Monday, May 18, 2015

Bechukosai: Seven sins Six punishments

Rashi in Bechukosai shows seven steps of degradation leading to complete destruction. Rav Zalman Sorotzkin in אזנים לתורה (Insights in the Torah) in his commentary on Bechukosai 26:15 connects the seven steps of transgression to the sections of the Tochacha. Rav Hirsch shows how each of the terms that prededed this pasuk show an increasing level of sin.  Abarbanel and Alshich go into detail and expand on this point showing how each of the punishments fit midah k'neged midah. Alshichshows how each group consists of seven types of suffering and how eac type of suffering is midah k'neged midah.
in verse 18, the Torah states, "I shall punish you further, sevenfold for your sins", and Rashi explains: "Seven punishments [will be given] for the seven transgressions mentioned above." Rashi is referring to seven sets of punishment, each set consisting of seven types of suffering. In the course of the section on curses, Rashi points out several more times that the punishments come in groups of seven.
After contemplating these passages, I found that although there are seven transgressions, The Torah only mentions six levels of punishment.
Transgression 1: He did not study

Punishment: The first level begins with pasuk 16 "I will assign upon you panic" and ends with verse 17. "you will flee with no one pursuing you".

Transgression 2: He did not perform

Punishment: Pasuk 18 - 20, "... I will break the pride of your might ..." through "... the tree of your land will not give its fruit."

Transgression 3: He disapproves of others who do perform.

Punishment: Pasuk 21 - 22 "... I will incite the wildlife of the field against you ... and your roads will become desolaye"

Transgression 4: He hates the Sages

Punishment: Pasuk 23 - 26. " ... I will bring upon you a sword ... you will eat and not be sated."

Transgression 5: He prevents others [from performing mitzvos]

Punishment: Pasuk 27 - 40. "... You will eat the flesh of your sons ... the land of your foes will devour you ... the will disintegrate.

Pasuk 40 appears to be a statement of teshuvah. The question is why is this treatedas part of the fifth level of punishment and not even part of the beginning of the sixth level (as a restatement of the levels of transgression as seen with the previous punishments).

Many meforshim do indeed regard this pasuk as part of the next set of punishments.

Rav Hirsch translates this as a command  ("Until they confess") and not a statement of action ("They will confess"). Thus until they confess properly, and acknowledge what they have been doing (traeting Hashem and the Torah as a secondary consideration) Hashem, will continue to treat them in a "off hand" manner.

See the comment on 26:40 - 41 in the Art Scroll Stone Chumash.

Chizkuni states that this is not really a sincere repentance but is actually just going through the motions in order to cover all the bases, just in case. [my comment] I would consider it like someone going to Yom Kippur services and "repenting" and then going to a nonkosher dinner/dance afterwards.

Vilna Gaon (Aderes Eliyau) says that while it might be sincere at the moment, it is not complete and would not cover the sins of the past. [my comment] It might be sufficient to cover the current set of sins, but it will not be sufficient to raise them back up to the previous levels.

Ohr Hachaim explains that both pasuk 40 and 41 are part of the confession and list the truths that must be acknowledged. One of the problems is that while people may acknowledge that they have sinned, they would continue in the "tradition" of their ancestors and think that the sins of the previous generation were in fact correct actions. [my comment] consider the idea of driving to shul on shabbos. Someone may admit that driving to the mall or a baseball game is incorrect, but think that driving to shul is correct. Similarly, some people have acted as if "resting on the Sabbath"includes painting pictures, going to concerts, etc.

Transgression 6: He denies [that] the mitzvos [were commande by Hashem]

Punishment:Pasuk 41 - 43 "I, too, will behave towards them with casualness, ... because their spirit rejected My decrees."

Rabbi Sorotzkin states that the "remembrance of the Avos is given in reverse order in order to state that Hashem will still accept the teshuvah even itf it its on a lower level. The three pillars of the world are תורה ועבודה וגמילות חסדים which corresponds to the Avos in the order given in the Pasuk. Rabbi Sorotzkin explains that Avraham was faced with a world of uncontrolled idolators. He could only reach them through chesed. It was impossible to begin teaching them about the service of Hashem much leass Torah. Yitzchak had people who knew about Hashem via Avraham and were ready to learn about the next level. Yaakov was able to teach the students of Avraham and Yitzchak, and was able to teach them the highest level of knowledge of Hashem and His existence.
Therefore, when this verse speaks about the beginning of return to Hashemin this verse, it promises that if the Bnai Yisrael in their repentance achieve the level of Torah study, then certainly "I will remember my covenant with Yaako", the covenant I made with him over the Torah. And even if they reach only the level of service and there are people who know how to servce Hashem among Israel, even though they havenot yet reached the level of Torah-study, Hashem will redeem them on the merit of the covenant He made with Yitzchak: "An also My covenant with Yitzchak." And if they do not reach either of these levels but there are people among the them who know how to do kindness, then Hashem will redeem them on the merit of the covenant He made with Avraham: "And also My covenant with Avraham will I remember."
No further punishments are mentioned in this parsha

Transgression 7: He denies Hashem's existence.

Rabbi Sorotzkin asks "Where, the, is the sevenths set of punishments? This matter is rather puzzling.

Answer: Rabbi Sorotzkin points out that the transgression as stated in the parsha is "to annul My covenant". The corresponding punishment (by midah k'neged midah) would, G-d forbid, be the annulment of Hashem's covenant with us and the total destruction of the Jewish people. After all, if we attempt to deny Hashem's existence, noting will happen. It is like someone jumping off a cliff and trying to fly through denying the law of gravity. The person will still fall to his death. However, what Hashem decrees is what happens. What Hashem denies cannot exist.

As Hashem said to Yechezkel (20:32-33):

That which has come into your minds shall certainly not be, for you say: 'We shall be like the nations ... to servewood and stone. By My life, says Hashem Elokim, I swear that with a strong hand I shall rule over you." 

Thus the Torah does not say the appropriate punishment for sinking to the seventh level of sin, for this is impossible. Instead pasuk 44 says
But despite all this, while they will be in the lands of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them - for I am Hashem their G-d

After he wrote this comment, he found a nearly identical interpretation in Divrei Chaim, a commentary on the Chumash by his grandfather Rav Chayim Sharin , זצ"ל


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