Weekly Reading Insights

Bechukotai 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Bechukotai, Shabbat Chazak
To be read on 22 Iyar 5763 (May 24)

Torah: Lev.26:3-27:34; Haftorah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

Pirkei Avot - Chapter Five

Stats: Bechukotai, 10th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 33rd overall, contains 7 positive mitzvot and 5 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 131 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 47th out of 54 in overall length.

Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34) opens with a description of the physical rewards that we reap for fulfilling G-d's commandments. This is followed by an outline of the consequences resulting from disobeying G-d, and the eventual repentance and forgiveness that will come in the future. The last sections concern endowment valuations of people, animals, real estate, and crops to G-d (consecrating their monetary value to the sanctuary). With the conclusion of B'chukotai, we also complete the book of Vayikra (Leviticus)-and so upon the close of its reading in synagogue, we proclaim, "Chazak, chazak, v'nit'chazek!"


"I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and my covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember." (26:42)

The Patriarchs are not mentioned in chronological order in this verse, but rather in the order of the attributes and eras they personified. After the Torah was given, the Jews entered the era of Torah, personified by Jacob who was the pillar of Torah. When the Holy Temple was built they entered the era of "service" and Isaac embodied the attribute of service. And these last generations of the era before Moshiach are connected to Abraham who was the epitome of lovingkindness. The Baal Shem Tov explained that now, in the final era before Moshiach, emphasis must be placed on deeds of kindness to hasten the redemption.

Rabbi Ben Tzion of Bobov



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

Having been created in the image of G-d, Jews are called brothers.
The Zohar explains that when Israel performs G-d's laws, G d considers them as if they had created G-d Himself, so to speak.
* * *
A person must set aside a specific place for his Torah study and prayers, etc. He should not let this become a matter of chance.
* * *
The Torah distinguishes between wicked people who are the children of wicked parents and those who did not see such wicked examples while growing up. The latter deserve to be punished much more harshly than those who have never had a model of proper conduct. Similarly, if one has been raised in an environment that was hostile to Torah, one is not nearly as blameworthy for not following the dictates of the Torah as one is if one had the good fortune to be raised in a community of Torah observant Jews.
G-d remembers that we had the advantage of having the patriarchs as role models. We also had the advantage of having been given the holy land. In spite of these benefits, we breached the holy covenant with G-d. The Torah, therefore, exhorts us to consider our additional responsibility.

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:33-63 Bechukotai)

HaRav Yitzchok Ginsburgh, long time friend of Ascent and Rosh Yeshiva of Od Yosef Chai in Shechem and head of Gal Enai (www.inner.org), was the 'sandek' (the individual who holds the infant at the time of the circumcision) at the 'brit mila' (circumcision ceremony) of Elazar Yitzchok Leiter, which took place on Lag b'Omer 5760/1960 (this year on Lag B'Omer he will have his first haircut/peyot ceremony - Mazal tov!).

The following are paraphrases of Rabbi Ginsbourgh's talk about the baby's two names, Elazar Yitzchok.

A child's name is revealed to the parents by Divine inspiration and also indicates the baby's talents and goals in life. Elazar was the son of Aharon, the first high priest. Yitzchok was the son of the first forefather Avraham. While both Elazar and Yitzchok were famous because of their righteous fathers, they each had special qualities that surpassed their fathers.

In addition, both were also very connected to the Land of Israel. Elazar was the high priest who led the Jews into the Holy Land after his father's passing. Yitzchok was the only one of our forefathers who was forbidden to leave Israel because of his elevated spiritual level. Lag B'omer, famous as the day of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's passing, is really a special day for his son, Elazar, who inherited his father's place from that day forward. Rabbi Ginsbourgh emphasized that while a son is secondary to his father; sometimes the son is primary because he is his father's son.

He also connected the event with the Torah Reading of the week by citing the Talmudic discussion of the first verse in Bechukosai, "If you will go with My statutes" (26/3). The word "if"-im-has the same letters as the word mother -aim. The Talmud (A"Z 5a) suggests not reading it 'if', but rather 'mother'. Then the verse can be read 'One goes with My statues because of one's mother". One's mother helps a person follows the Torah laws.

The word-im- can also be translated as 'please'. While the father has the mitzvah to educate his children, it is the mother who uses compassion and supplication (please) to keep her children on the right path. Rebbe Michel of Zlotchov had a Heavenly revelation that at a particular instant he had the opportunity to not die but to rise to Heaven like Elijah the prophet. R' Michel's answer was 'my children are little, and I am still needed to guide them. Better to be buried in the ground at a later time, and to use the moment to be with my children'.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that the name of this week's parsha teaches an important lesson. 'Bechukosai' comes from the root word 'chok'-law or statute. This word also means engraved; we must learn the Torah as though it was engraved in us. Unlike letters written on paper, where the ink and paper are two separate entities, letters engraved in stone are completely one with the stone.

So too, we must totally integrate our Torah learning into our lives, requiring of ourselves that we and the Torah are one reality. This is also the quality of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who made Torah his whole being. On this Shabbos after Lag B'omer, all of us should spend a little extra time studying Torah with intensity and putting into practice what we learned. And may we all have much Jewish pride in our children and children's children.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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For all our insights for this parsha from last year

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