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Tears of Exile, Seeds of Hope: The Unbreakable Bond Between God and Israel
[Bechukotai]

The historical covenant between the Holy One, blessed be He, and the congregation of Israel is complex. In Parashat Bechukotai, there is a contract between the Holy One and the people of Israel. "If you follow My statutes" (Leviticus,26,3)– things will be good; "If you do not follow My statutes," – things will be less good or even bad. The parashah contains descriptions of peace in the Land of Israel and peace among the people of Israel, alongside descriptions of deterioration, the possibility of exile, and sinking to the lowest depths. However, in the end, there is a promise that even after enduring all the horrors and hardships of exile, we will eventually return to the Land of Israel.

This disagreement raises a profound question-what does redemption truly hinge upon? In the Talmud, we encounter a spirited debate between two of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai's most esteemed disciples, Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabbi Eliezer asserts that Israel's redemption is contingent upon their repentance, while Rabbi Yehoshua posits that redemption is inevitable, irrespective of repentance. In essence, Rabbi Yehoshua suggests that the Holy One, blessed be He, will not defer His historical plan due to human choice. Even if people choose a path of transgression, the Master of the Universe remains steadfast in His promise to restore Israel to the Land of Israel.

On such an important matter, doesn't the written Torah before us have something to say? It states, "They will then confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, their betrayal that they dealt Me and that they also treated Me as happenstance. Then I, too, will treat them as happenstance and bring them [back while] in the Land of their enemies. If then, their clogged heart becomes humbled, then, [their sufferings] will gain appeasement for their iniquity, and I will remember My covenant [with] Jacob, and also My covenant [with] Isaac, and also My covenant [with] Abraham I will remember. And I will remember the Land, (Leviticus,26,40-42)

How should we understand this verse? It can be interpreted that their uncircumcised hearts will be humbled. They will make amends for their iniquity, meaning they will repent, and then God will bring them back to the Land, which aligns with Rabbi Eliezer's view.

However, if we pay attention, the Torah uses a small word that is difficult to translate – the word "או" (or). Rashi, our greatest commentator, interprets "או" in two ways: "או" meaning "if" – if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, then God will remember the Land and bring Israel back to it, which aligns with Rabbi Eliezer's view. In his second interpretation, Rashi says "או" means "perhaps" – perhaps their uncircumcised hearts will be humbled. Whether they repent or not, in any case, "I will remember My covenant with Jacob," which aligns with Rabbi Yehoshua's view.

It is intriguing to note that the Torah employs an enigmatic word. It appears that the Holy One, blessed be He, has crafted His Torah in a way that the text beckons the debate between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. There is a compelling argument for Rabbi Eliezer's moral stance that redemption is inseparable from repentance. Simultaneously, there is a compelling case for Rabbi Yehoshua's perspective that historical progression cannot be hindered by human choice. Thus, the Torah presents both viewpoints and leaves room for interpretation.

More Weekly Portions

To be a partner and participate in the act of bringing Messiah into the world [Bha'alotkha]

The article discusses the Second Pesah in Parshat B'haalotkha, emphasizing its importance for spiritual renewal and national identity. It examines the need for Pesah sacrifice and purification, especially after idolatrous acts, and contrasts this with Christian theology's lack of a national component. Highlighting the month of Iyar, it shows how redemption during this period stems from the initiative of the Israelites from below. The significance of dates like Independence Day and Jerusalem Day in Iyar is linked to this grassroots awakening, portraying a unique phase in Israel's redemption as partners with the Creator

Integrating Personal and Communal Well-Being through Torah
[Nasso]

Parshat Nasso addresses individual and family issues while emphasizing the collective unity through the Priestly Blessing. This blessing, structured in three levels, reflects a balance between material and spiritual needs: "May HaShem bless you and watch over you." for wealth, "May HaShem cause His countenance to shine to you" for spiritual illumination through Torah, and "May HaShem lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace" for the deep connection of Nefesh, Ruah, and Neshama. The Torah guides to integrate personal and communal well-being harmoniously.

Beyond the Count: Individual Worth and Collective Unity
[Bemidbar]

Parshat Bamidbar discusses the commandment to count the Israelites, focusing on those eligible for the army. This count underscores the tension between collective and individual identities. The Torah uses the expression "number of names," signifying the importance of both the collective and the individual. The Torah teaches that true unity blends these aspects, with the collective gaining meaning through each individual's uniqueness. This concept is reflected in the principle of "generalization and specification" in scriptural interpretation, with hidden meanings in the numbers, explored through the gematria.

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