015 Torah Portion of the Week – Bechukosai – How to Get Everything You Ever Dreamed of Right Now – A Great story about Rav Noam Elimelach – A Powerful Parable about an emergency injection and – Peace in Your Home – Maintain Your Appearance
The Torah Podcast Transcript
015 The Torah Podcast – How to Get Everything You Ever Dreamed of Right Now – http://globalyeshiva.com
Torah Portion of the Week – Bechukosai
I’m going to start out with the Parsha of the week, it says like this. “Im behukosai teleichu, v’es mitzvosai tishmeru, if you will go in my decrees and observe my commandments and perform them, then I will provide rains in their time and the land will give produce, and the trees of the field will give fruits. Threshing will overtake your vintage for you, and your vintage will last till the sewing.” In other words, the seasons will continue one into the next. “And you will eat your bread until you’re satisfied, and you will dwell in security in your land.” It sounds pretty good. We see from here that if you walk in the way of the Torah, then all the blessings are going to come.
On the other hand, verse 21 says, “If you behave casual to me and you refuse to heed me, then I shall lay a further blow upon you, seven like your sins. And I will send wildlife of the field against you, and it will bereave you, exterminate your cattle and diminish your number. And your roads become desolate…” and it goes on and on, with all the curses and all the things that happened in the Holocaust, all the things that happened in the Inquisition, all the things that happened in Greece, all the things that happened in Rome. The curses do not end. This is the story of the Jewish people. We have a choice. Either we go in the ways of God and get the blessings, or we go against God and we get the curses. That’s one heck of a choice, isn’t it?
Anyway, Rav Yerucham the mashgiach of Mir explains in sefer Daas Tevunos like this. He brings the Ramchal, it says like this. Hashem, God could have fulfilled the world in an hour, in a moment.” What does it mean? The entire world could be totally filled with blessings, and everything we would ever want, and everything we would ever dream of could be there for the taking, if Hashem wanted it to be that way. That’s really how it was before the sin of Adam. The world was totally filled with all the food we wanted, the weather was perfect. We were in Gan Eden. We were living in the Garden of Eden. Then what happened? The sin came. We know the sin, Rashi tells us that the sin of Adam haRishon is based on kafui tov, he didn’t appreciate the good. He blamed his wife. He didn’t have appreciation. Then everything came tumbling down, and all the lackings that we have today are because of that sin.
He explains, “We still have plenty of blessings. It just takes time.” For example, you put an apple in the ground, you have to wait an entire year for it to start to sprout out. The Midrash Rabba explains that before the sin of Adam, when people used to give birth earth day, and those children would have children also every day. The vitality of the world was so powerful, things were just sprouting out all over the place. It was blessing everywhere. Everything was flowing. But because of the sin, we got this curse. What was the curse? Mazeas apecha tochalechem, by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread.” But the Midrash Aggada says on this, “That means that before that, it wasn’t by the sweat of our brow. Before,” the Midrash says, “the ground itself would bring forth cakes. Cakes would be sprouting out of the ground.” It was the Garden of Eden, everything we wanted was there. Rav Yerucham explains, “Now everything is moving at a snail’s pace. The entire creation got stuffed up as if it were stuffed up with iron.” He says, “It really should take 1,000 years in theory to get from your house to your work. Thank God, Hashem didn’t make it that bad.” But that’s really what’s happened.
He brings two Gemaras, these are famous Gemaras, one in Pesachim in 118A that says, “A man’s livelihood is as hard as the splitting of the sea.” Man has to work so hard, it’s like the splitting of the sea for a man to get food. Also, “To find one’s soul mate is as hard as the splitting of the sea,” that’s a Gemara in Sota 2B. To find the right person to marry is also difficult. He says, “Why should it be so difficult? Don’t we have a possuk in Tehillim that says, “By the word of the Lord the Heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts.” God made the entire world by speaking. The entire universe just came out of God’s mouth. So, why should it be so hard to make money, and why should it be so hard to find the one you love? Our daily experience shouldn’t be so difficult.
There’s a concept called “being in the zone,” where there was a book written, “The Flow Experience.” You just experience life with such a fullness, everything’s flowing one thing to the next. You feel the blessing, they say, “You’re in the zone.” An athlete gets there. He’s just happening, totally happening, experiencing life on a different level. That’s where we should be. Why are things so difficult? Why is it compared to the splitting of the Red Sea?
