This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Behar-Bechukotai (5770)
The second of this week's double portion begins with a strange statement. G-d tells the Jewish people; "If you will only walk in my laws (Chukosai)…. Then I will give the rains in the proper times etc."
According to the Talmud (Avoda Zara 5a), G-d is pleading with the Jews to observe His Torah and promising to repay them.
At first glance this makes no sense.
Why should G-d care? Let the faithful reap the benefits and the sinners suffer the consequences! Why should G-d plead?
Second, why does G-d use the word 'Chookosai'? There are three types of commandments; 1. Logical ones, called Mishpatim, like not killing or stealing 2) Religious ones, called Aidut, like eating Matzo and wearing Tefillin and 3) totally illogical ones, which are called Chookim, like not boiling or eating meat with milk,.
So why does G-d plead only for this third type, 'Chookim' which are illogical commandments?
Third, why does G-d use the term 'WALK' in my laws? Why not something like "Do" or 'Fulfill' or 'Observe' which makes more sense?
Fourth, what type of a reward is proper rain?! Certainly G-d can do better than that! What about eternal bliss, or infinite afterlife?!
To understand this, here is a story from the book Rabos Mofsai by Ari Shmidt (Pg. 160).
This story began in 1973 in New York. Daniel Londberg wasn't always blind. He was born a normal child until he was two hours old.
The accident was an explainable one. The nurse made a mistake between silver nitrate eye drops and the silver nitrate solution used for cleaning the area of the umbilical chord. The former is 1% solution and the latter 70 times stronger. As the first drops hit little Daniel's eyes he began to scream in horrific pain and was scarred and blinded for life.
The doctors heard the screams, rushed in and tried all they could to minimize the damage. They even said they succeeded a bit, just to calm little Daniel's parents who were torn in agony over the child's suffering, but in fact the damage was irreverseable.
But they didn't give up. As soon as Daniel was released from the hospital they searched for a cure. They went from doctor to doctor, expert to expert but none came. One world- renowned professor even screamed at them and ousted them from his office for wasting his time with their helpless case. Others told them to just accept the boy's blindness and begin preparing his future; special schooling, Seeing Eye dog etc.
But for some reason, as illogical as it was, they believed that Daniel would see again and all this would seem like a terrible nightmare.
Then a small window of hope opened in the form of one Dr. Hornblass. Unlike all the other doctors he took a lot of his time, explained to them exactly how the eye works and answered all their questions. Then he took several weeks of examinations, tests, took samples, x-rays and kept charts and notes until he announced that he had a cure, or at least a possibility of a cure, which is more than they had up to now. The treatment would take a month and then they would have to wait for a few months to see the results.
Hopes were high, tension was great and their nerves were wearing out. After three months Dr. Hornblass called them into his office, told them to be seated and solemnly announced that he had done his best, but there had been no results - none whatsoever. They had no choice but to accept. It was futile to do otherwise. The child would be blind.
The Londbergs were broken in heart and soul; exhausted and depressed after a year and a half of running to hospitals and doctors with no progress! They decided to accept their fate.
But fate can be tricky.
Mr. Londberg decided to take a few weeks' vacation from his work for rest and recovery. He was a teacher by profession and was an expert in several topics. In his first place of work they were very understanding and gave him two weeks. But in his second place; a job teaching English in a Lubavitcher Torah Academy in Brooklyn, although they gave him the vacation he asked for, he sensed there was something wrong, it wasn't with a whole heart.
As soon as he returned from his vacation he met another one of the teachers there in the hall, a very knowledgeable and friendly Rabbi named Menachem Mendel Tenenbaum who asked him if everything was all right and where he had been.
When Mr. Londberg explained what had happened the Rabbi looked him in the eyes and asked, "Tell me, did you write a letter to the Rebbe?"
Now Londberg understood why they didn't want to give him the leave! He had heard that these Lubavitchers actually believe that their Rebbe can do miracles. They were probably wondering why he didn't just ask the Rebbe for a blessing and finished! But to him it was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo! He'd never do it! Who ever heard of such things? Miracles? Every normal person knew it was all superstition. There were no such things.
"Just write to the Rebbe" Rabbi Tenenbaum interrupted Londberg's thoughts "And it could be that all your problems will be over. At least try it. A lot of people got helped. It's sort of like how Moses took the Jews from Egypt."
