|The Profundities of Torah: Bechukotai: Walk Tall For God’s Sake|
|Written by HaRav Yochanan Zweig|
"I will place My Sanctuary among you; and My Spirit will not reject you...and I led you erect" (26:11,13) We find in Parshas Bechukosai a series of blessings that await Bnei Yisroel if they put all of their energies into unifying their relationship with Hashem. Conversely, there are a series of curses that will befall Bnei Yisroel if this relationship deteriorates. The blessings appear to follow an order which reflects a strengthening relationship with Hashem; we are promised prosperity, peace, sustained security, and that Hashem's presence will rest amongst the Jews i.e. the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem.
A number of the blessings in this sequence require further explanation. After the blessing that the Beis Hamikdash will be in our midst the verse records, "velo sigal nafshi eschem" - "My spirit will not reject you". The Ramban questions why Bnei Yisroel would, after adhering to all the precepts, require the blessing that Hashem will not reject them.1 The Panim Yafos strengthens this question based upon the sequence of the blessings. If Hashem has already committed to place His Divine presence in our midst in the form of the Beis Hamikdash, why do we require assurance that Hashem will not reject us.2
The continuation of the verse also poses a problem; "va'olech eschem komimius" is interpreted according to Chazal as "I will lead you upright". The Talmud teaches that a person is prohibited to walk "bekoma zekufa" - "with his head erect", for this is perceived as a sign of arrogance, and is described as "pushing away the feet of the Divine presence"3. If so, why are we being blessed to walk in such a manner? Furthermore, the Talmud comments on this verse: "we will walk with the height and stature of the Sanctuary"4 what message is the Talmud attempting to relay?
The Targum Yonason interprets the verse "lo sigal nafshi eschem" to mean that Bnei Yisroel will not reject the commandments of Hashem i.e. the Torah, and not that Hashem will not reject us.5 Why at the highest level of blessing do we find that Bnei Yisroel will not reject Hashem's mitzvos?
Generally, we would like to think that "free choice" means having the right to choose. However, this is not so; we have the ability, not the right to violate Hashem's commandments and therefore, we must suffer the consequences of our choices. This knowledge could create the feeling in man that he is being imposed upon, and consequently, even when there is compliance, it is tinged with resistance. When Hashem gave Bnei Yisroel the Torah and they proclaimed "na'aseh venishmah" - "we will do and perceive" Bnei Yisroel were able to transcend all feelings of imposition and resistance. What they were acknowledging was that through their observance they would perceive the benefit the mitzvos would bring them. The Torah allows us to actualize our potential and define who we really are. Therefore, accepting the Torah is not an imposition, rather the ultimate benefit granted to mankind. The highest form of a relationship with Hashem is attained when we are able to overcome any sense of resistance and imposition. This is the level that the Targum Yonason describes as "velo sigal nafshi eschem" - "we will not be repulsed by the mitzvos"; there will be no resistance in our observance.
The notion that walking upright "pushes away the feet of the Divine presence" is a result of the resistance that we have in accepting Hashem's Torah; man's arrogance results from the need to stand up for his own rights. If, however, the relationship is such that no resistance exists, then we become vessels which reflect the majesty of our Creator and walking upright becomes a sanctification of Hashem's name. This is what the Talmud means when it states "we will walk with the height and stature of the Sanctuary". In the same manner as the Sanctuary reflects the honor and glory of Hashem, we too will reach a level in our relationship in which we will reflect His honor and glory.
1.26:11 2.Ibid. 3.Berachos 43b 4.Bava Basra75a 5.26:11
May a person wear shorts for davening? Rav Ovadia Yosef prohibits the Shaliach Tzibur from wearing shorts, for this is an undignified manner in which to represent a congregation. When davening alone, it is permissible. The responsa Yaskil Avdi prohibits shorts even when davening alone. The Mishna Berura requires that a person's entire body be covered during Tefila, even when davening alone.