Parshas Bechukosai -It's Nothing

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 05/30/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
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We are told of the terrible consequences that will befall our nation in the event we begin to loath and reject G-d’s will. We are assured that the ensuing travails will eventually bring us back to our senses and only then will our hearts be humbled, taking ownership for our actions confessing our sins, achieving appeasement for our sins. (ויקרא כו מא-מב)

Rabbeinu Bechaye as well as Rav Avraham, the son of the Rambam, point out the centrality of the attribute of humility as key to success in all our spiritual endeavors.

Those wise in the ways of the secrets of Torah reveal that in the condition of אם בחקתי תלכו..., If you will follow my decrees, that all of G-d’s blessing is contingent on, is mystically embedded this vital ingredient. The word תלכו being an acronym (in reverse) for a sentiment we express three times daily, ונפשי כעפר לכל תהיה, and let my soul be like dust to everyone.

It is our only hope in attaining our true goals in life.

Rebbi Levitas of Yavneh encourages us to ‘Be exceedingly humble in spirit, שתקות אנוש רמה - for the ‘hope’ of man is worms.’

תקוה, Hope? Being consumed by worms may be mortal man’s inevitable destiny, but in what way does it express hope?

Arrogance is man’s feeble attempt to portray oneself as the creator of one’s own fate. One who sees oneself as totally subjected to the will of G-d, however, conscious of the inability to determine the outcome of any effort to produce results without G-d so willing it, will never attribute success to one’s own strength.

The more we submit our material selves to His direction, the more we suffuse our being with His presence. To those, however, who seek to supplant His role, G-d declares to them, “I and him cannot dwell within the same world!”

The greater the display of our awareness that indeed we are ‘like dust to everyone’, the lesser the need for the reduction of our physical presence by worms. That reality represents a process of refinement that must transpire after we expire that we must endure, so that we can be rewarded for our efforts towards perfection we did achieve in our lifetimes.

So indeed it is truly our only hope in sensing the joyous cleaving to His presence for eternity. But we can mitigate that difficult transformation proportionately to the way we behave with genuine humility during our lifetime.

Have you ever observed how truly humble people connect with others more easily? They are more forgiving, tolerant and appreciative of others?

The haughty on the other hand have difficulty in their relationships. They harbor resentment, exhibit impatience and are either disinterested in others at best or downright cynical towards them at worst.

The modest are calm and rarely get angry while the snooty are always on edge and often raging about any given circumstance.

The unassuming are generally open-minded and eager to learn from others in contrast with the conceited who think they know it all and are skeptical of others who possess greater wisdom and experience than them.

Those who live without pretension can deal more effectively with anxiety, disappointment and loss as opposed to the presumptuous who are plagued by fears, letdown and deprivation.

Rebbi Levitas chose the term אנוש in referring to ‘man’s’ hope from among many other more frequently utilized words to describe man, such as אדם or איש.

אנוש/Enosh, was a grandson of Adam in whose days man began to turn to idolatry and descended into its powerful tentacles. The seeds of idolatry began with an arrogant attitude of self-determinism, where man sought to deny allegiance to a Creator choosing instead to turn to other forces, attempting to shackle their power for his personal needs and wants.

The Midrash records how in the days of Enosh the very nature of the world changed in four ways:

The fertile soil on the mountains transformed into rocky terrain; deceased bodies began to rot; people’s faces became like those of apes; people became diseased being susceptible to demons.

The famed disciple of the Baal Shem, Rav Yaakov Yosef of Polonne, suggests that the mountains turning rocky is a metaphor for the inability of those arrogant leaders, who squander their flourishing crops, selfishly hoarding their bounty, to share with others, incapable of relating to them and totally insensitive to their needs.

The ‘rotting of the flesh’ indicates the consuming jealousy and anger that erupts from those so absorbed with self, that literally ‘eats them up’.

The depiction of their faces as apes represents their monkey like behavior, gazing at us without any desire, interest or ability to truly comprehend what we are saying. Society became a ‘planet of apes’ void of a willingness to hear what the other might have to say.

The demonic sicknesses refer to the emotional demons that plague our psyche, the imagined fears and feelings of unworthiness that paralyze us from moving forward.

Those who live inspired, humbly dedicating themselves to the will of G-d without any expectation or sense of entitlement, being generous in their acceptance and appreciation of others, will live in a state of serenity and satisfaction.

One of the blessings for those who ‘follow His decrees’ is ‘You will eat your bread to satiety’ (שם שם ה)

The Degel Machaneh Ephrayim quotes his Zaida, the holy Baal Shem Tov, in a magnificent interpretation of verse in Psalms that states: יאכלו ענוים וישבעו (תהלים כב כז), Eat will the humble and they will be satisfied

The Talmud quotes Eliyahu HaNavi as instructing that: One should eat a third of what his stomach can hold, drink the same amount, and leave a third empty just in case he gets angry, his stomach will have room to handle it.(גיטין ע.)

Anger is a product of arrogant attitudes. Humility breeds calm. One who his humble can therefore eat to satiation for his bile will never rise up!

His grandson adds that this is the objective of our verse. The Torah is not emphasizing our ability to fill our bellies but rather teaching us that those who attain true humility will live a calm and peaceful life, able to cherish a relationship with G-d and his fellow man without distraction.

G-d also promises, ‘I will provide peace in the land’.  Rashi adds the famous adage, that one can be blessed with all sorts of successes but, אם אין שלים אין כלום, If there is no peace there is nothing.

The Tzemach Tzadik interprets this phrase creatively: אם אין שלום, if you are wondering why you have no peace in your life, the answer is: אין כלום, you haven’t yet mastered the attribute of humility and the sense that you are כלום, ‘nothing’ on your own, without His input.

May we slough off our arrogant attitudes and embrace fully G-d and our fellow man.


צבי יהודה טייכמאן