|Zeev Hatorah-Behar Bechukotai-The Gift of Rain-In Hashem’s Face|
|Written by Rabbi Shmuel Brazil|
In the end of parshas Behar we find Hashem prohibiting the serving of idols which is followed immediately with the command of keeping the Shabbos. Then we find that parshas Bechukosai commence again with another reference to Shabbos in the passuk ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם That Hashem promises to give rain at its time, upon which Rashi comments – that the most beneficial time is Friday nights when people are in their homes and are protected from the rain. What is this inner connection between these three themes of rain, Shabbos and idolatry?
The question has been asked by many why does Hashem oppose honoring the constellations upon which much idolatry worship was founded. Don’t we find amongst kings that honoring their close subjects is not only not despised but in fact encouraged? Why is Hashem so seemingly jealous? The answer is that even by earthly kings if they were in the same situation as Hashem such honor would not be tolerated. Honor that is bestowed to someone else other than the king is acceptable as long as it is not in the king’s presence. However, to honor anyone else while facing the king would be an act of disloyalty, punishable by death. This is the difference between Hashem and a human king. Concerning Hashem we say מלא כל הארץ כבודו His glory fills the entire earth. There is no place or cranny which is void of Hashem’s kovod. Therefore, there is no place where one is allowed to demonstrate kovod even to Hashem’s royal and committed emissaries like the constellations because it would be a horrific insult bestowing honor to something or some one else in the face of Hashem. That is why the passuk says (Devarim 5,7) לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני that the prohibition is so strict and demanding because your honoring of them is done in front of My face.
This concept and obligation to recognize that Hashem’s presence is everywhere, is found in the first Ramah of the Shulchan Aruch שויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד that a Yid must sense and be aware that Hashem always resides by him. The beginnings of most spiritual failures lie in the forgetting of this foundation. There is the famous story of the wagon driver whose passenger was the Chofetz Chaim and as he passed an orchard he stopped his wagon and went out to steal a fruit to quell his hunger. As he was about to pluck that delicious apple from the tree the Chofetz Chaim called out “Look! The Baal Habos is watching”. Hurriedly and in a panic, the wagon driver instantly abandoned his hijacking of the apple and quickly returned to his wagon whipping the horse into a gallop. As he was fleeing from the scene of the crime, he looked back to see if the owner was chasing him but he could not see any figure by the field. Puzzled he turned to the Chofetz Chaim and questioned him “I thought you said that the Baal Habayis was watching?” The Chofetz Chaim just smiled and said “Indeed the Baal Habos is watching” and he then pointed his finger to the heavens. He is always watching.
It is the yetzer harah and Amalek who constantly attempt to make one oblivious to this clarity in order to easily trip us into sin. That is why the name of Amalek is gematriah 240 the same asעל פני . For Amalek’s sole desire is for the Yid to delete his conscious recognition of Hashem’s presence, for everything that follows afterwards will be downhill.
What proof can we bring that Hashem is truly everywhere and על פני even though he is not visible? The answer is through rain and Shabbos. Turnisropus the Roman leader asked Rabbe Akiva how could Hashem make it rain on Shabbos? Doesn’t your Chazal say that Hashem also keeps all the mitzvos? If so He also keeps Shabbos and the 39 prohibitions of work. How then can He make rain descend from the heavens onto the earth since it involves the issur of hotzaah - carrying from one domain to another? Rabbe Akiva answered that since Hashem is the owner of the entire universe, and the world is considered His sole domain, making it rain is likened to one who transfers an object from one part of his yard to the other part. With this interpretation we now have a proof that Hashem’s presence is every where. For if there existed any area of the earth where His presence was missing, Shabbos rain fall would incriminate Hashem for profaning His Shabbos with the issur of hotzaah.
