Friday, May 15, 2015

Parsha: The Key To Handling Rebuke - The Obscure Halachot of Erchin?!?!

Rav Turetsky

The Tochacha (rebuke) found in Parshat Bechukotai is incredibly harsh and contains a variety of terrible calamities that could befall the Jewish people. No doubt those who hear the Tochacha would be moved to improve their actions and respond by bettering themselves. What’s most interesting is that the Torah immediately follows the Tochacha with the Halachot of Erchin, a fairly complex set of laws in which one commits to donate to the Mikdash the “value” of an individual.
Why juxtapose the Tochacha  with the laws of Erchin? What is the connection between the laws of Erchin and the rebuke?[1]

1. Kli Yakar (Vayikrah 27:2) suggests that Erchin is a natural response to hearing Tochacha. The curses described to the Jewish people convey a sense of urgency and a need to mend one’s ways. Typically, one of the ways in which Jews respond in a time of crisis is to make Nedarim (vows), additional commitments to improve our Avodat Hashem. Erchin is one such type of vow[2].

2. Rav Morchei Yosef Leiner, known as the Ishbitzer Rebbe, offers an additional suggestion (Mai HaShiloach Parshat Bechukotai). Hearing the Tochacha could lead one to feel hopeless and abandoned. In contrast, the message of Erchin, that one could donate one’s own value to the Mikdash, shows that one can always be “redeemed”. Despite hearing the terrible curses, we are reminded that we still have a value, and that we can always redeem ourselves.[3]

Rebuke is hard to hear. Kli Yakar reminds us that it is appropriate to respond with an increased commitment to Avodat Hashem. The Ishbitzer highlights an additional and critically important point. There is always hope and we always have value. Regardless of where we are, there is always potential for improving our relationship with Hashem and others.

[1]See Ramban (Vayikrah 27:1-2) for an additional perspective.
[2] Kli Yakar also notes Ba’al HaTurim’s explanation for the juxtaposition of the Parshiot, which he views in line with his own understanding.
Kli Yakar further notes that Yaakov also made such a Neder in a troubling time, though he was able to maintain his commitment. He notes that too often people make such commitments upon feeling a sense of urgency, but struggle maintaining them once things have calmed down. 
[3] See inside regarding the value of Erchin when one’s donating the value of someone else.

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