SALT - Friday 26 Iyar 5778 - May 11, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Parashat Bechukotai begins with God’s promise of reward “im be-chukotai teileikhu” – if Benei Yisrael faithfully follow His laws.  Many writers and darshanim took note of the verb “teileikhu” in this verse, which literally means “walk.”  This phrase speaks of Benei Yisrael not simply observing the Torah’s commands (which is mentioned in the next clause – “ve-et mitzvotai tishmeru”), but rather “walking” in accordance with God’s laws.
            One creative and meaningful interpretation of this phrase is suggested by Chida, in his Penei David.  He cites a theory from Rav Shlomo Alkabetz’s Shoresh Yishai commentary to Megilat Rut, that the verb can sometimes be used in reference to a carefully calculated decision.  Rav Alkabetz explained on this basis the opening verse of Megilat Rut which says about Elimelekh, “A man from Beit Lechem Yehuda went to reside in the field of Moav.”  The word “va-yeilekh” (“went”) in this verse, according to Rav Alkabetz, means not simply “went,” but that Elimelekh made the difficult, controversial decision to leave his homeland after a lengthy process of thought and deliberation.  Rav Alkabetz draws proof to this theory from the verse towards the beginning of Sefer Shemot (2:1) which says about Amram, “A man from the family of Levi went and married Levi’s daughter.”  The word “va-yeilekh” here seems superfluous, as the verse’s intent, seemingly, is simply to tell us that Amram married Levi’s daughter.  Rav Alkabetz thus explained that this word refers to careful, patient deliberation and consultation.  In the case of Amram, Chazal famously teach (Sota 12a) that this verse refers to Amram’s remarriage to his wife whom he had divorced, ultimately being convinced by his daughter to remarry.  The Torah thus speaks of his marriage with the term “va-yeilekh,” which denotes the reaching of a difficult decision after careful, comprehensive thought and consideration.
            On this basis, Chida suggests a novel interpretation of the phrase “im be-chukotai teileikhu,” explaining that it refers to careful thought and planning in religious observance.  The Torah speaks here not merely of compliance with the Torah’s laws, but of patient and careful thought about what exactly the Torah demands in any given situation, and how one needs to conduct himself. 
            Chida here reminds us that Torah observance cannot be approached in a rash, impulsive, thoughtless manner.  It requires patience and discipline, carefully thinking through all our actions before we perform them, and, if need be, consulting with knowledgeable scholars, to ensure we conduct ourselves properly.  We cannot adequately satisfy our religious requirements and achieve to the best of our ability without a process of “teileikhu,” patiently weighing our decisions to ensure we are acting as we should.  As we chart our course in life, we need to carefully explore our options and think them through so that we fulfill God’s expectations of us to the very best of our ability.