Now we can understand the connection between all the above pessukim, not to worship idolatry and to keep the Shabbos. The reason why Hashem prohibits for you to serve idols is because it is dishonoring Him when you do so in front of His face. How do we know that it is in front of His face? Because He also keeps the Shabbos את שבתותי תשמורו)) and yet He makes the rain fall on Friday night without resulting in a chillul Shabbos. This proves that the world is filled with His presence and is considered a private domain.
And now for etymology, the play on words we’ve been waiting for: rain, reign and rein. Through the vehicle of rain, Hashem proves that he reigns everywhere מלכותו בכל משלה With this understanding one must strive to fulfill שוית ה' לנגדי תמיד and pull the reins on his yetzer hara which is likened to wild horse running in the battlefield. Through this teaching and self control one will eventually become ריין which in Yiddish means pure.
We say daily in the second parsha of Shema that when Yisrael turns to serve other deities, Hashem will stop the rain from falling. The cessation of rainfall is the symbol of the imminent galus about to befall Yisrael. Why is the rain the first indicator of Hashem’s displeasure with us? I would like to suggest that the gematriah ofגשם is 343 and it alludes to the 343 mitzvos that become non full fillable and lost in the galus state. Out of the 613 mitzvos, we are left with 270 that can still be fulfilled even in galus. To this matzav of galus the passuk אני ישינה ולבי ער alludes to. ער is gematria 270. “I might be sleeping in galus”, says Klal Yisrael “but my heart is awake” with the mitzvos that number 270. That is why the Torah threatens Yisrael not just with the loss of rain but with the spiritual loss of theגשם amount of mitzvos that will be lost because of the galus that Yidden brought upon themselves.
Rain, particularly if it falls on Shabbos, demonstrates that Hashem’s kovod is everywhere to the point that you are always in Hashem’s face. That is why the hidden letters of מטר which are ם,ית, יש totals the gematriah of 760 which equals the words ביום שבת. The beracha of rain, if we are meritorious, should fall only on Shabbos for two reasons. One because then we are in our houses and will not get wet and secondly by falling on Shabbos we are reminded that Hashem’s glory fills the entire earth. If we don’t retrieve the message of the rain to see Hashem’s reign everywhere and consequently pull our reins to restrain our earthly desires, then Hashem pulls the rein on our rain. By reneging on His reign on earth with acts of worshipping idols in His face, we thereby forfeit the very place where Hashem’s face is the most obvious and apparent, the Beis Hamikdash. As the passuk says (Shmos 34,23) שלש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורת את פני האדן ה' After the rain stops and we have not yet done teshuvah, the inner Beis Hamikdosh with all its pertinent mitzvos numbering “geshem” has already disintegrated. It is just a matter of time for the outer structure to also be destroyed and the physical exile to begin.
However, there is also a silver lining to the rain as the symbol and teaching of always being in Hashem’s face. Chazal say that by bringing on the churban, Hashem gave a get (divorce) to Yisrael. That is why the story of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash is in meseches Gittin. The rule dictates that there is a prohibition to remarry one’s divorced wife. So one may ask how then is it possible for Hashem to take back Yisrael after the destruction of even the first Beis Hamikdash never mind the second? The answer given is that that when one gives a get to his wife he must deliver it into her domain in order for it to be valid. Hashem’s giving to us a get by destroying the Beis Hamikdash was comparable to one who throws a get to his wife only to land onto his own domain thereby making it invalid. There is a special relief and joy in knowing that we still are and were always Hashem’s beloved spouse. For at the time of the destruction we were likened to niddah woman (איכה א ח על כן לנידה היתה ) a state where intimacy is prohibited only momentarily only to be rekindled once again after a short period of distancing from one another. As Rav Tzadok from Lublin writes true that the story of the destruction of the Mikdash is in meseches Gittin but its subcategory is Perek Hanizakin which means damages. On the outside the churban appeared as a get but from the inner perspective it was a story only about damages. Galus is our payment for the damages however the relationship was not affected and remained wholesome.