Torah Weekly

For the week ending 4 June 2016 / 27 Iyyar 5776

Parshat Bechukotai

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah promises prosperity for the Jewish People if they follow G-d's commandments. However, if they fail to live up to the responsibility of being the Chosen People, then chilling punishments will result. The Torah details the harsh historical process that will fall upon them when Divine protection is removed. These punishments, whose purpose is to bring the Jewish People to repent, will be in seven stages, each more severe than the last. Sefer Vayikra, the book of Leviticus, concludes with the details of erachin – the process by which someone vows to give the Beit Hamikdash the equivalent monetary value of a person, an animal or property.


Joe’s Horoscope

"If you will follow My decrees..." (26:3)

Joe Cohen is forty-two and a half years old. Joe is an extravagantly generous person. He makes the mitzvah of charity his special province. He neither neglects nor rejects any worthy cause. His house and his heart are open to all.

If you were a stargazer and could look into Joe’s horoscope you would see that Joe was not destined for a long life. Joe’s “mazal” is anything but “tov”. In his mazal, in his horoscope, it says that Joe will die at the age of 43 from a heart attack. However, seeing as our own individual horoscopes are not published in the papers, neither Joe nor anyone else has any idea about Joe’s imminent demise. Joe’s forty-third birthday passes with the usual birthday gifts, meaning large anonymous financial gifts that Joe gives to charity. Joe’s 44th birthday passes in much the same way. So does his 45th, his 46th and his 47th. In fact, not until his 90th birthday does Joe take his leave of this earthly stage, and is brought to the World of Truth.

Simon Shmuzer loves to talk. Unfortunately the vast majority of what emanates from Simon’s mouth is putting down other people behind their backs. Simon has developed subtle, and not-so-subtle, character assassination into a fine art. A look at Simon’s celestial horoscope would show that Simon is supposed to live to the ripe old age of 89. However, when he turns 47, suddenly Simon develops a malignant disease of the larynx and passes away quite suddenly.

What happened to Joe’s and Simon’s horoscopes? Should they look for new astrologers?

At the beginning of this weeks Torah portion the Torah gives a detailed picture of the bounty that awaits us if we keep the Torah: "rains in their time; the Land will give its produce the tree its fruit; You will lie down and none with frighten you; I will cause wild beasts to leave the Land, and a sword will not cross your Land; You will eat very old grain (which will remain fresh and improve with age) so that you will have to move it to make way for the new harvest…."

If you look at all these promises, they all refer to this world. There is not one mention about the reward that we will get for keeping the Torah when we get to the World of Truth.

Why not?

The Torah doesn’t deal with the rewards and punishments of the Next World because it’s obvious that the proper place to receive the reward for our performance of spiritual tasks is in a world of spirituality. The next world is a totally spiritual world designed and constructed with the sole purpose of rewarding or punishing us. The Torah doesn’t need to stress the fact that we are recompensed there. Where else would we expect to receive the results of our spiritual actions if not in a world of spirituality?

The surprise is that we are rewarded and punished for spiritual things here in this physical world too. Now that’s something we would never have known had the Torah not told us.

However, we don’t see that we are rewarded and punished here in this world for our actions. It all looks perfectly natural. It all looks like the “way of the world”.

No one saw anything miraculous about Simon’s demise, or Joe’s longevity. After all, many people die young and more when they are old. And yet both Joe and Simon experienced miracles. We would never know about those miracles had the Torah not spelled them out in this week Torah portion.

  • Source: Ramban’s Commentary on the Chumash

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