Bechukosai 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Doing the Math

Parshas Bechukosai

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This week's portion, Bechukosai, starts off with the words, "If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them, then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce, and the tree of the field will give its fruit." Three verses later the Hashem states: "You will pursue your enemies; and they will fall before you by the sword. Five of you will pursue a hundred and a hundred will pursue ten thousand." (Vayikra 26:3-4; 7-8)

One need not be a math major to ask the glaringly obvious question: If five can pursue a hundred, then five hundred should be able to pursue ten thousand. It should take more than one hundred to pursue ten thousand. What is the explanation for this mathematical discrepancy?

When Hashem gave us the Torah, He did so in the desert. Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch explains the significance of the location: the reason why it was given in the desert was to teach us that the Torah is bound to no particular time or place. (The Land of Israel is the holiest of all lands, and the land most conducive to keeping the Torah; however, it is not imperative to our keeping of the Torah.) The Torah is something that stands on its own and is a requirement for the Jewish people for all time. 

One might think that our relationship with Hashem is strictly dependent on how we relate to him, thus creating the possibility of a Jew living in a vacuum, so to speak. This is also not true. What is required is a three pronged relationship between Hashem, the Jewish people, and the Torah.

This is how we explain the mathematical discrepancy. When five Jews are together, keeping the Torah, thereby improving the world, that is more than five times as powerful than one individual keeping the Torah. And when one hundred Jews are keeping the Torah, that is exponentially much more powerful than five. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

All Jews stood together at Sinai when we received the Torah (even the souls of Jews not yet born). We are here to be a nation of priests. Our true potential lies not only within ourselves, but within the soul of our fellow Jew. It is our obligation to teach each other and to enable each other to reach our spiritual heights. It will soon be Shavuos, when we originally received the Torah. This year when we receive it anew (as we do every Shavuos) may it be done in as a people united.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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