Parshat Bechukotai 5784: The Tochochah; Casualness, Stubbornness or Indifference, and the War of 7 October vs Iran and Its Terror Proxies

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Bechukotai is sponsored by Rabbi Joel & Shelly Padowitz dedicated B’Ezrat Hashem for the safety of the Chayalim and the liberation of all hostages and and that they’re brought home whole physically, mentally and spiritually as well as for the good health and security of kol Am Yisrael.

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Bechukotai 5784: The Tochochah; Casualness, Stubbornness or Indifference, and the War of 7 October vs Iran and Its Terror Proxies

by Moshe Burt

This author compiled this vort on Parshat Bechukotai, against the background of seven-plus months of the War of Simchat Torah, 7 October, and within days of the direct attack on Israel by Iran, as well as its terror proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

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’nei 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 and commentary regarding the Tochochah in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra (pages 241 – 243) :

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, this term apparently connotes “casualness” or “happenstance” and is derived from the root kara, to happen.

…Within the context of the Tochocha, in the realm of both sin and punishment, what does the word “keri” actually mean?

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)

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 Divine 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.”

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’nei 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 (ibid);

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.

And it seems that the word “keri” indicates a “flawed world view” were individuals or factions view events as coincidental, where their observance of Torah and fear of Hashem is sporadic, or non-existent. For these individuals or factions, the equation seems not to include Hashem until calamity strikes. For why else would a high military command shake off, ignore, intimidate, threaten and oppress their subordinates who duly (adverb: in a correct or appropriate manner; properly; fittingly) perform their military duties of alerting military command of irregular actions of enemy forces, i.e. preparations for an invasion and/or mass terror attack? And why would Israel’s political governing level resort to “diplomatic negotiations” leading to temporary ceasefires and mass terrorist exchanges in order to recover some of the hostages rather than going full force to eradicate Hamas and all terrorists in Gaza, while liberating the hostages held by Hamas and their co-conspirators; so-called “innocent Gazan civilians”? And why does it appear as if Israel’s political governmental level is equivocating [verb (used without object),e·quiv·o·cat·ed, e·quiv·o·cat·ing: to use ambiguous or unclear expressions, usually to avoid commitment or in order to mislead; prevaricate or hedge], bowing to American pressure against going into Rafah in Gaza, and toward a military response to Iran’s mass drone and rocket attack days ago?

With these thoughts in mind, this author hearkens back to a point made by Rabbi Goldin in his sefer (“Unlocking the Torah Text,” Sefer Vayikra) on Parshat Tazria, that we lack our Beit HaMikdash, Kohen Godol and Kohanim in service, and our korbonot for millennia, and thus there is no affliction of Tzara’at. Rabbi Goldin writes (page 107-109) :

Are we to view the misfortunes that confront us, from illness to accident, as Heaven-sent retribution for our sins? Does Hashem punish us today, as He did in biblical times, through the direct visitation of calamity?

On the one hand, the Torah repeatedly speaks of the calamities destined to befall the Jews’ nation as a result of their transgressions… On the other hand, the relationship between affliction and sin in our experience is deeply elusive.

The fate of the cities of Sodom and Amora is firmly rooted in the realm of din, justice. The Akeida, on the other hand, takes place in the realm of nissayon, trial.

Through prophetic vision, Avraham was able to distinguish between the two realms of din and nissayon and react to each appropriately. We, however, are unable to make that distinction. We have no way of knowing, nor are we meant to know, whether a particular life challenge is a punishment or a trial, or a combination thereof. We, therefore act on both levels at once. In times of crisis, we struggle, pray, plead and argue for justice. We allow difficult experience to catalyze our personal repentance and spiritual growth. When all of our prayers are exhausted, we turn to Hashem and accept His unfathomable will.

Is it possible that the War of Simchat Torah, 7 October, the barbarous mass terror attack by Hamas, an Iranian proxy, and Iran’s direct attack of drones and rockets, are but a test of Am Yisrael?

Rabbi Goldin concludes (“Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, 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.

May it be that our Chayalim emerge totally victorious — eradicating, from the face of the earth, Hamas, their terrorist buddies and the so-called “innocent civilians” of Gaza who joined with Hamas in their murderous deeds, and that the Chayalim return home whole — physically, mentally and spiritually and that the Chayalim Liberate and bring home all remaining hostages. And may we see the restoration of true unity within Am Yisrael.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently re-settled in Gush Katif, once the IDF, by the Yad Hashem, destructs and eradicates the wild beasts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, all other terror entities, and if necessary Iran, and that our brethren be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense. May our Chayalim return from battle unharmed — physically, mentally and spiritually and may all of the hostages brutally taken by the wild beasts of Hamas be liberated and brought home to their families. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his fourth year at home in Eretz Yisrael and continues in a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine 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 see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia as well as the US and Canada, the real Jews via matrilineal descent, make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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.