not heed My voice and Israel did not desire me. So I let them follow their heart’s fantasies, they follow their own counsels. If only My people would heed Me, if Israel would walk in My ways. In an instant I would subdue their foes, and against their tormentors turn My hand. Those who hate Hashem lie to Him — so their destiny is eternal. But, He would feed him with the cream of the wheat, and with honey from a rock sate you.”

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 244):

Our associations with each other… can endure many blows and setbacks. One wound, however, invariably proves fatal: total loss of trust. When mutual trust is gone and cannot be regained…; when each… no longer believes that the other has his partner’s best interests at heart, the relationship is doomed.

Hashem thus turns to the B’nei Yisrael and proclaims: “And if you will walk with me with keri…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posukim 21, 23-24, 27-28, 40)

If I find that you are deliberately inconsistent in your commitment to Me; if I find that you are only at My door when you choose to be; if I find that I cannot trust you to seek My presence and relate to Me continuously; the I will respond in kind…

“And then I [Hashem], too, will walk with you with keri
” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 41)

Hashem will forgive many failings and sins, but when we lose His trust, the punishments of the Tochochah are the result.

Citing Torah text, a commentary in Sefer L’lmode Ul’lamed (page 126) on 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.” (Parshat Bechukotai, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 17)

The commentary is as follows;

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. Jews who do not accept their Judaism, and who seek to destroy their fellow Jews, are the most dangerous of all. They are traitors against their own kind who know where their fellow men are most vulnerable. (Sefer L’lmode Ul’lamed, Parshat Bechukotai, page 126)

There 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.

Indeed, divisiveness, fractionalization, coercion and polarization have set in among the sectors of the people of Israel. And the enemy among us, within; the weak-willed pseudo-right wing leaders who compromise either their ideological and spiritual principles, or the liberal intelligencia, the leftist, socialist, self-hating self-deprecating self-affectionated self-proclaimed intellectuals — they’re hot to seize on this divisiveness and polarization amongst the various sectors of Am Yisrael as the means to their sinful ends — divide and conquer.

May we, the B’nei 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 and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nearly five years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — 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.