Where’s the Meat? What’s the Meat?
The Tochacha (Reprimand) of Parshas Bechukosai, while not the longest Tochacha in the Torah, is very unique, for rather than place focus on specific misdeeds, it focuses instead on personal priorities, as elucidated by Chazal and the Meforshim (Commentators). Lack of Ameilus Ba’Torah, of toiling and being immersed in Torah, invites upon the Jewish People a downward cycle of sin and disaster. Rather than being directed to choose a life of mitzvos, of performing certain correct actions, we are principally bidden in Parshas Bechukosai to infuse our lives with Torah concentration and accentuation, and the mitzvos will come as a result. In other words, our mindset and life trajectory must be cultivated and given top priority. Getting it right when it comes to bottom line deeds alone will not cut it.
I feel that this concept relates so well to Rabbi Avi Shafran’s recent and highly insightful No Regrets, in which character is put first, and net actions are not viewed as the only thing of import.
Although it is easy and often entertaining to point to the personality (and other) flaws of this political season’s offerings, our fingers should perhaps instead be directed inwards, for the two main parties’ leading candidates are largely an honest representation of society and were not imposed upon us by force. We live in age of bottom line over substance and of actions over values, and those whom we promote to the top of the political ticket are a mere mirror of ourselves.
Does contemporary society laud those who have the courage to take unpopular stands, and those who work hard and study hard in order to earn a decent living and contribute something to their families and to the world? Or is more thought given to “friending” people, to selfies, to accessing and uploading the best music, video and gaming options on a countless number of portable devices? Are society’s heroes those who fight for proper values and risk forfeiting popularity and success for that which is right, or does society instead take more interest in those who stand in line for three days in front of an Apple Store awaiting the first sale of a new iPhone model, or in those celebrities and politicians whose one-liners and insults are more entertaining than the best of comedies?
In Judaism, being a person of substance means being connected to Hashem in an intimate, dynamic and profound manner. This is Ameilus Ba’Torah.
Once a person is seriously engaged in Torah, his values change; his attitude is transformed. That which seems important in the street often becomes irrelevant or insignificant, and that which most people may overlook or downplay may suddenly be of great significance and intrigue.
As we prepare for Shavuos and energize ourselves for accepting and embracing the Torah and immersing ourselves in its living waters, let us allow the Torah to overtake us and metamorphose our personalities and our beings. Let us read Bechukosai and understand it well.
Have a good Shabbos.
A fundamental question to ask is why ḥazal neglected their more usual interpretation of a ḥok, as a mitzvah whose rationale lies beyond the grasp of human wisdom. I suspect the word “tailaikhu” is more consonant with a lifestyle, like being amailim batorah, than a particular commandment. Perhaps as well, the parsha’s repeated mention of a return to God is better suited to a change in perspective than an individual action.
The interpretation of ḥok as a procedure fits very well with “tailaikhu” perhaps best translated as to follow as opposed to walk; the procedures required by ḥukim, must be followed precisely.