Friday, May 20, 2011

BECHUKOTAI; an accidental life

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


The secrets for successful relationships are found in this week's sedra, Bechukotai. It is also referred to as the "tochecha," or The Great Reproof. Hidden within its dire portents of doom are also the dire secrets of life. The antidote is provided along with the warning. The contraindications are listed on the label.

Whether concerning our Divine Spouse (G*d), or our mortal spouses (spice?), if you want a solid relationship, then you must not take him or her for granted. You must not be "casual" with the relationship. You must not forget birthdays or anniversaries. That is the necessary spice of the marriage.

The word for casual, "keri," appears many times throughout the parsha. Keri, related to the word "mikreh,"in modern Hebrew, connotes a chance, or accidental occurrence, or something that "just happened." In modern Hebraic parlance we say "mah karah?" for "what happened?"

In other words, being accidental in nature, conscious planning or premeditated forethought was not involved. Similarly, G*d is seen as Israel's spouse. According to our tradition, our engagement took place at Pesach, and our wedding took place at Sinai, on Shavuoth. But our anniversary with G*d is not celebrated but once a year. It is celebrated every Shabbat!

Every Shabbat at the kiddush we recall the Exodus from Egypt - yetziat mitzrayim (our Jewish anniversary), as well as the Creation of the World - yetzirat ha'olam (our human anniversary). This is borne out in the text by two remarkable hints. One is that the word "keri," quite remarkably, is mentioned seven times in this one section, echoing the proverbial seven "days" of creation (yom, usually meaning "day" in Hebrew, also refers to any time period in Hebrew, not necessarily the 24 hour day that literalists refer to in mistranslation). The fact that keri is embedded seven times in the text is a hint that conscientious Shabbat consciousness is its antidote.

The other hint is that the repercussions of relating to G*d so casually are sevenfold in nature. When we make kiddush on the wine, not only do we remember our actual leaving Egypt, but symbolically we affirm the presence of G*d in history. Repercussions signify accountability!

Conscious observance of our holy Torah prevents our relationship with G*d from becoming casual. Sleep is usually seen as the ultimate in casualness or inattention. Sleeping in class could be seen as not paying attention. But Shabbos represents an alternate reality. It's one of the highest ways we can honor G*d. If I sleep or eat on Shabbos that's very beautiful, but if I sleep or eat BECAUSE it's Shabbos, that's one of the highest ways to honor G*d, and we reap the rewards seven times over- lasting through each day of the week.

Sleep allows our subconscious to connect with its Divine source. Sleeping with intention honors that Divine source. Sheynah, meaning sleep in Hebrew, is connected to both the word for new change (shinooy) and the word for old change (yashan). Sleep is thus the fulcrum between the old which came before, laden with so many missed opportunities, and a new dawn that promises a fresh opportunity to change for the better. But the secret is in knowing how to be awake when awake and consciously mindful of the Divine Presence all around us each day. Subconscious sleeping aids us in our conscious wakefulness. Now the word Sheynah in Yiddish means beautiful (from the German schoen). So combining the two languages gives us a beauty sleep!

Is our existence at all a mere cosmic accident or a result of conscious Divine intention and Divine Will? If we treat our life as an accident of cosmic happenstance and thus bring that energy into our relationships, we will find our lives full of accidents. But if we tap into the Torah's wisdom as the blueprint for intentional living along a Divine latticework, we shall mine a rich world of rewarding relationships.

Now our Divine relationship with G*d is likewise a template for all successful human relations. We should honor and love those who are close to us at least as much as we love ourselves. We shouldn't take our friends for granted if we ourselves don't wish to be taken for granted.

Similarly, we should never take G*d for granted. For He is our BEST friend. If we do, then a great unraveling occurs- we begin to take first our spouses, then our friends, then even ourselves and our holy neshamas (souls) for granted. Don't blame G*d. He is a loving and compassionate G*d, the source for all compassion. Tap into G*d and tap into Compassion. He wouldn't be punishing us sevenfold or even one-fold. We'd be doing it to ourselves!

Shabbat Shalom.

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!