Parashas Behar – Bechukosai

The second half of this week’s double parashah presents the tochachah – the litany of grievous afflictions that Hashem will cast upon us if we abandon the Torah. The Maggid draws some insights into the tochachah through a passage in Yeshayah (verses 2:6-9):
For You abandoned Your People, the House of Jacob – because they became filled with [the idolatries of] the east [Aram] and divinations, like the Philistines, and involved themselves with the children of foreigners. … The commoner will have bent over and the lofty one will have brought himself low, yet You will not forgive them.
The first verse of the passage indicates why Hashem sends us into exile. If we follow the practices of foreign nations, then Hashem expels us from the Land of Israel and casts us into the lands of these nations, in accord with our affinities.
The last verse of the passage indicates why Hashem punishes us so harshly. The Maggid brings out the point with a parable. A king had among his courtiers a talented musician. He cherished this man greatly, and provided him a luxurious home and fine clothing. But one day he saw the man in a tavern, guzzling liquor and and carousing with the drunkards. He promptly took away all he had given him, and banished him to a distant city. In a short time, the ex-courtier was out on the street naked, barefoot, and starving; no one would take him in, for everyone knew that the king was disgusted with him.
Some time later, the musician wrote the king a long letter expressing remorse over having acted so unbefittingly, promising never to do so again, and pleading with the king to show him favor. The king, filled with pity, restored the man to his former station. Some time later, the musician asked the king why he had punished him so harshly for his indiscretion. The king replied: “I acted for your own good. I knew that if you continued on the path you had taken, you would end up as a destitute drunk. And you would not be able to plead with me for mercy, for you yourself would have been the one responsible. So I stepped in and cast you into poverty first. This way, since I was the one who was responsible for your misery, you could plead to me for mercy, and I could forgive you and restore you to your high position.”
Similarly, when we stray, Hashem must take forceful action. If He would leave us alone or treat us lightly, we ultimately would “bring ourselves low,” down to the utter depths. And then He would have little basis for showing us mercy and forgiveness, because our misery would be our own doing. He therefore steps in first and brings us harsh affliction, so that we will turn to Him and mend our ways. Once we do so, Hashem will gladly restore us to our original glory.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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