Bechukosai: Nurture Your Nature

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May 20, 2019
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לע"נ ר' אהרן בן ר' יעקב שכנא


 


לע"נ ר' יואל בן ר' פינחס הלוי


לזכות ידיד נפשי הרב גיל אמיר בן פנינה שימחי לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו יחד עם כל ב"ב היקרים!!




 


לזכות ידיד נפשי הרב הגאון ר' אליעזר זאב בן דבורה רייניץ שליט"א לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו יחד עם כל ב"ב היקרים!!


 


 


 


The pasuk says [Vayikra 26-3]:


 


"אם בחקתי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אותם"


"If you walk in my ordinances and keep my commandments and fulfill them."


 


Rashi explains:


אם בחקתי תלכו – יכול זה קיום המצות, כשהוא אומר: תשמרו ועשיתם את כל המצות הרי קיום המצות אמור, הא מה אני מקיים אם בחקותי תלכו, שיהו עמלים בתורה.




אם בחקתי תלכו IF YOU WALK IN MY ORDINANCES – One might think that this denotes the fulfillment of the commandments; but when Scripture states "and you shall keep My commandments and do them", in this passage there already is mentioned the "fulfillment of the commands". How then must I explain אם בחקתי תלכו? As an admonition that you should study the Torah laboriously (Sifra, Bechukosai, Section 1 1-2).


The commentaries [see for example the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh] expended a GREAT DEAL of effort trying to explain how the simple meaning of the pasuk can be talking about toiling in Torah. מהיכי תיתי - how in any way, do the words "אם בחקתי תלכו" denote toiling in Torah? We will offer an original explanation בס"ד. 


In this pasuk the word "חקים" cannot mean mitzvos for which we don't know the reason [as the word "חוק" usually means] because that is already included in the words "ואת מצוותי תשמרו" [see the Malbim on the Toras Koahnim on this pasuk], so instead we can explain the word "בחקתי" as referring to the חוקים that are the established laws. [The word חוק is related to the word "לחקוק" which means to engrave]. We see this meaning in many psukim. A sample?


"חק נתן ולא יעבור" [תהילים קמ"ח ו']


 


"חק עולם לדרתיכם" [ויקרא ו' י"א] 


"והכהן המשיח וכו' חק עולם לה'" [שם ט"ו]


"האותי לא תיראו וכו' אשר שמתי חול גבול לים חק עולם ולא יעברנו" [ירמיהו ה' כ"ב]


And numerous more. 


The Malbim [אילת השחר אות תקי"ג ובפ' קדושים אות מ"ז] explains that the word חוקים can refer to the laws of nature which are the חוקים שחקקתי בעולמי - laws that I enacted in my world [the language of the Yerushalmi Kilayim 1-7] and that is the meaning here. So אם בחקתי תלכו means if you go in the ways of the rule that govern the world [as we will explain]. Indeed, in Chazal ['ויק"ר כאן פל"ה ד] it says on this pasuk:


"אם בחקתי תלכו - חוקים שבהם חקקתי את השמים ואת הארץ וכו'" עיי"ש .


"Laws with which I enacted for the heavens and earth". But there the implication is that it is referring to the laws of the TORAH that establish reality. According to our approach it is referring the laws of NATURE.  


The explanation of this idea of the laws of nature that was said here to the Jewish people, is that they have the option of following them and receiving great blessing and have the option of not following them and receiving the opposite: This appears to be referring to the middos and כחות טבעיים [natural qualities and characteristics] that every person is endowed with at birth that we must fix and elevate them to the point where we have pure middos tovos. The pasuk in Mishlei says: 


"החזק במוסר אל תרף נצרה כי היא חייך" [ד' י"ג]


"Hold on to mussar don't let up, guard it, because it is your life". 


Explains the Gra in his famous words: 


"כי מה שהאדם חי היא כדי לשבור המדה שלא שבר עד הנה, ולכן צריך תמיד להתחזק, ואם לא יתחזק למה לו חיים". 


"A person lives in order to fix a faulty character trait that he has yet to fix. Therefore, he must constantly strengthen himself and if he doesn't, then for what is he living??!" [!!]


See also what the Gra writes regarding middos that are natural and middos that not:


"כי כל זמן שאין המדות בשלמות, אפילו אלו שיש לו אינן על נכון, כי המדות דומות לחוט של מרגליות, אם עושין קשר בסוף כולן נשמרות, ואם לאו כולן אבודת". [פ"ה כ"ו] 


"As long as one's character is not perfected, even his positive qualities are lacking, because middos are like a string of pearls. If one makes a knot at the end they are all preserved, but if not, they are all lost."  


