Parshat Bechukotai

While it is true that this week’s Parashah is full of terrible curses and punishments that will befall us if we don’t keep the Mitzvot, there are also many important lessons and teachings for us to absorb. Just like the Torah has instructed us many times before, Parashat BeChukotai continues to relay the message of how critical Eretz Yisrael is for us as a nation and individuals. As opposed to the second Tochachah in Parashat Ki Tavo which focuses more on the horrible diseases and curses which a person will incur upon himself, the Tochachah in our Parashah seems to emphasize our connection with the land and how we will succeed or fail vis a vis the land itself. Before entering the negative, the Torah begins with the rewards one receives for following Hashem’s commandments: there will be rain in the proper times, the ground will produce bountiful produce and there will be peace and prosperity in the land. Already we see a focus on how the land will, so to speak, react to how we behave. And this pattern continues throughout the Tochachah as well. If we don’t listen to Hashem, the skies will be like iron and the land like copper, the land and the trees will refuse to produce food, our enemies will destroy us and exile us from our land, and the land will remain desolate, etc. Interestingly, the Torah tells us that when we are kicked out of Eretz Yisrael, it will not be able to be settled by our enemies either. Rashi comments on this Pasuk that this is a מדה טובה לישראל – a good thing for the Jews. The בית הלוי asks how is the fact that our enemies will not be able to thrive in the land a good thing for us if anyways we have been exiled. He answers the question as follows: we know of course why we have been sent out of Eretz Yisrael as the Torah relates to us quite explicitly in several places that Eretz Yisrael has a special Kedushah that does not tolerate inappropriate behavior and it will, quite literally, spit us out should we not follow Hashem’s Mitzvot. If we were to see the other nations successfully settling the land, we would falsely assume that the land had lost its Kedushah and was no longer our special land. By not allowing our enemies to become prosperous, Eretz Yisrael is essentially speaking to us and telling us that we will definitely come back one day, and that truly is a מדה טובה לישראל. Towards the end of the Tochachah once again mentions Eretz Yisrael in a way that seems a bit strange. Hashem tells us “וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב ואף את בריתי יצחק ואף את בריתי אברהם אזכור והארץ אזכור” “And I will remember the promise with Yaakov and so too the promise with Yitzchak and so too I will remember the promise with Avraham and I will remember the land.” What is Eretz Yisrael’s place in this Pasuk and why does the Torah use this order? It would seem that the Torah lists the Avot in ascending order of Zechut with Avraham providing the biggest merit for us having undergone the greatest challenges in his commitment to Hashem. Does this mean Eretz Yisrael is also a Zechut for us, possibly an even bigger one? In his Sefer, Eim HaBanim Semeichah, Rav Teichtal comments on a Midrash that helps us understand this Pasuk. As the Jews are being chased by the Mitzrim toward Yam Suf, Moshe is told not to cry out, but to lead Bnei Yisrael forwards. Rabbi Yishmael, in the Mechilta, adds that Hashem said that He would split the sea for us in the merit of Yerushalyim. Hashem sends us salvation in the merit of Eretz Yisrael when we most require its help, and that is why He tells us that He will remember the land in our merit even on our darkest day. As we celebrate and give thanks to Hashem on Yom Yerushalyim this coming week, we must remember all that the Torah promises us in regards to Eretz Yisrael. If we want to continue building up and settling our land and be Zocheh to a Geulah Sheleimah, we must not rely only on the Zechut the land itself provides for us, but we must also fulfill all of Hashem’s commands בלב שלם. שבת שלום ויום ירושלים שמח!