April 19, 2024
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Behar-Bechukosai: The Key to One’s Success Is Acceptance

Levi was a student in Yeshiva Kol Torah in Eretz Yisrael. Alas, Levi made some bad choices, adopted some regrettable behaviors, and was duly warned. He didn’t stop. The faculty made the difficult decision that Levi must leave the yeshiva. It fell upon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, the rosh yeshiva, to tell Levi. He called the boy into his office and told him the bad news. “Please go to your room, pack your bags and come back to my office. I’m doing this at 10 a.m. so no one will see you leaving, as the morning studies have started an hour ago and the dorms are empty.” When the boy returned, Rav Shlomo Zalman had a taxi waiting for them outside. “Come,” he said, “let us go together.”

The taxi took Levi and the Rosh Yeshiva to Rav Shlomo Zalman’s house. They entered together and Rav Shlomo Zalman said to his wife, “We have a very special guest, Levi. He will be joining us for breakfast this morning!” The rebbetzin made a delicious breakfast and they ate together. “You must be tired now. Have a rest in this bedroom.” Rav Shlomo Zalman then called the boy’s parents and told them the news, but not to be upset. He told them Levi is a good boy and not to worry, as he personally would make sure Levi gets into a suitable yeshiva. Indeed, the next week, Rav Shomo Zalman told Levi there is a new yeshiva opening with great rebbeim! There, he would have a fresh start for the next year. Rav Shlomo Zalman called him every week to see how he was doing. The boy stopped the inappropriate behavior and eventually became a great talmid chacham.

This story depicts a major theme in Parshas Bechukosai. At the end of the blessings in the beginning of the parsha, Hashem says, “I will place my Mikdash amongst you and I won’t be repulsed by you.”

At first glance, this seems like an unusual blessing and begs the question: Why is Hashem saying He loves us and will rest His presence among us, but also tells us He won’t be repulsed by us?

We find this expression of possible rejection multiple times in Parshas Bechukosai. The Hebrew word used for rejection is “tiga’al.” Rashi identifies the root of the word as gi’ul—to expel. This word is used in the context of gi’ulei keilim—to purge a utensil from the taste absorbed in the walls of the utensil.

At the end of the curses and horrific punishments listed, Hashem says, “Even when you will be in the land of your enemies, I will not be revolted by you, klal Yisrael; I will not reject you and wipe you out.” After reading all the terrible tragedies and calamities to befall the Jewish nation, one might believe that Hashem is casting us aside and abandoning us. But Hashem tells us, “I will not reject or be repulsed by you.” This verse is perhaps one of our greatest blessings. Even in the face of curses/misfortunes when we “reject Hashem’s laws and are ‘repulsed’ by commandments,” Hashem will not reject us! It’s like a parent and his child—the link is never severed.

I believe this answers our question about the apparent contradiction in Hashem’s relationship to us. Hashem tells Klal Yisrael that no matter what, they have an eternal, unbreakable relationship that can never be separated. “I will dwell amongst you” even in the worst of times, even in exile, and “I will not reject you.” As the Seforno indicates, “I will never reject you.”

Practically speaking, how do we maintain our link with Hashem?? The Maharal explains that the Gemara tells us that in each exile, Hashem provides a tzaddik who leads the Jewish nation to face their challenge in avodas Hashem in their generation. Further, since each exile occurred because of a specific sin, both the exile and the accompanying challenges are specifically designed to test us in those areas to see if we can correct our faults. The tzaddik of that generation is there specifically to help us overcome those challenges. The Gemara concluded that at the beginning of the fourth exile, Hashem placed Rebbe Yehuda Hanasi and the chachamim of that generation to lead us.

We are still in the fourth exile, and the chachmei doros are our Torah leaders. Rav Shlomo Zalman demonstrated Hashem’s merciful quality even when a student needed to be asked to leave the yeshiva. He did not cast him aside. He looked after him and made sure to place him in a different, appropriate yeshiva. As parents and rebbeim, a key to the success of our children and our students is for them to feel we always accept them as individuals. We might not accept their actions, but we accept them and love them as we would love our children.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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