See there where the Gra writes that there are middos that are natural and and those that are learned and become second nature [nature and nurture]. He talks ['פ"ו כ"ז-כ"ח ובפי"ט ב] about transforming good middos to being part of one's nature. 


It emerges that a person has many natural qualities that are not necessarily positive. And even his positive qualities are lacking if he doesn't fix his negative ones [which will in turn impact his positive qualities and possibly make them worse - see the preface to the Orchos Tzadikim].  The only way to go is to fix his character and make goodness his second nature.   


Based on the foregoing, that is what the pasuk means when it says "אם בחקתי תלכו" - the חק is his NATURE, his inborn character. This חק must be harnessed for Hashem - בחקתי תלכו, "go" with your natural character in ways that Hashem wants. The "חק" relates to Hashem ["בחקתי" - my חק] when it is a nature that is aligned with Hashem's will. So if בחקתי תלכו - you go with your nature as I [Hashem] command. And in addition "ואת מצוותי תשמרו" - you guard yourselves from transgressing the negative commandments. "ועשיתם אותם" - You keep the positive commandments. THAT is a shleimus - a complete, wholesome way of serving Hashem and thus you will be worthy of the blessings promised later in the parsha. 


This will shed light on a מדרש explaining the pasuk אם בחקתי תלכו:


"חשבתי דרכי ואשיבה רגלי על עדותיך" - אמר דוד לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא, רבונו של עולם, בכל יום ויום הייתי מחשב ואומר למקום פלוני אני הולך, לבית דירה פלונית אני הולך, והיו רגלי מביאות אותי לבתי כנסיות ולבתי מדרשות, הדא הוא דכתיב ואשיבה רגלי אל עדותיך.


"I thought my ways and returned my legs to your testimonies" - Said Dovid to Hashem: Ribbono Shel Olam, every day I thought to go to a certain place and my legs brought me to the shuls and Batei Medrash. That is the meaning of the pasuk "I returned my legs to your testimonies". 


What does this pasuk have to do with אם בחקתי תלכו? The answer is as we said: The pasuk is teaching us to make following the dictates Hashem our second nature. Dovid said - Even when I have plans to go elsewhere, my nature is so aligned with Your will that I end up in the shul or Beis Medrash!!  


Our approach also fits beautifully with the teaching of Rav Chaim Vital [שערי קדושה שער א' פ"ב] that good middos are the foundation upon which the Torah is based.  


As he writes, middos tovos are -


"כסא ויסוד ושורש אל הנפש העליונה השכלית אשר בה תלויים תרי"ג מצוות התורה".


That is the order of the pasuk: First one's natural qualities are aligned with the will of Hashem and then "ואת מצוותי תשמרו ועשיתם אותם" - he keeps mitzvos. 


According to what we said, we can explain how the words "אם בחקתי תלכו" mean "שתהיו עמלים בתורה"  - this doesn't mean that the explanation of the pasuk is that it is referring to toiling in Torah because as we wrote, the pasuk is telling us to harness and align our nature with the will of Hashem. Rather, Chazal are telling us HOW to change our nature to fit with the will of Hashem. The OPTIMAL way to do that is to TOIL IN LEARNING TORAH!!!


This is expressed in the Braisa in Pirkei Avos [פרק ו]:


"אמר רבי מאיר הלומד תורה לשמה זוכה לדברים הרבה ... נקרא ריע וכו'". 


"Rebbi Meir said that if someone learns Torah he merits many good things ... he is called a friend." 


The Tiferes Yisrael explains that since he has sparkling middos, he is loved by all. 


It also says that he loves people and causes them to be happy - אוהב את הבריות ומשמח את הבריות.  Explains the Tiferes Yisrael, that he loves and makes happy even people who have no other virtues besides the fact that they are the בריות [creatures] of Hashem! 


How else does someone act in such a way if he is does not have AMAZING middos?! That is what Torah does for a person.


The Braisa continues and says "מלבשתו ענוה" - He is enclothed with humility. Learning Torah properly makes one humble, which is the ROOT of all good middos [an allusion to this fact - "והאיש משה עניו מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה"]. It also says "ומכשרתו וכו' ישר" - It makes one straight. The Tiferes Yisrael explains that this means that he is not lazy or tense etc. 


We see from all this that Torah Lishmah has a profound impact on ones character, so the more he toils in Torah, the greater the impact.  


