June 22, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Bechukosai

אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כוּ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתַ֣י תִּשְׁמְר֔וּ וַֽעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָֽם׃ וְנָתַתִּי גִשְׁמֵיכֶם בְּעִתָּם וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ וְעֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה יִתֵּן פִּרְיוֹ: (ויקרא כו:ג-ד)

“If you follow My laws and keep My commandments, you will fulfill them. I will give your rains in their proper time, and the land will give its produce and the trees of the land will bear fruit … ”

The major part of our parsha focuses on the blessings that will be bestowed upon those who faithfully observe Hashem’s mitzvos, as well as the consequences that will follow from straying from His path. The parsha begins by giving the conditions that one must fulfill to be deserving of the blessings, “Im bechukosai teileichu, vees mitzvosai tishmeru veahseesem osahom—If you follow My laws and keep My commandments and you will fulfill them.”

Zera Shimshon asks that the three phrases, “Im bechukosai teileichu, vees mitzvosai tishmeru veahseesem osahom,” in this pasuk seems to be repetitive; all three are really just saying that one must keep the mitzvos.

Zera Shimshon suggests an idea to answer this question: To fully serve Hashem it is not enough to refrain from doing wrong and performing mitzvos; one must detest sin and love doing mitzvos. If one doesn’t have a strong love to do mitzvos, it will be nearly impossible to have the enthusiasm that—as Rabbi Pinchus ben Yair taught, “zerizus mayvie ledai nekeiyos,” enthusiasm in doing mitzvos brings to perfection in mitzvah performance and service to Hashem.

Likewise, without a strong aversion to wrongdoing, it is almost inevitable that one will fall from time to time. The only way to ensure steady and uninterrupted observance of all the mitzvos—both to perform the positive ones and hold yourself back from the negative ones—is to strongly detest doing wrong things.

According to this—Zera Shimshon explains—we can now understand how the pasuk, “Im bechukosai teileichu, vees mitzvosai tishmeru veahseesem osahom—If you follow My laws and are careful to perform My commandments and you will fulfill them,” is not at all repetitive but each phrase is teaching all the elements we mentioned that are needed to merit the berachos mentioned in the parsha.

The first phrase, “Im bechukosai teileichu—If you follow My laws, expresses the idea that a person must abhor doing the wrong thing. How is this? “Im bechukosai teileichu— If you follow My laws,” implies that a person consistently follows Hashem’s law, never slipping. This—as Zera Shimshon explains—is only possible when a person abhors doing the wrong thing. The phrase,“vees mitzvosai tishmeru” we translated, “to be careful” to keep the mitzvos. However, Zera Shimshon translates it differently; to eagerly look forward to keep the mitzvos. This translation is based on Rashi in parshas Vayeishev, on the pasuk, “veaviv shahmar es hadavar.” After Yosef told Yaakov Avinu of his dream that his brother’s sheaves bowed down to his sheave and that the sun, the moon and 11 stars bowed down to him, it is written, “veaviv shahmar es hadavar,” which Rashi explains means that his father awaited the realization of the dream. In our pasuk, the waiting and looking forward to do mitzos reflects the enthusiasm to do the mitzvos.

The third phrase,“vees mitzvosai tishmeru—and you will fulfill them,” does not represent an additional requirement necessary to earn the blessings. Rather, it indicates the outcome of consistently following Hashem’s laws, which means he has an abhorrence of wrongdoing, and enthusiasm for performing mitzvos. By doing so, one will attain perfection in fulfilling the mitzvos, as promised in the pasuk. As a result, Hashem will certainly bestow upon such a person all the blessings enumerated in the subsequent pesukim.

In summary, Zera Shimshon was initially troubled by the apparent redundancy of the verse, “Im bechukosai teileichu, vees mitzvosai tishmeru veahseesem osahom—If you follow My laws and keep My commandments and you will fulfill them.” Each phrase seems to convey the same message: following Hashem’s mitzvos leads to receiving blessings. However, Zera Shimshon clarifies that the verse is actually highlighting three distinct qualities required to merit Hashem’s blessings. The first phrase emphasizes the importance of detesting wrongdoing, as it is the only true way to ensure consistent adherence to the mitzvos and avoidance of transgressions. The second phrase stresses the need for enthusiasm and passion when performing the mitzvos. The final phrase denotes that the result of these two traits is the attainment of perfection in fulfilling the mitzvos, ultimately leading to the blessings enumerated in the subsequent verses.

HaRav Shimshon Nachmani—the author of the Zera Shimshon—lived in Italy about 300 years ago, in the time of the Or HaChaim HaKodesh. The Chida writes that he was a great mekubal and wrote many sefarim—including sefarim about “practical Kabbalah”—and asked that all of his sefarim be buried after he passes away, except for Zera Shimshon and Niflaos Shimshon on Avos. HaRav Shimshon Nachmani had one child who died in his lifetime (hence the name “Zera Shimshon”) and, in the preface, he promises for people who learn his sefarim after he dies, “… And your eyes will see children and grandchildren like the offshoots of an olive tree around your tables, wise and understanding with houses filled with all manner of good things… and wealth and honor. ”

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