The Midrash Rabba in Shemos explains that when the Jews were crossing the Red Sea, the Satan, the evil forces, were accusing them of idol worship. God opened up the Red Sea for the Jews to cross. But at that moment there was hakpata, there was din, there judgment came on us, because everything has to be fair and square. When God brings His blessing in the world, it has to be deserving. And the reason why things are so difficult is because of sin. If it wasn’t for sin, everything would flow. We would be living in that flow experience. God is all powerful. If we were close to God, we don’t have any problem, so the blessings would be raining down on us. And the greatest rebuke is the fact that we are not receiving the blessings, that we’re stuck in traffic, that we’re stuck in our lives. What greater rebuke could that be? It must be we’re not going in the right direction. We’re not doing the right thing. Where’s the blessing?
A couple of possukim later in the Parsha it says like this, the other side of the coin. “Ve’im teleichu im kerie, and if you treat me as happenstance and you do not wish to listen to me, I will add seven punishments corresponding to your sins.” It says, “And if you walk with Me kerie, if you walk with Me temporarily, sometimes. Rashi explains it’s temporary. You hold back. Onkelos explains this kasha, “It’s difficult for you to do the mitzvos. You harden your heart, you don’t go with Hashem to the end. You only do it sometimes. Sometimes you feel like doing a mitzvah, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes you feel like doing a good deed. Sometimes you feel like staying in your bed. It depends what kind of mood you’re in. A ride, temporary – when it’s pleasing for you, you go. “Okay, I’ll do a mitzvah today, I will not do a mitzvah. What’s the difference? I daven, I’ll pray today. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.” He says, “This is the source.” Not that he says, it’s the Rashi, it’s a Gemara. It’s a possuk in the Torah. This is the source, this is what causes all the curses. This behavior of not being connected up with love and appreciation to God, and trying to pay God back for all the good that He gives you. From here comes all the curses because this is midda kenegged midda, tit for tat. The judgment of the world is based on a concept called tit for tat, midda kenegged midda. The way you act towards God, that’s the way God’s going to act towards you. So, if you get up early in the morning with energy and with love, so God’s going to come back to you with energy and love. But if you sleep late, then you’re dreying, dallying, you’re depressed, you’re not happy, so God will also come back to you in that way. Therefore, when things are going slow and things are caught up and things are stuck, you have to examine why it’s happening. Why am I not getting what I need, what I want? Everybody gets what they need. Everybody gets what they need. In the Western world, how many people do you know that starve, that froze? It’s very few, it’s a very small percentage of people that are not getting what they need. But the question is, how long does it take to get it, and what do they have to go through to get it? How much suffering do they have to have to get it?
He says, “The fact that the rain comes in the right time,” this is what the possuk says, “If the rain will come in its proper time,” that’s not a miracle. He said, “The world is based on two tracks – the fast track and the slow track. The fast track is when you’re going in God’s ways, so God acts back to you in a fast, immediate blessing and goodness. But the other track is when you’re not going in the right way, so everything goes so slow.” Things are difficult when they go slow. And where is this coming from? The fact that we’re going slow, and it’s coming from judgment. The forces of evil are coming in and they’re saying, “Listen the world, or this person does not deserve that things flow, that the Heavens flow down to him.” It says that the evil inclination is called the seor, the yeast of the dough, slowing things out. You use matzos, they come out fast, and bread comes out slow. We have inside of us a block to stop us from really feeling close to God, and feeling that love and serving him with energy. And that’s what’s blocking everything up. And when things are going slow and all blocked up, that is the greatest rebuke. From there you can see where you’re holding. Why is the blessing not coming? It even makes sense in science, as the energy starts to go up, the levels of energy start to go up, things start to speed up. Matter turns into energy. Things start to flow. It’s the nature of the world. If the energy goes down, things slow down. But the chiddush here is that the sin is what’s causing things to slow down. The sin means how are we relating to God, with a full heart or with a half heart? What happened to our love for God?
Remember when you were a kid you were in camp or somewhere in Honesdale, Pennsylvania or somewhere? You wake up early in the morning, and the sun was coming up from the cool air and the warm sun, and the steam coming off of the field. And the way the light looked – the grass, the air, the trees, the fields. Where are those feelings? Where are the feelings of appreciation that you’re body works, your hands work, you have eyes, you have a mind. You exist. You can think, you have consciousness. You have a family and friends, people. There’s a whole world. Where’s it coming from? Oh yeah, there was a Big Bang and it blew up, and that’s how we got here. Come on. When you sit down for a good meal, look at all the blessings on the table. How many things had to happen for the bread to get to your table? To grow the wheat, the water had to come down, the sun had to come. You had to have photosynthesis, then they cut the wheat, processed the wheat, baked the bread with fire and an oven and people, a whole factory baking the bread, delivery trucks coming to you across the country to get to your table, and there it is, for you. But everything’s like that.
