Behar Bechukosai – Expansion into our life

Parhsas Bechukosai starts off with the pasuk, “Im Bechukosai Tailechu – If you follow My laws, guard My commandments and observe them.”(26:3) Rashi explains that this means to toil in Torah. The dictionary definition of Toil is; “long strenuous fatiguing labor”. Ah, so we may assume our reward for such intense devotion for Torah is more time to learn Torah! That everything will be provided for us and we will never have to look past the pages of a Gemara for our needs in life. Yet Hashem doesn’t see it that way, for the pesukim go on to tell us our reward is “You will be busy threshing till the harvest, and the harvest will keep you busy till it is time to plant…”(25:5) So our reward for toiling in Torah is to now toil in the fields? Why would the reward for learning Torah be something that removes us from Torah study?

We can understand with a story from Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. A Chasid came to the Kotzker Rebbe seeking his help. The Chasid explained that before he was married and had children he was able to devote many hours of his day to toiling in the Torah. But now that he has to support his family he is so immersed in work that he can barely find a few moments to learn. The Rebbe pointed him to the Gemara in Meseches Makkos (23b) saying, “Rabbi Chanina ben Akashia says, ‘Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted to make the Jewish people worthy so He gave them the Torah and a lot of mitzvos to do. As the pasuk says, ‘God wanted, for His glory, to increase the Torah and make it glorious’ (Yeshayahu 42:21)” Yet Rav Akashias reasoning does not make sense, for if God wanted our merit to increase He should only minimize our Torah and give us a handful of mitzvos that we can do with 100% accuracy, thereby becoming worthy in His eyes. Yet we see God increased the number of mitzvos, so how could He expect anyone who has to work have the ability to fulfill them? The Kotzker answers that if we examine the mitzvos of our expansive Torah we would quickly see that this expansiveness allows the Torah and its laws to extend into all areas of our life, so much so that everything we do day to day has Torah reasoning behind it. Therefore anyone, from the person toiling in the fields to the person toiling over a Daf is able to constantly fulfill some mitzvah or another, giving us an opportunity to serve Him in every moment and circumstance.

So in truth we have to understand that toiling in Torah is not only toiling in learning, for our reward for one type of toil is a total opposite toil. Showing us that by God making the Torah extend into every facet of our life we have many more unique opportunities to come closer and follow Gods laws, creating a circle that will keep us busy and fulfilled, for the pasuk ends “… you will be satisfied with your bread.”(26:5) Meaning, if we only believe toil means spiritual toil we will never be satiated in our physical life. And if we believe that the Torah only encompasses the toil of the fields we will never feel spiritually satisfied. So we must know that following Gods laws means to toil in all areas of Torah, for God made the Torah so all-encompassing in order for us to have merit in His eyes.

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