Parshios Behar & Bechukosai
By Rabbi Label Lam
If you will go in My statutes and guard My Mitzvos and do them...
From this simple conditional “if- then” statement flows a torrent of
blessings that matches our best hopes and wishes for us and all Our
People. So much goodness hinges upon what?
The “Torahs Cohanim” adds a spice to the mix that gives a new flavor and
meaning to the verse. “The sages taught that the word “if”-“im” is always
an expression of request. And similarly you find, “If only My people would
listen to Me, and Israel would walk in My ways, I would immediately subdue
their enemies and turn My hand against their tormentors. (Tehillim 81:14-
15)…This teaches that HASHEM desires that we should be striving in Torah
and therefore it is written, “If you will go in My statutes” meaning to
say, “If only”- “would that it would be so” that you strive in Torah!”
What extra information does this statement of the sages contribute?
Perhaps the answer is, “none!” Then what is added here?
Men as a gender, generally speaking, have a reputation for not asking
directions even when lost. Sounds familiar?! No wonder the sages tell us a
counter intuitive statement. “Greater is someone who is commanded to do
something and he does it than someone who is not commanded to do it and he
does it!” It seems more praiseworthy if one acts voluntarily as opposed
to being coerced by a command. However, when one is directed to act there
is often aroused an immediate internal resistance. Nobody likes to be told
what to do. The imperativeness shakes the giant ego from its
slumber. “I’ll take out the garbage when I’m in the mood!” In the
overcoming of that barrier the value of the action is significantly
I am willing to confess here that when assembling a bicycle or a
basketball court I have occasionally wrestled with that same inner
stubbornness in spite of my children’s insistence, “Abba, here’s the
instruction manual!” I was determined to figure it out on my own and do
it my way often with unfortunate results. The problem is only first
apparent when the thing is assembled and there’s an extra nut or bolt in
the box. “What’s this thing for? Why does the wheel not turn properly?” It
is then that I have been forced to confront the directions and the
realization that I had skipped an important step. Sometimes the undoing is
doable and a few times we have had to live forever after with a defective
result. Now I might be more apt to heed the creed, “If you would only
please follow the instruction manual then it will turn out right!”
Everything beyond the complexity of a nail clipper comes with a set of
instructions for use and/or assemblage. A new computer is accompanied by a
chunky pamphlet. An automobile comes with a big booklet that one better be
read and obey if one doesn’t want to end up making payments on a car that
no longer runs. Human life, which is infinitely more complex than any
machine also comes with an instruction manual. The assumption is that the
manufacturer knows the product better than the consumer and that the
tuition at “The School of Hard-Knocks” is more expensive than any Yeshiva.
Lord knows I wasted a few cars before figuring out that the oil needs to
be changed?! Maybe it’s tolerable with a 2nd hand car but with a wife and
kids who of us can afford not to consult the user’s guide?
The code of Jewish Law is actually a slim volume when obeyed in detail and
sequence. However, it grows weighty and complex as stuff has to be undone.
There may be remedies but we might wish we had carefully followed the
instructions and not insisted on doing it our way. Like a father pleads
desperately with his child, the tone of the verse is emphatic, if not
urgent, “If only you would do it My way, follow My rules and keep My
Miztvos… If only…”
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.