Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה


Posted by rabbiart on May 22, 2008

Even with the triennial cycle, we read almost the entirety of Parshat Bechukotai. When we review the list of aliyot, we immediately notice that the third aliyah is thirty seven verses while the rest of the aliyot are three or four verses each. Why is this? Because the contents of the third aliyah show what will happen if the behavior of the jewish people takes HaShem out of HaShem’s “happy place” with us. The aliyah starts our pretty good in verses ten and eleven as it continues the theme of how good things are when the Jewish
people observe the laws of the Torah. We have more food than we can possibly consume, foreign armies do not even cross our land much less attack us, and we can sense the presence of HaShem among us.

But starting with verse fourteen we get a vivid picture of what will happen if we ignore the teachings of the Torah. It is not a pretty picture; featuring disease, enemies, futility, barren land, empty harvests; the list goes on until in verse thirty three we are warned of dispersion and exile. But in verse forty, when we recognize our failings and confess our transgressions, which leads to the beginning of reconciliation described in verse forty two.

וְזָכַרְתִּי, אֶת-בְּרִיתִי יַעֲקוֹב; וְאַף אֶת-בְּרִיתִי יִצְחָק וְאַף אֶת-בְּרִיתִי אַבְרָהָם, אֶזְכֹּר–וְהָאָרֶץ אֶזְכֹּר.

I will remember my covenant with Jacob, my covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

Here we have the explanation of why the third aliyah is of such length; so that no aliyah will have only negative content. When the order of the aliyot was established, no aliyah was established with only “negative content.” So some aliyot are very long, so that they can end with a consoling or encouraging message. In that spirit, let’s examine a small piece of the “bad stuff” and another piece of the aliyah that has – in modern terms – some good positive reinforcement.

In verse fifteen we read “if you despise My statutes and reject My ordinances, not performing any of My commandments, thereby breaking My covenant.” Rashi gives us a description of the breakdown in Jewish society that this verse contemplates. (Words in brackets are added to make Rashi’s cryptic
language easier to understand.)

“[This refers to one who] denies the main tenet [of Judaism, namely, that God is the Omnipotent Creator of all existence .] Hence, [this verse has enumerated] seven sins, the first leading to the second, and so on, until the seventh, [and the process of degeneration is] as follows: [First, a
person] does not learn [the Torah]; then, he [subsequently] does not fulfill [the commandments]; he then despises others who do [fulfill them]; then, he hates the Sages, prevents others from fulfilling [the commandments], denies the [authenticity of the] commandments and [finally] denies the very omnipotence of God.

(thanks to our
friends at Chabad for the

online translation of Rashi; this passage can be found at

Rashi eloquently describes how the absence of Torah study inevitably leads to losing our connection to HaShem. Once that happens, all the evils of this aliyah are sure to follow. But before the aliyah ends we have hit rock-bottom and the connection is restored. How does this happen? In verse forty the remaining Israelites will “confess their iniquities and their fathers’ inequities and how they failed to walk with HaShem.” What causes this change of heart and confession? Rashi is silent on the matter, but in the next verse he suggests that HaShem will have sent HaShem’s prophets with us into exile, and kept us from becoming like “all the other nations.Anyone who makes even a casual review of Jewish history will quickly see that the Jewish people have never become like other nations. Perhaps the only question is whether that has been out of conscious choice, or the “special treatment” that Jews have
received through most of our history. Or both.

Maimonides observes that there are certain days that all Israel fasts because of the tzuris that has happened to them “in order to awaken the hearts and open the paths of teshuva. This (our verses) a hint of our bad deeds, and the deeds of our ancestors that are like ours now, until it cause them and us these very
same tzuris. In light of these deeds, we should immediately do teshuva, as it is said “They will confess their sins and their the sins of their ancestors” (verse 40)


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