The Parsha begins with the words “ Im Bechukosaye Teilech. If you will go in my ways.” We read this portion of the Torah every year before Matan Torah. This is in order to put the curses that are contained in this weeks parsha behind us before the new year. In fact they are read twice. Once before Rosh Hashana and once before Matan Torah. The question is what is the connection of these curses to Matan Torah?
We know that whenever a person sins he creates a Malach Rah, a bad Angel, that causes bad things to occur to him. Every time something bad happens to a person it's for a reason. Even the smallest thing such as pulling the wrong coin out of one’s pocket is a form of punishment for some transgression, or if a person were to stub his toe. All of these things are considered paying off the debts of sin. Except in the case where a person says all of these things are just happening by accident. They are not part of any master plan but just plain bad luck. If a person doesn't attribute these happenings to Hashem then Hashem say's I will leave you to your random luck. I won't play a hand in your fate. Then any misfortunes that occur are not removed as payment for the debt of his sins. This is born out by the verse (26:21) "V'Im Teilchu Imi Keri-If you will behave with me casually." The word "Keri" has the same numerical value as the words "Derech HaTeva. (She'ris Yisroel)
This is why we read from this portion prior to Matan Torah. We want the curses to come in the meaning full way. So that they can reduce our debts and we can enter the New Year with a fresh beginning.
(26:5) “V’achaltem Lachmacha L’Sova-You will eat your bread and be saisfied.” Rashi says that the blessing will be inside of you. Whatever amount you have will satisfy you. However the verse before says that Hashem will bless your crops to be abundant. If there is abundant food why do we need the blessing of “V’achaltem Lachmacha L’Sova-You will eat your bread and be saisfied.”? There is an additional blessing here. There are times when a person can have abundance and still not be satisfied. The blessing here is two fold. There will be plenty and you will be satisfied.
(26:13) “V’ani Hashem Asher Hotzaisi M’Eretz Mitzrayim-I am Hashem who took you out of Egypt.” Why not proclaim the G-d who created the world? The previous verse mentions that Hashem will walk with us and we will be His people. What is the connection here? How can we reach such a level as to walk along side of Hashem? Because Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, out from being mere slaves.
“V’Olech Eschem Komimyus-And you will walk upright.”You will be able to go into Eretz Yisroel not horizontal as in a box. But rather upright.
(26:31) “V’Lo Areyach B’Reiach Nichoach-I will not savor the fragrance of your sweet odors.” This phrase “Reiach Nichoach” is found frequently in the Torah. It is explained by Rashi to mean that Hashem is pleased that He commands and Yisrael follows. But if there is no temple and no sacrifices being brought, of course Hashem will not savor their sweet smells? The Ohr Hachaim explains this to mean that Hashem will not even be pleased with the good deeds of the Jewish people at that time.
(26:40) "V'Hisvadu es Avonom ...B'Maalom Asher Mo'alu Bi Vaf Asher Holchu Imi Keri-You will confess your sins...for the unfaithfulness with which they betrayed me and also for walking contrary to me." What is the difference between being unfaithful and walking contrary to Hashem? In Posuk 43 it gives two reasons for the curses. Shmita and not learning Torah. Perhaps this is referring to these two sins. Waking contrary to Hashem is not learning Torah as in the beginning of this Parsha "I'm Bechukosai Teylechu." Shmitah refers to being unfaithful, not believing that Hashem will provide during the Shmita year.
(26:42) “V’zocharty es Bris Yakov V’af es Brisi Yitzchok V’af es Brisi Avraham Ezkor V’Haaretz Ezkor- I will remember my covenant with Yakov and also my covenant with Yitzchok and also my covenant with Avraham I will remember, and I will remember the land.” There are several difficulties that present themselves with this posuk. 1. Why are the Avos mentioned in reverse order? 2. Why is the land mentioned? 3. Why is there no mention of remembrance by Yizchok? And why is Yakov’s name spelled full with the “Vav”?
