Bechukotai 5771

May 15, 2011

8 min read


Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34 )

GOOD MORNING! It has been said that "Education is what you have left after you forget everything you've learned."  Our goal in life is to perfect ourselves as human beings and to emulate the Almighty in our character and actions.  Unfortunately, too often we're so busy with human doings we don't focus on developing as human beings.

In Pirkei Avos, Ethics of the Fathers (six chapters of pithy wisdom about life found in the back of most prayer books ... or available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), "Rabbi Shimon says, 'There are three crowns: The crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of kingship.  The crown of a good name is greater than them all (4:17)."

How do we perfect ourselves?  To create that good name?  How do we develop our personalities and character to such a degree that even the undertaker is sorry to see us go?

The Torah is instructions for living.  Each of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) is a means of personal growth.  By learning Torah and thinking about the mitzvah before performing it, one builds character and a filter for viewing life.  We all have "tapes" running in our heads with subliminal messages that we have integrated.  Oftentimes they are negative:  "I'm a failure, I'm not smart enough, I can't succeed, if people really knew me they wouldn't like me ..."  Those "tapes" are the messages we get from our society and those are the messages that we have to change to enjoy life and reach our potential.  The Torah teaches positive messages for our "tapes."

In the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, there are 6 events which the Torah tells us to always remember.  These "Six Remembrances" can be found following the morning prayer service in the prayer book.  The Kabbalah (mysticism) teaches that by reciting these verses and remembering these events we change our consciousness in life.  Here are the "Six Remembrances" and the ideas which we need to integrate into ourselves:

1. REMEMBER THE EXODUS FROM EGYPT -- "In order that you remember the day of your going out of Egypt all the days of your life" (Deuteronomy 16:3).  The consciousness:  There is a God Who cares about our lives, loves us, has redeemed us in the past and will redeem us in the future.

2. REMEMBER RECEIVING THE TORAH AT MT. SINAI -- "Only guard yourself and guard your soul very much lest you forget the things what your eyes saw and lest they stray from your heart all the days of your life.  Make them known to your children and grandchildren -- the day you stood before the Lord your God at Mt. Sinai" (Deuteronomy 4:9-10).  The consciousness: The Jewish people's raison d'etre, our existence and redemption is in fulfilling the covenant with the Almighty and keeping His Torah.

3. REMEMBER AMALEK'S ATTACK -- "Remember what Amalek did to you as you left Egypt.  He met you on the way, struck down the weak ones lagging behind you while you were tired and exhausted and he did not fear God.  When it will be that when the Almighty will allow you to rest from all the enemies that surround you, in the land that the Lord your God gives to you as an inheritance to bequeath -- wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the Heavens.  Do not forget" (Deuteronomy 25:17-19).  The consciousness:  Amalek represents evil and atheism. Strengthen yourself to stand against evil and to know God and God's Torah.

4. REMEMBER THE GOLDEN CALF -- "Remember, don't forget how you angered the Lord, your God in the wilderness" (Deuteronomy 9:7).  We were told to wait for Moshe (Moses) to descend from 40 days on Mt. Sinai, but grew impatient and built the golden calf to replace Moshe as an intermediary to God.  The consciousness:  Trust in God, don't veer from God's commandments even if you think there is a better way.

5. REMEMBER MIRIAM -- "Remember that which the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way when you left Egypt" (Deuteronomy 24:9).  The consciousness:  Miriam spoke against Moshe.  Never slander another person!

6. REMEMBER THE SABBATH -- "Remember the Day of the Sabbath to sanctify it" (Exodus 20:8).  The consciousness:  God created the world and rested on the Shabbat.  He determines our success.  Our success comes through learning and fulfilling the Torah.

For more on "Self-Perfection" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

The Torah portion sets forth the blessings that you will see in this world in response to your deeds.

It then continues with the Tochachah, words of admonition, "If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments..."  There are seven series of seven punishments each.  Understand that God does not punish for punishment's sake; He wants to get our attention so that we will introspect, recognize our errors and correct our ways.  God does not wish to destroy us and will never annul His covenant with us.  This is the Almighty's guarantee to the Jewish people:  " ... I will not grow so disgusted with them nor so tired of them that I would destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am the Lord their God" (Deut. 26:44-45).  He wants to prevent us from becoming so assimilated that we disappear as a nation.  I highly recommend reading Leviticus 26:14-45.

Many religions place their basis of faith in far away promises, i.e. "Have faith in our religion and you will get Heaven."  The Talmud teaches, "He who wishes to lie says his witnesses are far away."  For example, "I paid back the money I owed you, but my witnesses happen to be visiting Europe" -- or "Have faith in our religion and you will get Heaven."

While Judaism believes in an Afterlife, a World to Come, the Torah makes no promises that are "far away."  It makes definitive statements of consequences.  This week's portion says, "If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them; then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit.  Your threshing will last until the vintage, and the vintage will last until the sowing; you will eat your bread to satiety and you will dwell securely in your land.  I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you ... I will make you fruitful and increase you..."

The portion ends with instructions regarding gifts to the Temple, valuation and redemption of animals, houses, fields ... and lastly, the second tithe and tithing animals.  And thus ends the Book of Leviticus!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And I will place peace in the land" (Lev. 26:6).

Why is peace considered such a great blessing?

Rashi, the great commentator, elucidates:  "If there is no peace, there is nothing."  There are many people who would really feel satisfied with what they themselves already have.  However, because they see that others have more, they feel envious of those people.  They actually feel pain when they see that someone else has what they do not.

When a person feels sincere love for someone else, he is not envious of that person.  It does not bother him if that person has more than him.  Therefore, the only way for people to really experience a total blessing with what the Almighty has given them is for there to be true peace amongst people.  This is the peace in which people feel love for one another and are happy for their good fortunes.

The only way you will be able to enjoy what you have is to master the attitude of feeling good for the good fortune of others.  Envy prevents you from living life to its fullest.  The more joy you feel for others, the better your own quality of life.


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With Special Thanks to

Mr. Archie Newell

Livingston, NJ


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