Behar-Bechukotai: The power of ‘if…

There is hidden power in the word ‘if’.

Parshat Bechukotai commences,

“Im bechukotai teileichu,” – “If you walk in my statutes and keep the laws of the Torah,” then Hashem will shower us with many blessings.

In the Sefer Belulah VaShemen, written in Verona in the 16th century, a beautiful insight is presented. It identifies three pairs of great Jewish leaders who provide us with inspiration derived from the word ‘im’, alef (א) and mem (ם), standing for:

Aharon and Moshe,

Esther and Mordechai, and

Eliyahu and Mashiach.

All three are associated with salvation from persecution: Aharon and Moshe led us out of Egypt; Esther and Mordechai lived at a time when Hashem saved us from the intentions of Haman; and our world will see an end to all trouble and warfare in the time of Eliyahu and the Mashiach. But the Sefer Belulah VaShemen makes a further point. These three pairs are also associated with our connection to a life filled with commitment to Torah values.

The exodus from Egypt took us to Mount Sinai where we embraced a life full of Torah study and observance. During the time of Esther and Mordechai, the Jewish people said, “Kiymu v’kiblu,” accepting upon themselves a life of dedication to shmirat mitzvot, the keeping of the precepts of the Torah, and similarly the coming of the Mashiach is associated with our dedication to everything that is good and of value in this world.

The word ‘im’ therefore highlights for us that the value of being Jewish does not merely mean to be physically alive, but far beyond that: to have meaning in our lives, to bring joy to our existence, to radiate the light of Hashem to the world around us, thanks to the inspiration we derive from the Torah.

Thanks to Aharon and Moshe that is what we experienced after the exodus. Thanks to Esther and Mordechai, that is what we experienced in the days of Haman and Achashveirosh. And ‘im’ – if – in addition to being physically alive, we also lead virtuous lives, may we experience a time when Eliyahu the Prophet will herald the coming of the Mashiach, may it happen speedily in our time.

Shabbat shalom

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Posted in Parashah
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