We can also understand the following מדרש:


א] "אם בחקתי תלכו"-- מלמד שהמקום מתאוה שיהיו ישראל עמלים בתורה. וכן הוא אומר (תהלים פא, יד): "לו עמי שומע לי ישראל בדרכי יהלכו כמעט אויביהם אכניע ועל צריהם אשיב ידי". ואומר: (ישעיהו מח, יח): " לוּא הִקְשַׁבְתָּ לְמִצְו‍ֹתָי וַיְהִי כַנָּהָר שְׁלוֹמֶךָ וְצִדְקָתְךָ כְּגַלֵּי הַיָּם וַיְהִי כַחוֹל זַרְעֶךָ וְצֶאֱצָאֵי מֵעֶיךָ כִּמְעֹתָיו לֹא יִכָּרֵת וְלֹא יִשָּׁמֵד שְׁמוֹ מִלְּפָנָי". וכן הוא אומר: (דברים ה, כה): "מי יתן והיה לבבם זה להם ליראה אתי ולשמר את כל מצותי כל הימים למען ייטב להם ולבניהם לעולם"-- מלמד שהמקום מתאוה שיהיו עמלים בתורה.


 "If in My statutes you walk, and My mitzvos you keep to do them," "If in My statutes you walk … (Vayikra 26:4) then I shall give your rains in their proper times, etc.": We are hereby taught that the Holy One Blessed be He yearns that Israel toil in Torah. And thus is it written (Tehillim 81:14-15) "Would that My people heeded Me, that Israel walked in My ways! In an instant I would humble their foes and against their oppressors turn My hand!" (Isaiah 18:19) "Would that you heeded My mitzvos — then your peace would be like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. And your seed would be like the sand and the issue of your loins like its innards. Its name would not be cut off and blotted out before Me!" And (Devarim 5:26) "Who would grant that this their heart would be in them to fear Me and to keep all My mitzvos all the days, so that it be good for them and for their children forever" — whence we learn that the Holy One Blessed be He yearns that they toil in Torah.


This מדרש is very difficult: Where do we see in the psukim that Hashem wants us to toil in Torah? All it says is that we should go in the path of Torah but not a word about toiling in Torah??! 


The answer is as we said: The only way to insure that we will properly follow the Torah is if we toil in learning. אם בחקתי תלכו - If we toil in Torah, then and only then "ואת מצוותי תשמרו ועשיתם אותם" - we will keep the Torah. And when it says that Hashem is מתאוה that we learn Torah, the explanation is that since Hashem has a "תאוה" that we keep Torah, it automatically follows that he has a תאוה that we toil in Torah, because those are the necessary means. 


We see this in the Gemara [Berachos 63b, Shabbos 83b, Gittin 57b] that quotes Resh Lakish as saying:


"אין התורה מתקיימת אלא במי שממית עצמו עליה" 


 "The Torah only exists for one who kills himself for it"


And the Gemara proves this from the pasuk "אדם כי ימות באהל" - "when a man dies in the tent", referring to the tent of Torah.


Resh Lakish is not talking about learning Torah but about the existence of Torah in a person. The only way Torah exists in a person is if he has good middos. Just like Rav Chaim Vital says that good middos are the root of all mitzvos ["כסא ויסוד ושורש אל הנפש העליונה השכלית אשר בה תלויים תרי"ג מצוות התורה"], they are also the root of the existence of Torah in a person.  This is explicit in the Orchos Tzadikim in his preface:


"ושאין בידך מידות טובות, אין בידך תורה ומצוות, כי כל התורה תלויה בתיקון המידות"


"If a person has poor character, he doesn't have Torah and mitzvos, because the whole Torah depends on fixing your character".   


This is exactly what the Chazon Ish writes in a letter:


"ידיעת התורה אין זה פשוטו של סוגיא בחיי אדם, כי הלא אמרו, 'אין דברי תורה מתקיימין אלא במי שממית עצמו עליה'. המיתה שבכאן הוא הנטיה מפשוטו של החיים, לעומקו של החיים, לתוך תוכו של החיים. כל שהאדם מרבה בשבירת המידות מרבה חיים, כי שבירת המידות היא הריגת החיים השטחיים, ומיתה של היצר, הממלא כל הגוף. הוא החיים המוליך בדרכה של תורה. מדות המושחתות רבות הנה, והם עצמו ובשרו של האדם, והממית אחת מהן המית את עצמו, ומקצת עצמו ככל עצמו. ואמנם מיתה זו תחיה בעליה ודברי תורה מתקיימין בידו".


Do you want Torah to exist in you? "Kill" your bad middos. 


Rabbeinu Yonah writes this explicitly in Avos [3-17] that says "אם אין דרך ארץ אין תורה":


"רוצה לומר שצריך תחלה לתקן את עצמו במדות ובזה תשכון התורה עליו שאינה שוכנת לעולם בגוף שאינו בעל מדות טובות."


One has to first fix his middos, for Torah can only dwell in a body that has good middos.


There is a LOT more to say - hope we say it! 


[עפ"י תורת מו"ר הגאון הגדול רבי ד"י מן זצ"ל]


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

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