SALT - Motzaei Shabbat - May 13, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

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This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of
David Moshe ben Harav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l,
whose yahrzeit is Sunday 18 Iyar, May 14.
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Motzaei Shabbat

            Parashat Bechukotai begins by describing the blessings and rewards that God promises to bestow upon Benei Yisrael if they faithfully observe His commands.  Many commentators have noted a jarring sentence included among these magnificent promises: “ve-lo tig’al nafshi etkhem” – “I will not be repulsed by you” (26:11).  It seems peculiar, at first glance, that God would promise not to be “repulsed” by Benei Yisrael as He speaks of the great rewards they will receive for complying with His laws.  This promise becomes especially striking when we consider the immediately preceding phrase, in which God promises, “I will make My dwelling among you.”  If Benei Yisrael have reached the level at which God wishes to “reside” among them, do we need to be told that He will not be “repulsed”?

            Rav Shimon Schwab, in his Ma’ayan Beit Ha-sho’eiva, suggests that this promise reflects the challenge posed by the great blessing of closeness.  Sensing that we are in God’s presence can be an intimidating feeling, as we recognize our many faults and deficiencies, and realize that God is carefully observing and keenly aware of everything we do.  Indeed, one of the impediments to embracing Torah observance is the fear of the immense pressure and anxiety that comes with a close relationship with God.  Many people prefer simply distancing themselves from God, rather than live with this constant awareness of His presence and close involvement in their lives, which can result in a great deal of stress and anxiety.  God therefore assures us that even as He resides among us, “ve-lo tig’al nafshi etkhem” – He will not be “repulsed” by our mistakes and faults.  Aware of the human being’s innate state of imperfection, God promises to continue loving and cherishing us and our relationship with Him, as long as we are sincerely trying to serve Him properly.  When we work to be worthy of His presence, then He assures us that this close relationship will be one of joy, fulfillment and comfort, and not one characterized by tension and anxiety.

(See also Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz’s “A Comforting Blessing”)