Thursday, May 15, 2014

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

Anyone can curse, but cursing can also be raised to an art form. The alte Poilishe yiddenes, the older Jewish women of Poland, when the aggravations of the marketplace bubbled over, would fume at each other: "You should have a court case -- and win!" "You should catch all the horrible diseases -- and be cured!"

In this week’s Torah reading of Bechukosai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34) the Al-mighty Himself pours forth his wrath with a writer's attention to original detail that makes the stomach turn and a poet's turn of phrase that makes the head swell, if the Jewish people do not fulfill the Torah and its Mitzvos.

There is nothing in our history not written and accounted for in these passages, not the cannibalism of the Roman conquest, not the kapos of Poland and Germany.

Now picture this: A courtroom. A judge calls in the defendant and reads off the charges. The defendant took his victim, drugged him, called in several of his assistants and methodically, with forethought, cut the man's stomach open, removed organs, put in foreign substances, and drugged him some more. Luckily, the victim made it out of this ordeal alive and made it safely home.

Then the judge reads the very last line: The defendant is a surgeon who did surgery in a hospital, with the patient duly under anesthesia, and the operation was successful.

Things change with the last line. Until the last line we get increasingly dizzy with assaulting details; the last line flips everything into perspective.

Some people instinctively relate to life through the last line. We call them tzaddkim. There is a story of a young boy of ten, the son of a tzaddik. His father, the tzaddik, always read the Torah, including the Tochacha -- these vivid curses.

One year, the tzaddik was away and not present to read the Tochacha. Someone else read the Torah in his place. The little boy heard the Tochacha being read, and he fainted. For months he was bedridden. Finally, after he recovered, they asked him why the Tochacha affected him so deeply - didn't he hear it every year?

"Every year, my father reads the Tochacha, and when my father reads the Tochacha, I hear only blessings." (Needless to say, the little boy was soon recognized as a tzaddik in his own right.)

The Rebbe once wrote that ever since he was a small boy he was drawn, magnet-like, to the concept of Moshiach. He described it as a time that would give meaning to our long and bitter Jewish history. That would be the last line.

The trouble is that when you're in the middle of the story you cannot fathom that there is a last line, and the very mention of it is aggravating. "The people would not hear him for their shortness of breath" -- the Jews in Egypt could not endure Moses' talk of redemption. They were too overcome by the reality and hard labor around them to fathom that there could be a last-line ending.

I am relieved that there are giants who are high enough to see the last line. And see it not as a distant vision, but as rock-solid reality.

(Excerpts from  - by Rabbi Shimon Posner) 

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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