The Ramban develops a theme that the two Tochachot refer to two different time periods. The first, in this Parsha, refers to the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdosh. The second in Parshas KiSavo, predicts the conditions of the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdosh. The Ramban proves this theme by bringing many examples from the Posukim in the Tochacha. For example “Az Tirtzeh Ha’aretz es Shabsoseha-Then the land shall make up for it’s Shabosos” (26:34) in the first Tochacha refers to the Golus Bavel, the seventy years of Golus between the first and second Temples paralleled the seventy Shmita years that were not kept during the first Beis Hamikdosh. By contrast, in the second Tochacha it states “V’hefitzcha Hashem B’chol H’Amim Miktzei H’aretz V’ad K’tzei H’aretz- Hashem will scatter you among all the peoples from one end of the Earth to the other end of the Earth” (28:64) This occurred when Titus took captives from Eretz Yisroel and spread them across many countries. He took the younger captives and left their parents weeping as it says. “Bonecha U’binosecha Nosnim L’am Acher V’einechah R’ous Vein Lel Yodechah-Your sons and daughters shall be given to another people, your eyes shall see and your hands will be powerless.” (28:32)
If we take the Ramban’s theme a step further we can suggest that there is a third Tochacha, which Rashi states was the harshest curse of them all. (31:18) “V’anochi Haster Aster Ponai-I will surely hide my face.” This is what Moshe Rabbeinu said, near the end of the Torah, before giving over the leadership to Yehoshua. The most often asked question about the Shoah was “How could Hashem let such unimaginable suffering befall his people?” In other words how could Hashem hide his face, as it were, from his people?
If we now look at the Posuk, the order of the Avos makes sense. Each covenant refers to the three periods we discussed and in that order. Yakov represents the Midah of Emes. The first Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed because of Avodah Zorah, false Gods which is the opposite of truth. The second Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed because of groundless hatred.
Yitzchok’s Midah was Gevura-strength. That generation had individual strength but they channeled it only towards themselves like Essav who took that Midah of strength and used it to conquer anyone who stood in his path. This could be why the punishment of the second Beis Hamikdosh, was carried out by the descendants of Essav namely Rome.
Avraham had the Midah of Chessed. He was able to spread that Chessed to his surrounding nations without himself becoming assimilated. The European Jewry experienced tremendous freedoms to express their Yiddishkeit, but unlike Avraham, many who became involved with the building of their host nations became assimilated.
This then explains the order of the Avos in this Posuk. But with regard to the mentioning of the land perhaps we can say that as we see today, the entire world is involved with the Mid-East. This tiny piece of land is the basis of conflict around the world. The fact that Klal Yisroel is connected to the land and will never again give it up, could be what the end of the posuk is referring to. “V’Haaretz Ezkor- I will remember the land.” I will remember the sacrifice that Klal Yisroel makes to keep the land and perhaps through this the redemption will come.
We now are left with two questions. Why the “vav” in Yakov’s name? And why is there no mention of remembering by Yitzchok? Rashi explains both of these questions as follows. Yitzchok needs no remembering because his ashes from the Akeidah remain gathered before Hashem constantly. Secondly this is one of five places that Yakov took the letter “Vav” from Eliyahu Hanavi's name as collateral in order to insure the eventual redemption of his descendants. The question remains though regarding Yitzchok as to why? Why was this act of the Akeidah different than so many acts of Kiddush Hashem that are recorded in the Torah? So different that it remains a constant reminder before Hashem? Was not Avraham’s self sacrifice at Ur Kasdim as great? The image of Yakov is said to be on the very throne of Hashem. Is that not enough of a reminder?
The Maharal answers that Yitzchok so negated his physical existence that his soul actually left his body. He became the first case of Techiyas Hamaisim in the Torah. Yitzchok, was the first Jew born of two Jewish parents, was the paradigm of all future Jews to follow. All of his R’mach Avarim were given over to the service of Hashem. This possibility of reincarnation had to be instilled into Klal Yisroel from the start.
