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Bechukotai
Counting our Blessings Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 May 2016

Parshat Bechukotai speaks about the blessings that will be bestowed upon the Jewish people if they follow the commandments as well as the curses that will befall them if they don’t observe the mitzvot.

 

Two blessings that took place in Israel this week specifically stood out in my mind:

 

The first blessing was to hear an interview on the radio with Eden Dadon, the fifteen year old girl that was severely injured in the #12 bus bombing in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem in April. Eden, who had been sitting closest to the suicide bomber, was severely burned and unconscious after the attack. She regained consciousness two weeks later and she is now on the road to recovery.

 

The second blessing was that Yehuda Glick, a survivor of an attempted assasination, was sworn into the Knesset this week. Yehuda was shot four times in the chest by an Islamic Jihad terrorist (who lived in Jerusalem and worked at the Begin Museum) when leaving an event at the Begin Museum in October 2014. Yehuda Glick is unique in the fact that he is known for ascending the Temple Mount and defending the rights of members of all religions who wish to pray there. I had the honor of meeting him this past fall.

 

The greatest blessing in Parshat Bechukotai is in Vayikra 26:6: “I will grant peace in the land; you will sleep without fear. I will banish evil beasts from the land, and no sword shall pass through your land.”

 

Rashi comments that from here we learn that peace is equal to all of the other blessings.

 

May we be blessed with peace in Israel and throughout the world.

 
The New Meaning for the Words Yom Yerushalayim! Print E-mail
Friday, 03 May 2013

In Parshat Bechukotai we see that if B’nai Yisrael, sincerely repent, then God will forgive them and allow them to return to the Land of Israel.

 

We read in Vayikra 26:42: “I will then remember My covenant with Yaakov also My covenant with Yitzchak and also My covenant with Avraham, I will remember and I will remember the Land.”

 

We are familiar with these words from the Rosh HaShana prayer service where they are found in the Zichronot (Remembrance) portion of the Musaf prayer.

 

Even if we are not worthy of God’s forgiveness, we hope that in the merit of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov we will be forgiven.

 

The reason why it says “I will remember the Land” is because the Land of Israel has a level of holiness that does not permit sinners to remain there. When Israel repents and is worthy of redemption, they are able to return and the enemies of Israel will not be able to remain in the Land.

 

The Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik proposed that the following verse from Tehilim (Psalms) 137:7 be added to the Zichronot section of Musaf for Rosh HaShana:

“Rememebr God for the offspring of Edom, Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim) for those who say Destroy! Destroy! to its very foundation.”

 

This pasuk comes from the “kina” (sad psalm) that begins with the words “Al Naharot Bavel” which many recite on weekdays before Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals). The psalm describes the sadness of the Jewish people when they were exiled from Jerusalem and curses the Edomites and Babylonians. The psalm reminds us to remember Jerusalem and asks God to remind the children of Edom of Yom Yerushalayim
(how they cheered on the Babylonians on the day that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed).

 

Where did the Rav get the idea of adding extra verses to Musaf?

 

In Masechet Rosh HaShana 32b the Gemara states: “One may recite a verse of Malchuyot (Kingship), Zichronot (Remembrance) or Shofarot (Shofar) that deal with punishment of idolaters.” The example given for Zichronot was Psalm 137:7.

 

Since 1967, the words “Yom Yerushalayim” have taken on new meaning. Instead of the day of destruction of Jerusalem as we saw in Psalm 137:7, we now have a holiday with the same name which represents the day of Jerusalem’s reunification.

 

We have much to celebrate at this time of year. Just a few weeks ago was Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, where we celebrated the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and this week we are celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem!

 

May we all merit the opportunity to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim in the Modern State of Israel.

 

 
The Slow Return from Exile Print E-mail
Friday, 18 May 2012

In Parshat Bechukotai, we read the Tochecha, the Admonition which deals with the sins of the Jewish people, the punishments that they will be destined to endure and their eventual exile from the Land of Israel.

 

Despite the horrors that are described, the Tochecha concludes on a positive note (Vayikra 26:44-45): “But despite all of this, while they be 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.”

 

God goes out to exile with the Jewish people and He will return them to the Land of Israel when He is ready. The covenant that is being referred to is the promise that the Jewish people will inherit the Land of Israel.

 

This Sunday, we will be celebrating Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Reunification day. Yom Yerushalayim reminds us that even though we celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day just a few weeks ago, the celebration of Independence was not fully complete without a unified Jerusalem. The return from the exile is a slow process. We established the State of Israel in 1948 yet it was only in 1967 that Jerusalem was unified and we know all to well that the fight for the Jewish people to hold on to the Land of Israel continues on a daily basis.

 

While Yom HaAtzmaut is a national holiday (a day off from school and work), Yom Yerushalayim is still a regular school and work day. It is primarily celebrated by the Dati-Leumi, Religious Zionist community with special prayers and Hallel is recited. Religious students come from all over Israel to celebrate Jerusalem with a Rikud Degalim, Dancing with the Flags Parade.

