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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bechukotai


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Our Sedra of B’Chukotai ends the book of Vayikra on a rather negative note. The central part of the parsha is devoted to the Tochacha, a litany of severe punishments destined to befall Israel if we stray from the path of holiness which Hashem has outlined for us.

Indeed, while the Sedra’s opening 10 p’sukim highlight the rewards & miracles that will be showered upon us (abundant rain being one of them!) if we do observe the Mitzvot, the next 28 verses dwell on the repercussions for severing our connection to G-d. Why does the Torah use almost 3 times the space for the "down-side," as opposed to the "up-side?" Is it because we human beings tend to do wrong, triple as often as we do the right things?!

Our parsha contains just the first installment of the Tochacha; the "sequel" comes later, in Parshat Ki Tavo in Sefer Devarim. There we are told that these curses come upon us "because we did not serve G-d with joy, with a full heart &
appreciation for all we have been given." (Dev. 28:47). But how does one acquire that elusive virtue of happiness? Can we simply force ourselves to be joyous?

I suggest that happiness derives from two main sources: First, an appreciation of what we have, not what we lack. Look at all the blessings that surround us every moment of every day: We live longer than any generation, we eat better, we have "creature comforts" galore that our ancestors never dreamed of. We’ve been given Hashem’s most precious gift – a strong, independent State of Israel - for which we prayed, day & night, for 2000 years. It is filled with Torah,
and innumerable spiritual spaces (our own blessed city of Ra’anana has 85 shuls!). Do we appreciate all this? Does it not perforce make us happy & grateful to G-d?

The second source of happiness lies in our ability not to take, but to give. When we give to others, we not only have a good feeling for having helped someone in need or brightened their day, we also recognize just how lucky we are to be in a position to give. That is why "Love/Ahava" – perhaps the greatest source of joy –has at its heart the root of "Hav," giving at its center. And perhaps that is why the section of the Torah that immediately follows the Tochacha in our
Sedra discusses the voluntary gifts & contributions that people could give to the Bet HaMikdash.

Why is so little space devoted to the Brachot? I suggest it is because achieving blessing – the cause and effect of happiness – is so easy to accomplish! You’re depressed or down? Take stock of all the good things you have. Say
"Thank You" to Hashem! Give a gift! And when the chance to do a Mitzva comes your way, Just Say Yes!
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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