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The blessings that are being fulfilled Print E-mail
Friday, 31 May 2024

During this critical time in Israel, we are anticipating some of the blessings that were promised in Parshat Bechukotai, while others have already started to come to fruition in recent months.

There is no doubt that we are still waiting for the peace and tranquility that are described in Vayikra 26:6:

I will grant peace in the land and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts, and no sword shall cross your land.

There are still many parts of the country where one can’t sleep peacefully as there are incoming rocket alerts from Hamas and Hezbollah.

Rashi explains that not only will we have peace, but no enemies will even cross into the Land of Israel to wage war with other countries.

We are definitely looking forward to the time when there will be no terrorists in Israel!

Part of what is described in verses 7-8 is already taking place in our time:

You will pursue your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword. Five of you will pursue one hundred and one hundred will pursue ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.

This is reminiscent of how fearless the Israeli soldiers were on October 7 and how heroic they are fighting in Gaza, on the border of Lebanon and in Judea and Samaria today.

On Shmini Atzeret morning, when word spread that there was an incident taking place on the border of Gaza, multitudes of brave men and women, many of  whom were not currently in active duty mobilized to see how they could help.

While about 2500 Hamas terrorists broke through the border into Israel, the Israelis defeated the majority of them. Many soldiers were able to eliminate 10-20 Hamas terrorists singlehandedly.

For fourteen hours, Elchanan Kalmanson z”l and his team saved over 100 people at Kibbutz Be’eri.

Oz Davidian, a civilian with a pickup truck drove back and forth from morning until night and saved more than 120 people who were attending the Nova festival.

Rashi explains that when it says “and your enemies shall fall” it means that they will fall in a supernatural way.

The recent Varzaqan helicopter crash in Iran which killed everyone on board including their president, foreign minister and governor general seems to fit into the category of metaphysical as the accident took place about a month after Iran launched 300 standoff weapons toward Israel including 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles with 99% being intercepted along the way!

We see that some of the blessings are already being fulfilled. May we see all of the positive aspects of Parshat Bechukotai come to fruition, starting with restoring peace in Israel and may all of the hostages come home.

Coming Home Print E-mail
Friday, 20 May 2022

In Parshat Bechukotai, Vayikra 26:42, at the conclusion of the Tochacha/Admonition, we read a familiar phrase:

I will then remember My covenant with Yaakov and also My covenant with Yitzchak and also My covenant with Avraham, will I remember, and the Land will I remember.

Why is this phrase familiar?

We say recite it on Yom Kippur as well as during Slichot. The prayer which includes two more verses from our Parsha continues:

Remember for us the covenant of the ancestors, as You promised (Vayikra 26:45) “And I will remember for their sake, the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations; to be their God, I am HaShem.” Do with us as You promised (Vayikra 26:44) “And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them and I will not abhor them, to destroy them, to annul My covenant with them; for I am HaShem, their God.”

The next paragraph in the Slichot service speaks about Kibutz Galuyot, the Ingathering of the Exiles:

Bring back our captivity and have mercy on us as it is written (Dvarim 30:3) “HaShem, your God will bring back your captivity and have mercy on you, and He will again gather you in from all the peoples where HaShem, your God, has scattered you. Gather in our dispersed ones, as it is written (Dvarim 30:4) “If your dispersed were to be at the ends of heaven, from there HaShem, your God, will gather you in and from there He will take you.”

Sforno explains that the “covenant of the ancestors” refers to Kibbutz Galuyot, the Ingathring of the Exiles.

When the exile comes to a close, after God has forgiven B’nai Yisrael, He will bring them back to the Land of Israel.

We are seeing the fulfillment of this prophecy in our lifetime. The Jewish people have been returning to Israel since before the establishment of the State and continue to return. Aliya has always been a mixture of Jews who immigrate to Israel to escape danger as well as Jews who come for religious, ideological or Zionistic reasons and leave a comfortable life behind.

Last week, I was in London and I met many Jews who are planning on making aliya or have family members who have already settled in Israel. Their aliya is not based on fleeing from war like the Ukranian olim who have been steadily arriving, but rather for the love of the Land and the people of Israel.

May the prophecies continue to be fulfilled and may we see more olim from all over the world making their homes in Israel.

Is the admonition always read quietly? Print E-mail
Friday, 24 May 2019

In honor of Dr. Bryna Jocheved Levy

There are two admonitions in the Torah, one in Parshat Bechukotai (Vayikra 26:14-43) and the other in Parshat Ki Tavo (Dvarim 28:15-68). Traditionally each admonition (tochecha) is read quickly and quietly (like Megilat Eicha) as the community only wants to publicize the blessings not the curses. Communities have been so afraid of the power of the curses in the tochecha that congregants were often not willing to accept an aliya for that part of the reading. To rectify this problem, Rav Chayim, the Maharal of Prague’s brother went out of his way to teach that the person who accepts the aliya of the tochecha will be blessed by God who is full of blessings.

According to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, there was one Hasidic Rebbe who specifically thought that the tochecha should be read out loud and that was the Klusenberger Rebbe.

The Klusenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam was the rebbe of the Sanz Hasidim in Klausenberg (Cluj), Romania. During the Holocaust, his wife, Chana Teitelbaum and eleven children as well as many of his other family members were killed. The Rebbe survived and in the DP camps started an organization called Shearit HaPletah (the surviving remnant) to help rebuild the Jewish community. In 1947, he moved temporarily to New York and started a community in Brooklyn. The Rebbe married Chaya Nechama Ungar and together they had five children.

In a story that I first heard from Dr. Bryna Levy, when Rabbi Riskin was twelve years old, he wanted to check out the Klusenberger Rebbe’s shul in Brooklyn. It was Parshat Bechukotai. When they got to the tochecha, the Torah reader followed the usual custom and began to read it quickly and quietly. The Rebbe stopped him and told him to read it out loud. He said that we must read it out loud to let God know that we have nothing to fear. We have already experienced the curses. Now it is time for Him to send the blessings. At the end of the service, the Rebbe announced that the blessing will be given in the Land of Israel and we will move the community there.

In 1958, the Rebbe founded the neighborhood of Kiryat Sanz in Netanya and built orphanages and a nursing home. In 1960, he moved to Israel and built up the community with Batei Midrash and schools. He built the Laniado hospital which opened in 1976, a tikun for the time that he was shot in the hand and was afraid to go to a Nazi infirmary. He promised himself that if he gets out, he will one day build a hospital in the Land of Israel.

In a Hebrew documentary called Astir Panai, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiDuqtWesCc made about the Rebbe’s life, there is an account of a man who worked with the Rebbe doing forced labor in the concentration camp. This man knew only one verse from the Torah by heart. The verse wasn’t the Shma, it was “Because you did not serve HaShem, your God amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant” (Dvarim 28:47). When asked how he knew this verse, he explained that the Rebbe would recite those words every day as he worked. He felt that he was living through the tochecha.

We see the tremendous effort that the Rebbe made to overcome the curses which could have taken over his life. The Rebbe made the blessings a reality by settling and building up Israel.

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.