 

The fact that we are back in Israel shows that although we were exiled, the the prophecies of the redemption are also being fulfilled slowly but surely.

 

May the full redemption come speedily in our days.

 

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Yom Yerushalayim!

Sharona Margolin Halickman

 
A Jewish, Democratic and Secure Jewish State in Israel is not a Dream- It is Reality! Print E-mail
Friday, 20 May 2011

Parshat Bechukotai opens with the statement that if we follow God’s commandments then we will dwell securely in the Land of Israel and God will give us peace in the land. God will banish evil beasts, no sword will pass through, we will pursue our enemies and they will fall by the sword. God will establish a covenant with us.

 

However, if we don’t follow the mitzvoth then we will be breaking the covenant. Terror will be imposed upon us and we will be defeated before our enemies. Our enemies will rule over us and we will have to flee even if nobody is pursuing us.

 

In President Obama’s speech yesterday the concept of “dwelling securely” was mentioned but in a different context:

 

“While the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of these negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel,” the president declared, “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

 

Obama added, “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.”

 

Referring to Obama’s statement about Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, the Prime Minister’s office said the Palestinians and not only the US need to recognize that as a fact.

 

Netanyahu also said that he will make clear in his meeting that Israel will need to remain on the Jordan River.

 

The Torah does not have a concept of a two state solution. In Vayikra 26:32 the Torah states that if we break the covenant and don’t deserve to stay in the Land of Israel and if the Jewish people are exiled then God will make the land desolate and nobody (from any nation) will be able to live there.

 

We learn from Sifra Bechukotai that when Sancheriv attempted to resettle the northern kingdom after exiling its inhabitants they were ravaged by lions.

 

On the words “No sword shall pass through your land” (Vayikra 26:6), Rashi states: Not only will they not come to war upon you, but they will not even pass through your land from province to province in order to make war elsewhere.

 

In the Torah we have the concept of “Ger Toshav”, “Resident Alien”. If a person who is not Jewish would like to reside in the Land of Israel they are permitted to according to the following conditions: They must not worship idols and they must observe the Seven Noachide Laws.

 

The fact that non Jews can reside in the land does not mean that we are allowed to divide up the Land of Israel. The division of the State of Israel may be Obama’s dream, but it certainly in not the dream of the Jewish people throughout the ages.

 

Let’s hope and pray that we will have true peace in the entire State of Israel and throughout the world.

    
 
Transforming a Curse into a Blessing Print E-mail
Friday, 07 May 2010

Parshat Bechukotai starts off with the idea that if B’nai Yisrael follow the mitzvoth then God will give them blessings: rain, produce, bread and security in the Land of Israel.

 

However, if B’nai Yisrael don’t listen to God or follow the mitzvoth then there will be terror and swelling and fever that consume the eyes and fill the soul with grief. They will plant seeds in vain and their enemies will consume their crops. They will be defeated by their enemies.

 

In Vayikra,  26:31, 33-34 God talks about the destruction of the Land of Israel: “I will turn your cities into ruins and bring your sanctuaries into desolation…I will make the land so desolate that your enemies who live on it will be astonished. I will scatter you among the nations and unsheathe the sword after you. Your land will be desolate and your cities will be in ruins”

 

According to the Biur, since you are exiled from the land it will not retain its excellence and vigor. Indeed, just as I blessed it when you dwelt therein, so will I now divest it, until it becomes the reproach of all countries. Your enemies who will dwell in it will be stricken by dearth of everything and suffer all kinds of disease and plague, that they might realize that the desolation was caused by your sins.

 

At first this may seem like a curse, but if we look closely we can find a blessing behind the curse.

 

Rashi says that it is a good tiding for Israel, that the enemies would find no solace in the Israelite’s land, which would remain desolate of its Gentile inhabitants.

 

Ramban adds that since we left the Land of Israel, no nation has been accommodated by it. All have endeavored to settle it, but have failed.

 

Nechama Leibowitz points out that when Ramban visited Israel in 1265 and saw Jerusalem in its desolation with the entire land laid waste, he drew solace, viewing the land as an abandoned woman awaiting the return of her husband.

 

This past week I witnessed the modern day miracle of the return to our homeland firsthand.  I visited the Jezreel valley, a very fertile region during Biblical times which became malarial marshland which devoured its inhabitants, abandoned to the roaming nomads. It remained so until redeemed by Jewish toil which turned it once again into a flowering garden.

 

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut where we proudly hung our Israeli flags outside of our windows declaring how grateful we are to have the State of Israel, the first flowerings of our redemption. We did not take those flags down after Yom HaAtzmaut, rather we keep them out until this coming week, when we will celebrate Jerusalem Day, Yom Yerushalayim and declare how grateful we are to have a united Jerusalem.

 

Each day we must count our blessings of having a modern State of Israel and a united Jerusalem as we move closer to the Final Redemption.