May 22, 2024
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Trauma, Terumah and Temurah

A dizzying, tumultuous time in our calendar is soon coming to an end. We are once again riding this annual emotional roller-coaster, careening through modern Jewish history and experiencing all of its many ups and downs: sharing the loss of so many of our precious people at Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron commemorations; then joyously marking Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. Our tears of sadness intermingle with tears of joy, for such is the lot and life of the Jewish people.

Our parsha this Shabbat of Bechukotai deals in its own way with the highs and lows of life, and adds a bright and brilliant postscript to it all.

After detailing the blessings and curses, the parsha relates the fascinating law of temurah: If someone designates an animal to be used as an offering, but then substitutes that animal for another, both animals become holy; both must be used as offerings. Sefer HaChinuch explains: When something is made kadosh, that holiness is permanent and can never be removed. Attempting to do so will fail, and both animals will achieve an exalted status. Says the Chinuch: “One who seeks to uproot holiness, the kedushah will spread even further.”

The late Sage Rabbi Pam, zt”l, sees in this law a message for Jewish history: Every time the nations of the world seek to limit or destroy the kedushah of Am Yisrael, they not only fail, but there is a noticeable expansion of that kedushah!

In Egypt, attempts first to break the spirit of Bnei Yisrael and then kill us off resulted in our growing exponentially; “as they oppressed us, so we multiplied.” Many non-Hebrews even joined our ranks.

In the days of Mordechai and Esther, Haman’s plot to wipe us out backfired on him, and we gained a Yom Tov as great as Yom Kippur. As a result, here too, many non-Jews joined our people, including even some descendants of Haman!

And in our own days, this pattern has repeated before our very eyes. The Nazis and their many murderous accomplices devoted all of their energy to killing us. But we survived, and we went on to flourish in the Diaspora and also to create the State of Israel.

Yes, terrorist groups and sponsors like Iran strive to defame and destroy us. But what is the result, baruch Hashem? We have grown more than tenfold in just six decades and built a powerful, prosperous nation. We have seen our population grow to 9.5 million, projected to be over 11 million by the year 2030. We have the highest fertility rate in the OECD and the highest number of multiple births per capita of any country; 191,000 babies were born here in the last year! We have become the single largest Jewish community in the world and fast approaching constituting the majority of the world’s Jews. Israel’s vast proliferation of yeshivot is the embodiment of the blessing “ki miTzion tetzei Torah,” and we are an inspiration for millions.

As we conclude Sefer Vayikra with the words chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek, we should be strengthened by appreciating that all of the vitriol launched against us is doomed to failure. Instead of harming us, it will only result in our becoming a stronger, safer, more prosperous people. Temurah has the same letters of both trauma and Terumah: The trauma threatened by our enemies ultimately contributes to our triumph. Am Yisrael Chai!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss is director of the Ra’anana Jewish Outreach Center ([email protected]), leads kosher tours around the world and is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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