Parashas Bechukosai

In this week’s parashah, the Torah describes the blessings Hashem will grant us if we obey His word and the punishments He will bring on us if we disobey. Near the end of the segment describing the punishments, Hashem says (Vayikra 26:44): “But despite all this, though they are in the land of their enemies, I did not reject them and I did not abhor them to destroy them, to break My covenant with them, for I am Hashem their God.” The Gemara in Megillah 11a expounds as follows (see the Gemara right afterward for a variant version, and Esther Rabbah Pesichasa 4 for a third version):
I did not reject them – in the days of the Greeks. And I did not abhor them – in the days of Nevuchadetzar. To destroy them – in the days of Haman. To break My covenant with them – in the days of the Persians [in other versions, “the Romans”]. For I am Hashem their God – in the days of Gog and Magog [i.e., at the time of the great war in the end of days, to be followed by the era of Moshiach].
The Maggid offers several commentaries on this teaching. In a previous post, we presented one of them; here we present another.
The Maggid builds on the following Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 79:2):
A Song of Ascents. “Greatly have they distressed me since my youth,” let Yisrael now declare” (Tehillim 129:1). Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to him: “And have they subdued you?” He said back to Him (ibid. 129:2): “Greatly have they distressed me since my youth, and also they have not subdued me.”
This interchange may be understood in several ways. The most natural interpretation is that we are praising Hashem for rescuing us from our enemies. But the Maggid suggests another interpretation: that we are lamenting how Hashem repeatedly puts us in the hands of oppressors – each time He rescues us, but afterward He sends another oppressor against us. It is like a penal officer whipping a criminal, letting him recover, and then whipping him again. Similarly, it seems that Hashem grants us respite only in order to subject us to more suffering. In this vein, Yirmiyahu laments (verse 8:18, homiletically), “He enables me to withstand the sorrow, and my heart is sick within me” – our hearts are sick over the way Hashem continually fortifies us and then afflicts us again. But if we reflect on the situation, we realize that Hashem must have something good in store for us for the future – otherwise, He would simply let us perish. Accordingly, the Gemara teaches us that the ongoing cycle of affliction, deliverance, and more affliction is itself proof that Hashem is our God, and He will raise us high in the end of days.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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