SALT - Sunday, 14 Iyar 5776, Omer 29 - May 22, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg


This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of
David Moshe ben Harav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l,
whose yahrzeit is Thursday 18 Iyar, May 26


            Parashat Bechukotai begins with a description of the blessings which God promises to bestow upon Benei Yisrael in reward for their obedience.  This section concludes with the vague promise, “Ve-hit’halakhti be-tokhekhem” (26:12), which seems to mean, “I will walk about in your midst.”  The question arises as to the precise nature of this promise, as well as the distinction between God’s “walking about” in our midst and the earlier promise, “Ve-natati mishkani be-tokhekhem” (“I shall place My sanctuary in your midst” – 26:11).  Why does God promise to “walk about in your midst” after already promising to reside among us in the Beit Ha-mikdash?

            Rav Yehonatan Eibshitz, in his Tiferet Yehonatan, suggests that whereas the earlier promise speaks of hashra’at ha-Shekhina – the impact of God’s presence among the nation, the term “ve-hit’halakhti be-tokhekhem” refers to judgment.  God tells us that if we are generally devoted to His service, then He will judge us favorably and overlook our occasional wrongdoing.  The term “ve-hit’halakhti,” Rav Eibshitz explains, means to “walk about” without remaining stationary for too long in any specific location.  In this verse, then, God promises that when the time comes to judge us, He will judge in a cursory, superficial manner.  Rather than dig deeply to thoroughly examine our conduct, He will judge us loosely and perfunctorily.  This is the meaning of “ve-hit’halakhti,” and the distinction between this promise and that of “ve-natati mishkani be-tokhekhem.”  God promises to make His permanent residence, as it were, among us so we can reap the immense spiritual benefits of a direct relationship with our Creator, but when it comes to judgment, He will “walk about” without examining us too closely.

            Rav Yehonatan Eibshitz’s interpretation of these verses perhaps teaches us about our relationship with others.  Often, we are most critical and judgmental of the people with whom we are closest.  The more time we spend with people, and the more we get to know them, the more likely we are to uncover negative qualities, and thus the more critical we can become.  The promise of “ve-hit’ahalkhati,” as understood by Rav Yehonatan Eibshitz, should remind us to build and maintain friendships without becoming overly critical, to be loose and superficial in our judgment of people even as we draw close to them.