Londberg liked this Rabbi Tenenbaum; he was an intelligent, well rounded, good natured man and they had exchanged a few friendly words many times in the few years he had been teaching there. He listened and tears came to his eyes. Who would believe that he, George Londberg, a normal, rational man, would ever consult a Rabbi for a blessing! But his back was to the wall.
"Okay" he replied, "You're sure it works? Okay I'll give it a try. What do I have to do? Let's just sit down in one of these rooms and you'll tell me what to write."
But the Rabbi hesitated. He had something more to say.
"Let me ask you a personal question" he said in the most caring way, "do you put on Tefillin?" Londberg shrugged his shoulders and shook his head 'no' hoping it didn't disqualify him.
"Listen, George" The Rabbi continued, "Blessings are sort of like rain; they don't work so well unless you plow and plant first. So I think that if you want to ask for a blessing you should at least make a vessel for the blessing. For instance, putting on Tefillin every day."
George was in a dilemma. On one hand it was ridiculous; this is the 20th century! But on the other hand he was a Jew and he really knew nothing about Judaism and… who knows… maybe Moses did do miracles! Maybe there is such a thing today too?!
He agreed, wrote the letter to the Rebbe with the promise to put on Tefillin and gave it to Rabbi Tenenbaum to hand in.
The next day George's phone rang, Rabbi Tenenbaum was excited! "Good news! The Rebbe answered! And it was very positive!" But Londberg had trouble sharing the excitement. He still had big doubts about this blessing thing! He didn't really listen as the Rabbi Tenenbaum emotionally read the Rebbe's answer in Yiddish and tried to translate in English.
The only think that registered was when the Rabbi reminded him about his promise to put on Tefillin.
The next day when George returned from work his wife was in an emotional turmoil. She swore that little Daniel had reacted a few times to light… that his eyes seemed to follow things! The next day George took the child to Dr. Hornblass who made a short examination of Daniel and looked up angrily. "Have you been to another doctor without telling me? After all the time and care I've given you, you could have at least informed me!"
"Certainly not!" Was the reply, "Why do you ask?"
"If so, then I don't understand what is going on." the doctor said in wonder, "Your son is beginning to see! I thought this was medically impossible!"
When Londberg told him of the Rebbe's blessing the Doctor seemed to be relieved and said "Ahh, now I understand; the Lubavitcher Rebbe! With him it's possible to believe anything."
Three months later, with the constant care and guidance of doctor Hornblass, Daniel's sight returned to him totally and five years later, when he was seven, he underwent plastic surgery that totally removed the scars.
This entire story of Daniel's unexplainable recovery appeared in the "October 1976 issue of the New York State Journal of Medicine"…. with no mention of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. But the Londberg family knows the truth and to this very day George puts on Tefillin every weekday, as he promised.
This answers our questions.
G-d creates this world because He wants to be revealed here, even more than He was in the Garden of Eden, and even more than it was in the Holy of Holies. This was the work that Abraham began - to perfect this physical world by changing the priorities of all mankind; to see how infinitely good and close the Creator and His Torah is.
That is why G-d is, so to speak, pleading with the Jews to do His commandments; because the perfection of the world depends on OUR free will. So-to-speak G-d cannot do this on His own! He can only beg us to CHOOSE to do His will.
That is why the Torah mentions Chookim; totally above logic and understanding. We must treat the entire Torah, even the logical laws, as being the will and wisdom of the infinite G-d totally above human intellect! Precisely this is the changing of priorities.
And this makes us free and mobile; attached to our creator and unhindered by egotistical tendencies of anger, fear, selfishness, lust, hatred etc. That is what it means to WALK in G-d's commandments.
And that is why G-d promises rain. Rain is necessary for life, health and prosperity in this physical world and G-d's main focus is the physical world. Bliss and heaven were things the soul experienced before it descended to this world to perfect it. Indeed, the word for rain, Geshem, is the same as physicality 'Gashmiut". G-d is promising us that this world will become even higher than heaven… in heaven we get pleasure but in this world we give G-d pleasure!
Just like Daniel's father realized that his wearing of Tefillin brought blessing just like rain.
That is also why Moshiach is likened to rain (we pray for Moshiach in the blessing for rain) because both depend on our work and preparation beforehand.
Even one more good deed, word or even thought can make us all mobile and bring…
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