This week we complete the Book of Vayikra, which is also called “Leviticus.”
The last Portion in Vayikra is Bechukosai, which contains the first “Tochecha” in the Torah, a very frightening prophetic passage which describes in detail what will befall the Children of Israel if we, G-d forbid, stray from Hashem’s commandments.
It is important to remember that the Tochecha is preceded by a passage of tremendous blessings. We should always keep in mind that we have a choice between blessing and curse. The blessings are endless and without boundary, shining as brilliantly as the morning sun.
G-d created mankind in the Garden of Eden, and we would still be there if our first parents had not strayed from G-d’s laws. They gave away their blessings. there was one rule in the garden, and that was not to eat the fruit from a certain tree.
They violated that one rule, and the result has been death, destruction, pain and constant suffering for mankind.
This is such a clear example for us to follow.
We read in Psalm 81, “If only My People would heed Me, If Israel would walk in My ways, in an instant I would subdue their foes and turn My hand against their tormentors… But My people did not heed My voice …”
And so, today, we live in a dark world.
My friends, the Tochecha
is frightening because it is so real. IT HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED! These frightful prophesies came to pass during the destruction of the Holy Temples in Yerushalayim and they came to pass during our long Exile to the “four corners of the earth,” which culminated in the Holocaust. We have indeed gone through fire.
But the blessings are still here. They have not gone away. They are accessible today.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about us, the Children of Israel, is that we have passed through the fire and we are still here. We have been terribly burned, and not all of us who WERE here are still here, BUT WE AS A NATION ARE STILL HERE!
Our Rabbis teach us that Hashem said about the destruction of the Holy Temple: “The Holy One, Blessed is He, said ‘I lit the fire in Tzion … and I will [in the future] build it [again] with fire…”
I am writing these words on L’ag B’Omer, the day the Holy Children of Israel light fires!
We learn from the Tochecha
that it is possible for an entire world to go up in flames, but that people of faith and trust in G-d can survive the flames, a remnant can survive.
As we say on Tisha B’Av, “Yitain b’afar pihu; oulai yaish tikvah… Let him put his mouth to the dust … there may yet be hope!” (Eichah 3:29)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN, TO PUT ONE’S MOUTH TO THE DUST?
My friends, it is so hard to let go of the values of the surrounding culture. We grew up enmeshed in the culture of a foreign nation, a foreign set of values. Western culture, founded by Greece and Rome over two thousand years ago, which is part of our upbringing, extremely difficult to uproot.
But we should know that Hashem Himself is helping us uproot it. He has sent a plague into our midst, the way He sent plagues into Ancient Egypt, and they uprooted the culture of Egypt. From there, we marched to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.
This is what we are re-enacting during Sefira and it is happening again in our world.
We have to be very strong to hold onto Torah values, to try to strengthen our bond with Hashem by keeping His Torah, because this is our lifeline, our link to Him, and THIS IS HOW WE WILL SURVIVE THE CONVULSIONS AROUND US.
At a chassidishe
wedding, the Rebbe or the father “dances” with the kallah.
There is a “Mitzvah Tantz
,” in which the Rebbe
holds a long gartel
. He holds one end and the kallah
holds the other end, and they dance, each one on the end of the rope.
It is a very beautiful and very pure dance.
I have just written a book called, “HOLD ON: Surviving the Days Before Moshiach.”
What are we holding onto? The Chofetz Chaim says that, before Moshiach comes, Hashem will stretch a rope across the world and shake it violently. Our job is to “Hold On” to that rope.
THIS IS LIKE A MITZVAH TANTZ.
Hashem is holding one end of the rope and we, His beloved Nation, are holding the other end. We are dancing with Hashem. It is very beautiful and very pure. The rope is now shaking very strongly. As the Prophet says, “I will shake the House of Israel among all the nations, as [grain] is shaken in a sieve …”
BUT HASHEM IS HOLDING ONE END OF THE ROPE.
My friends, the wedding is getting very emotional and the rope is shaking! But we are holding on tightly and Hashem is holding the other end. We must hold on to the rope and all will be well. I want to read to you from “Yedid Nefesh,” which we say Shabbos afternoon.