SALT - Wednesday, 17 Iyar 5779 - May 22, 2019

  • 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 23
            One of the rewards which God promises in the beginning of Parashat Bechukotai for obeying His commands is “u-faniti aleikhem” (26:9), which literally means, “I shall turn My attention to you.”  Rav Saadia Gaon explains this blessing as referring to God’s assuring the success of all of our endeavors.  Seforno suggests that this phrase should be read as the contrast to the previous verse, which tells of God’s elimination of the enemies who rise against Benei Yisrael.  As opposed to those nations, whom will be dealt with harshly, God will treat Benei Yisrael with love and kindness in reward for their faithful obedience to Hid commands.
            Rashi, however, citing Torat Kohanim, explains, “I will turn away from all My affairs to pay your reward.”  As many writers have noted, it seems difficult to understand what Chazal mean when they depict the Almighty as “turning away” from His “affairs.”  Quite obviously, God is unlimited and can perform innumerable tasks at once.  Undoubtedly, then, Chazal here speak of God in anthropomorphic terms as leaving behind His other “activities” and focusing His “attention” solely on rewarding Benei Yisrael for their obedience.  But what might be the meaning of this depiction?
            Rav Chaim Efraim Zeitchik, in his Or Chadash (Parashat Bechukotai), suggests that Chazal’s intent in this passage is to note how God deems our mitzva performance here on earth as far more precious than what happens in the upper worlds.  The heavenly angels give praise to the Almighty, but our efforts to serve Him are far more valuable and significant.  We human beings need to struggle and work hard to overcome our sinful tendencies and subdue our natural instincts and inclinations in order to serve God, and so He cherishes our service far more than He cherishes the service of the heavenly beings, who do not have to struggle.  And thus Chazal depict God as turning His attention away from the heavenly beings in order to focus His attention on us – conveying the message that our struggles to serve Him are more important to Him than anything that goes on in the heavens.
            Rav Chaim Hirschensohn, in his Nimukei Rashi, suggests that this anthropomorphic depiction is intended to instruct us in regard to our dealings with other people.  Just as God is described as “turning away” from all His “affairs” and devoting His “attention” solely to granting us reward, similarly, we should be giving our full attention to the people we are speaking to or dealing with in any capacity.  Torat Kohanim here presents this depiction of God as a depiction of the way we should be conducting ourselves in all our interpersonal dealings – namely, with our full attention.  Rav Hirschensohn notes in this context the Mishna’s famous exhortation in Pirkei Avot (1:1), “Hevu metunim ba-din,” which instructs judges to be patient when reaching a decision.  Judges are required to give their full attention to the case presented to them, rather than rushing through it halfheartedly to tend to what they perceive as a more pressing case.  Litigants coming before a court deserve the judges’ full attention and focus, even if the judges have many other important cases to preside over.  Likewise, Torat Kohanim here teaches us to that whenever we are dealing with people, we should “turn away” from our other “affairs,” and give the person the attention he or she deserves, even if we have many other important matters to attend to.