According to what we have said, that Yakov’s name is spelled with a “Vav” to insure the eventual redemption of his descendants. We may suggest that this Posuk hints to when that eventual redemption will take place. “V’zocharty es Bris Yakov-- I will remember my covenant with Yakov.” When will He remember? The Goan of Vilna writes that for every Posuk in the Torah there is a corresponding year in history. The world as we know it is predicted to remain for six thousand years. However there aren’t six thousand Posukim in the Torah. There are only 5846 according to the Bible Scholar. What does this mean? We have a principal that says Acharis K'Reishis-The last is like the first. Just as the first redemption, Yetzias Mitzraim was shortened, (Originally we were destined to serve in Egypt for 400 years but we were redeemed after 210 years) so too the final redemption will be shortened. If we calculate the Gematria of this Posuk (26:42) “V’zocharty es Bris Yakov V’af es Brisi Yitzchok V’af es Brisi Avraham Ezkor V’Haaretz Ezkor” it equals 5288. What is missing to bring Moshiach is the Zechira of Yitzchok’s Mesiras Nefesh. The difference between 5846 (the amount of Posukim in the Torah) and 5288 (the Gematria of this Posuk) is 558 which equals Kol Ramach H’avarim –All 248 limbs. This represents the essence of who Yitzchak was. His willingness to sacrifice himself totally to Hashem. The willingness of Klal Yisroel to sacrifice their entire being, that Mesiras Nefesh is what is needed to bring the final Geula.
(26:45) “Vzocharty Lochem Bris Reshonim Asher Hotzaisi Osom M’Ertez Mitzrayim L’Aynei H’Goyim Lihiyos Lochem L’Elokim- And I will remember for them the covenant of the First ones, those who I have taken out of Egypt before the eyes of the nations to be G-d unto them.” This verse needs expounding. Who is the remembering connected to? Rashi says it is the Tribes. But the Posuk says “who I have taken out of Mitzrayim”? The twelve tribes never left there, but rather died there. It can’t mean Bnei Yisroel because that is who is being spoken to? This occurs before the sin of the spies and the decree of death for that generation!
The Meshech Chochma writes that it refers to the bones of the tribes that were taken out of Egypt as a reminder that we belong in Eretz Yisroel. We should not think that Hashem will allow us to assimilate totally. Whenever we came close to assimilation, Hashem would cause us to be exiled. The Meshech Chochma wrote that Berlin is not Jerusalem and thus predicted the Holocaust.
(27:29) “Kol Cheirem Asher Yecheram Min Ho’Adam Lo Yipodeh Mos Yumos-None devoted of men which shall be doomed to death shall be redeemed but shall surely be put to death.” The story of Chanukah took place in the year 3597 from creation. There is a tradition that for every year in history there is a corresponding verse in the Torah. This verse is the 3597th verse in the Torah. The subject is Erichin which loosely translated means values. If a person wishes to donate the value of someone to the Temple how much does he pay? It would seem that this verse has little to do with Chanukah? But if we look at the first reference to this miracle we find that in the second verse in the Torah it states (Bereishis 1:2) “V’hoaretz Hayisa Sohu V’vohu V’choshech al Pnei Sehom-The earth was in a state of confusion and there was darkness on the face of the abyss.” The darkness that this verse speaks of refers to the exile of Greece. It is called darkness because the Greeks wished to cut off any claim the Jewish people might have to spirituality. They believed in the wisdom of man. They even allowed the Jews to have Torah as long as it was not connected to a spiritual source.
This is exactly what the verse in Vayikra is speaking about. The Value that the verse refers to is not what that person would be worth if sold as a commodity. But rather what is the intrinsic value of a person’s soul. If a person has had a sentence of death decreed upon him, if he has become cut off from the living community, then his life has no value. This is the true message of Chanukah. The Greeks were not seeking to destroy the Jews physically. There lives were not at risk. How then could they risk their lives to go against the Greek empire? The answer is that without a connection to the spiritual world life has no value. This is why this verse comes out in the year of the miracle of Chanukah.
Interestingly if you take the second verse in the Torah that speaks of the four exiles you find that the numerical value of the entire verse is 3597. The exact year of the Chanukah miracle.