Torah Fax
Friday, May 11, 2007 - 23 Iyar, 5767

Torah Reading: Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1 - 27:34) 
Candle Lighting: 7:44 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:50 PM
Pirkei Avot Chapter 5

Blessings Beneath the Surface

One of the least "popular" readings of the entire Torah is this week's Parshah of BeHar Bechukotai. It is known as the Tochachah (words of rebuke )and it describes the harsh suffering that would befall the Jewish people in the event that they stray from the teachings of the Torah. It must be noted that despite the way it sounds to us, all the words of the Torah are equally holy and positive. Even when the words sound harsh, since they are in the Torah, which is described by King Solomon as, "Its ways are pleasant and all of its paths are peace," we are compelled to conclude that beneath the harsh exterior lies a hidden positive meaning.
One approach to understanding the positive nature of the Tochacha is to based on the fact that the Hebrew text allows us to translate and interpret each and every curse as a blessing. In other words, we can say that though the Tochechah appears to be terrible curses, they really are great blessings that are transmitted to us through the conduit of seemingly harsh words.
To illustrate, let us look at one verse in the Tochechah, offer the standard translation, and then see how we can uncover the hidden, positive meaning that lies beneath the surface. 
"Venastem V'ein Rodef, and you shall flee when no one will pursue you (Lev 26:17)."
The simple meaning of the text is clear. One of the greatest curses is when a person is filled with anxiety and there is no reason for it. It is even worse when this fear causes the person to flee as if being pursued by an enemy when in fact there is no one giving chase.
A Chassidic master translated the same phrase in a positive fashion, but first a brief introduction is in order:
King Solomon in Ecclesiastes states: "G‑d looks out for the one who is pursued." One interpretation of this verse is that G‑d looks out for the downtrodden and victimized individuals.
There are some people who take this verse to undesirable extremes and develop a cult of victimization. They wallow in their own suffering and their sole claim to G‑d's relationship with them is their status as one who is being pursued and threatened by others.
Indeed, the Jewish people have been the perennial victims and for that alone we are entitled to G‑d's protection and love. But there is danger in relying on being a victim for our connection to G‑d. There is great danger in putting inordinate emphasis on taking up for the victim because in some cases we forget about who is right and who is wrong, and instead look at the one who is weaker and assume that he or she is right just because they are the underdog.
When Israel was yet a fledgling entity and its very existence was in peril, the Western world seemed to have supported Israel. But when Israel won the Six Day War and subsequent military victories, the tables were turned. Many people and countries began to look at the losing side as the ones that had to be supported. Israel was vilified only because they had the chutzpah to win! There is a story told of a prominent European personality who supported Israel before the Six Day War. After the Israeli victory he complained: "I was convinced they would lose; that's why I supported them."
While being a victim does entitle you to more compassion and support, even from G‑d, it is far better to earn G‑d's protection when we are not victims. When we do what is good, defend our ourselves, and focus on our purpose in this world to be a force that influences it for the good, we earn G‑d's love on a much higher level than if we simply lay claim to G‑d's beneficence because we are the victim.
All of our suffering in the past has turned many of us into cynics and pessimists. But, as important as it is to never forget the past, we must not allow our existence to be defined by our suffering. When we raise children thinking that the defining feature of their Jewish heritage is anti-Semitism and suffering, they will be deprived of the much more desirable role of the Jewish people as a "Nation of priests and a holy people," and a "Light to the Nations."
Now let us return to the foregoing Biblical "curse" and see how it has been retranslated in light of the above:
Instead of translating the Hebrew word "v'nastem" as "you shall flee," the word can be translated as "and you shall be elevated." So now the verse reads: "And you shall be elevated when no one shall pursue you." This verse takes on a completely new and refreshing meaning: Even when you will not be pursued and you are no longer a victim, you will be elevated. Your relationship with G‑d will not depend on your status as a victim. You will no longer have to quote Ecclesiastes to enjoy G‑d looking out for you. May we see the complete realization of this imminently with the coming of Moshiach. 

Moshiach Matters

The Previous Rebbe taught that when Mashiach comes people will regret that the best days, the last days of the period of exile, have passed. For those were times when one was able to engage in Torah and mitzvot despite all obstacles; times when one's divine service was more gratifying and more lovable, both for the mortal who did it and for his Maker Who commanded that it be done; times unlike the future time, when "I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the earth," and when there are no antagonists to contend with.
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