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Parshas Bechukosai

The Power Factor

"Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand..." (26:8)

The Torah teaches that when Bnei Yisroel will be committed to the adherence of the Torah, five Jews will be able to vanquish one hundred of their enemies and one hundred Jews will be able to vanquish ten thousand.

Rashi notes the seemingly disproportionate ratios in the verse. Five defeating one hundred means that their power is multiplied by twenty. Therefore, one hundred should only be able to defeat two thousand, not ten thousand. Rashi solves this dilemma by explaining that the Torah is teaching us that one cannot compare the commitment of individuals to Torah observance, to the commitment made by a large group[1].

What requires further elaboration is that the verse is referring to a time when the entire Bnei Yisroel will observe the Torah. If so, what does Rashi mean when he says that the Torah is contrasting the observance of the few to that of the many?

If the message is only that there is strength in numbers, the Maharal points out that although the number of Jews increase, so does the number of their enemies[2] Why does the increased number of enemies not counteract the number of Jews?

When dealing with group dynamics, there are two means by which the collective impact of the group can be more powerful than the impact of a single individual attempting to accomplish the same feat on his own. One type of group contains individuals, each with his own agenda in mind, who have linked up with other individuals having matching agendas. Their focus to accomplish the same feat, albeit each person for his own particular reason, is more effective than if they would each be attempting to perform this feat individually. The second type of group is much more effective than the first. In this group, each individual's agenda is not only to meet his particular needs, but to help every other individual in the group meet their needs as well.

Whereas in the first group the feat alone is what unites them and their strength is derived from their numbers, in the second group there is the additional benefit of each individual having every other group member help him to meet his own particular needs. In this case, the group members are united in their desire to help one another; the feat is just the manifestation of this desire.

The Torah is contrasting these two group dynamics. The first group is described with the verb first, "veradfu mikem". "Veradfu" means "will pursue" and "mikem" means "of you"; it is the act of pursuing which unites them as a group. However, the description of the second group is written prior to the verb, "ume'ah mikem revavah yirdofu". "Ume'ah mikem" means "one hundred of you" and "revavah yirdofu" means "ten thousand will pursue"; the group is formed by their desire to help one another which, in this situation, manifests itself by pursuing the enemy. Therefore, due to the fact that there is strength in numbers, the strength of the first group is only twenty-fold. However, in the second group there are one hundred members and each individual has ninety-nine people other than himself interested in accomplishing his goals. Consequently, each person has the strength of one hundred, and the collective strength of the group of one hundred is therefore ten thousand.

What Rashi is explaining is that if Bnei Yisroel's adherence to the Torah is only as individuals interested in their own agenda, they do not possess the strength of a nation in which each individual desires to help his fellow members with their adherence to the Torah.


Walk Tall For G-D's Sake

    "I will place My Sanctuary among you; and My Spirit will not reject you...and I led you erect"(26:11,13)

We find in Parshas Bechukosai a series of blessings that await Bnei Yisroel if they put all of their energies into unifying their relationship with Hashem. Conversely, there are a series of curses that will befall Bnei Yisroel if this relationship deteriorates. The blessings appear to follow an order which reflects a strengthening relationship with Hashem; we are promised prosperity, peace, sustained security, and that Hashem's presence will rest amongst the Jews i.e. the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem.

A number of the blessings in this sequence require further explanation. After the blessing that the Beis Hamikdash will be in our midst the verse records, "velo sigal nafshi eschem" - "My spirit will not reject you". The Ramban questions why Bnei Yisroel would, after adhering to all the precepts, require the blessing that Hashem will not reject them[1]. The Panim Yafos strengthens this question based upon the sequence of the blessings. If Hashem has already committed to place His Divine presence in our midst in the form of the Beis Hamikdash, why do we require assurance that Hashem will not reject us[2].

The continuation of the verse also poses a problem; "va'olech eschem komimius" is interpreted according to Chazal as "I will lead you upright". The Talmud teaches that a person is prohibited to walk "bekoma zekufa" - "with his head erect", for this is perceived as a sign of arrogance, and is described as "pushing away the feet of the Divine presence [3]". If so, why are we being blessed to walk in such a manner? Furthermore, the Talmud comments on this verse: "we will walk with the height and stature of the Sanctuary" [4] what message is the Talmud attempting to relay?

The Targum Yonason interprets the verse "lo sigal nafshi eschem" to mean that Bnei Yisroel will not reject the commandments of Hashem i.e. the Torah, and not that Hashem will not reject us[5]. Why at the highest level of blessing do we find that Bnei Yisroel will not reject Hashem's mitzvos?

Generally, we would like to think that "free choice" means having the right to choose. However, this is not so; we have the ability, not the right to violate Hashem's commandments and therefore, we must suffer the consequences of our choices. This knowledge could create the feeling in man that he is being imposed upon, and consequently, even when there is compliance, it is tinged with resistance. When Hashem gave Bnei Yisroel the Torah and they proclaimed "na'aseh venishmah" - "we will do and perceive" Bnei Yisroel were able to transcend all feelings of imposition and resistance. What they were acknowledging was that through their observance they would perceive the benefit the mitzvos would bring them. The Torah allows us to actualize our potential and define who we really are. Therefore, accepting the Torah is not an imposition, rather the ultimate benefit granted to mankind. The highest form of a relationship with Hashem is attained when we are able to overcome any sense of resistance and imposition. This is the level that the Targum Yonason describes as "velo sigal nafshi eschem" - "we will not be repulsed by the mitzvos"; there will be no resistance in our observance.

The notion that walking upright "pushes away the feet of the Divine presence" is a result of the resistance that we have in accepting Hashem's Torah; man's arrogance results from the need to stand up for his own rights. If, however, the relationship is such that no resistance exists, then we become vessels which reflect the majesty of our Creator and walking upright becomes a sanctification of Hashem's name. This is what the Talmud means when it states "we will walk with the height and stature of the Sanctuary". In the same manner as the Sanctuary reflects the honor and glory of Hashem, we too will reach a level in our relationship in which we will reflect His honor and glory.

3.Berachos 43b
4.Bava Basra75a

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