The possuk in Tehillim says, “Oh God, you are my God. I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you, in an arid and thirsty land without water.” Like when you’re extremely thirsty and you finally get that cup of cold water, that’s what it should be like coming close to God. We should be so happy, so thrilled just to be alive. If we felt that way, the blessings would start flowing our way. Look what it says here in Devarim. It says, “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with happiness and with gladness of heart when you had the abundance of everything. Therefore…” the possuk continues, “You will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, when you were in famine, in thirst, destitution and lacking everything. And He will place an iron yoke upon your neck until he has destroyed you.” The story of the Jewish people, and all this because you didn’t serve God with simcha u’vetuv lev, with happiness and gladness of heart. We need to wake up. It’s our own sadness, our own depression, our own lack of appreciation that’s causing the suffering in our lives, because the verse says, “Im behukosai teleichu,” if you go in My ways, you will have all the blessings. You will have everything good, which means being close to God.
He brings the Pirkei Avos in Chapter two, Mishna number four. “Make that His will should be your will, so He should make your will as to be His.” In other words, you should want to do what God wants you to do, in the same way that you do it. The Yavitz explains, “Even when it’s difficult, even when it’s hard, things that you want to do you do,” right? It’s hard, you do it anyway. It’s tough to get up in the morning, you get up. Why? Because you want to do it. You’ve got to make a switch to serve God in the same way, not temporary, not sometimes, not maybe. And in the same way that you do your own things that you are interested in with all of your energy, you have to serve God in the same way. What does the Pirkei Avos say is going to happen then? “So that He shall make your will to be His will.” God will give you what you want – everything. You may not want the same things, but He’s going to give you what you want. The question now is, how do we get this appreciation, where does it come from? If you want to get motivation in any aspect of your life, the way to do is to go back to the original reason why you wanted to do what you wanted to do. Think, “Why do I want to do this? Why did I want to do it originally?” A person gets burnt out doing something, he has to go back and rethink, “Hey, why did I want to do this originally?” Then he’ll get his excitement back. You wanted to do it to get rich, you wanted to do it…who knows why, to be famous. He’ll get his excitement back, he’ll get his energy back. He wanted to do it leshem shemayim, to help people. So, we have to go back and think, “What are we doing here? Why are we here? We have to look at all the benefits we have of being here.
The Mesillas Yesharim explains in the chapter on zealousness, this is what we are talking about, is zealousness, zerizous. The way to awaken excitement is to look at all the good things that God does for us, all the great wonders. Since there’s no way to repay God, He will feel the least he can do is to try to exalt His name and fulfill his mitzvos. He will want to do the mitzvos to bring greatness to God, that people should see, “Hey, this person is doing something. What is he doing?” There’s no one in the world who doesn’t get benefit. He brings down surely if you get riches, you’re rich, you have to appreciate it. If you have health, surely you have to appreciate it. But even a person who’s not rich, well he still has food. And even a person who’s sick but he’s not dead. Not only that, he has to realize all this good depends upon God. If God blocks things up, you’re not going to get it.
A good place to find inspiration is in Tehillim, Psalms. Dovid Hamelech said, “As a heart yearns for the water brook, so my soul yearned for you, oh God. My soul thirsts for God. My soul longs and goes out to the courts of God. My soul thirsts for You and my flesh pines for You.” That’s the possuk we brought before. A healthy person, a person who is healthy in his mind and in his soul, has a tremendous love for God. The problem is, it’s all covered up by laziness, and by not learning. The famous Rashi on that same verse, “Im behukosi teleichu,” if you will walk in my way, Rashi explains is talking about ameilus beTorah, sitting and working in learning. It’s the learning of Torah itself which will bring new excitement for a person to revitalize his love for God, and his desire to want to serve God.
I just want to end with a Rashi in this week’s Parsha also, that explains how people go off the way. What happened to us? All the Jewish people who were in the midbar, in the desert, received the Torah at Sinai. What happened that so many people are no longer observant? How did that happen? Rashi explains it. He’s talking on the possuk that says, “And if you will consider my decrees revolting, and if your being rejects My ordinances, so then not to perform My commandments and to annul my covenant, then I too will do this to you. I will assign over you panic, wasting away and fever…” It goes on and on. Rashi explains, “This is where we’re talking about the seven sins. The first thing that happens is, he stops learning. Because the Torah itself is telling us what the commandments are. If we don’t know what the commandments are, we’re obviously not going to think they’re very important. We don’t even know about them.” So, he stops studying. After he stops studying, he stops doing. “I didn’t know that was a mitzvah. I didn’t know this was a mitzvah. I didn’t know about that.” He stops performing. After he stops performing, he starts to hate people who perform. “What’s this guy doing? It’s weird. Shaking a lulav, what’s he doing? I’m not interested in that. Why is he doing that?” He starts to hate those people.
