SALT - Tuesday, 16 Iyar 5776, Omer 31 - May 24, 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 God’s promise of reward for fulfilling His commands, opening with the phrase, “Im be-chukotai teileikhu” – “If you follow My statutes.”

            The Or Ha-chayim, remarkably, offers forty-two interpretations of this phrase, explaining why the Torah here refers to mitzva observance with the verb “teileikhu,” which literally means “walk.”  One explanation builds upon Chazal’s famous comment, cited by Rashi, that “Im be-chukotai teileikhu” refers to intensive Torah study.  The Or Ha-chayim suggests that if, indeed, this phrase speaks not of observance, but rather of learning, then “teileikhu” perhaps refers to Torah study while traveling.  If a person makes a point of learning Torah even on the road, as he travels, he demonstrates his immense love for, and devotion to, study, which he refuses to discontinue even during travel.

            The Tolna Rebbe noted that the significance of the Or Ha-chayim’s comment lies in its dispelling the “all-or-nothing” perspective with which we might be tempted to view Torah learning, and our religious responsibilities generally.  Most people are unable to study with full intensity under circumstances of travel.  The environment, as well as the sense of anxiety that often accompanies travel, make it exceedingly difficult, and, for many, impossible, to muster the kind of concentration and mental energy required to absorb complex and intricate material.  Thus, when the Or Ha-chayim speaks of the importance of learning in circumstances of “teileikhu,” he likely refers to the study of light material, as opposed to the kind of intensive study that we ought to involve ourselves in under ordinary circumstances.  The message conveyed, then, is that “ameilut ba-Torah” – intensive Torah study – includes not only rigorous learning, but also the study of light, easy material when rigorous study is not possible.  The concept of “teileikhu,” according to this interpretation of the Or Ha-chayim, refers to an overarching devotion to Torah learning which includes both intensive learning when the situation allows, and lighter study when this is all that one can do.

            This message applies not only to Torah learning, but to all areas of religious life.  All people will inevitably encounter situations which do not allow them to maintain the high spiritual standards that they should ideally be pursuing.  Whether it’s a physical condition, emotional turmoil, or a simple matter of logistics, we all find ourselves on occasion in a position where we cannot study and observe as we would ideally want.  The message of “teileikhu” reminds us that we must do our best in any circumstance, rather than despair in light of the limitations we face.  Even when we find ourselves unable to achieve our ideal goals, we should put in the effort to achieve whatever we can under the current conditions.  This is how we realize the ideal of “be-chukotai teileikhu,” of following the Torah throughout our journey of life, doing the best we can in every situation.