Later, he goes one step further. He even starts to hate the Torah scholars, the leaders of the Jewish people, of the Orthodox people. Then he goes one step further and he starts to fight and preventing other people from doing mitzvos. He wants everything open on Shabbos. He brings in treife, non-kosher food into Tel Aviv. Next thing he says, “The whole Torah is a bunch of nonsense.” He renounces the commandments completely. And the last thing is, he renounces that which is essential – in other words, he denies that there’s a God at all. He comes up with this Big Bang theory. And don’t be one of these people. There is a God, there are mitzvos, there is a Jewish people. We have a way. We have a way to bring all the blessings into the world, to bring the blessings into our lives. Go out and buy some books, learn about the Torah, start to do mitzvos, and you’ll see your life will turn around.
Great Stories – Rav Noam Elimelech
I want to bring another story about Rav Noam Elimelech. This story is called the tzadik’s burning. We know there’s a concept that the tzadik, the righteous person, the leader of the generation protects the generation. Or God-forbid if he sins, it affects the people in the other direction.
He says, “I heard in the name of Rav Elimelech, the people came to him all the time, crying about their problems. They should come to him, he should pray that their children shall live, that they should have a livelihood, that they should have health. The Rebbe said, ‘Oy, they come to me because of my own sins. I have sin that tips the divine scales of justice towards harsh judgement. Therefore, they call out to me, ‘Elimelech, give us children. Elimelech, give us a livelihood. These things were taken from us because of you. You were responsible, and caused us to lack all these things.’” He said, “These words burned me like torches.” In other words, he understood the obligation to be pure and to be holy, and how it affects the rest of the world.
A Powerful Parable
Now, I’m going to bring a powerful parable of the Chofetz Chaim. He says, “When blood courses through a person’s veins, it’s a sign he’s alive. If he has a pulse, it’s an indication of his state of health. If he has a firm and regular pulse, regular beat, then everything’s well. But if it goes too slow or it goes too fast, things are out of order.
One time, a sick person grew very feeble. A group of doctors came to check him out, and he had all these different wounds and defects. He had all kinds of problems. He needed special bandages for his injured limbs. One doctor notices that his blood pressure fell dangerously low. He said to the other doctors, “Listen, this is not a time to discuss and consider which bandage to put on this guy. He needs an injection right away to raise his blood pressure, otherwise I’m afraid there’ll be no need to treat his injured limbs anymore.” That was the moshul, parable. What’s the nimshal, conclusion?
The Almighty’s Torah is the blood which courses through our veins. Our whole spiritual life is based on the learning of Torah. So, as long as we have Torah coming out of our schools when you walk down the street and you hear the cheder, school boys learning. If you hear the yeshivos pumping out Torah, so then you know everything’s okay. But as soon as you don’t hear it anymore, you know that the Jewish people are mortally sick, and they need a shot in the arm. We must make sure that Torah learning continues and the support of Torah learning continues, because this is the lifeblood, the blood pressure of the Jewish people.
Peace in Your Home
Another commandment of marriage from Rav Avigdor Miller is – maintain your appearance. He says, “This is especially for a woman, but men also.” He says, “Never go around the house looking like a slob. Make sure you always look good, smell good, and do not talk too much.” It’s interesting how he puts talking together with the appearance. He says that if a woman talks too much, so she’s making herself cheap. She’s honking and chiming, and she’s showing there’s nothing in her head because she just keeps talking. Sometimes actually, men talk too much also. It’s also going to ruin the reputation in front of his wife’s eyes. It’s the way he appears, the way he looks to his wife, the way the wife looks to the husband.
He says, “A woman should try to appear as beautiful as they can to their husbands. Don’t worry about looking good to other people in the street. The main thing is to look good to your husband.” And looking good is always going to have a positive effect, it’s always going to rebound to your benefit. Sometimes a woman feels, “Listen, I’ve been married for 30 years, 20 years. Why do I have to look good?” No. Don’t drop that. Continue to look good. You want to keep the marriage vital and alive. Also a man, don’t be a shlepper. When a man is careless in his appearance, even his children look down upon him. They won’t say anything except it’s reflected in the way they behave in life, especially later on. If the father is a shlepper they’re going to grow up to be shleppers also. Therefore, a commandment of marriage is, always maintain your appearance in order to keep the marriage healthy and alive.