SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, Omer 29, May 21, 2016

  • 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 Thursday 18 Iyar, May 26
.

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            One of the blessings which the Torah promises in the beginning of Parashat Bechukotai in reward for observing God’s laws is “va-akhaltem lachmekhem la-sova” – “you shall eat your bread to satiation” (26:5).  The Torah here describes an abundance of food which will allow us to not only eat, but eat to the point where we feel satiated and do not experience hunger.

            The Midrash (Midrash Eikha, Petichta, 11) notes the contrast between this promise and the dreadful state of poverty described by Yirmiyahu in Eikha (1:11), “All her people gasp, seeking bread.”  If we were worthy of God’s blessing, the Midrash comments, then we would have enjoyed the satiation described in Parashat Bechukotai; but because we failed, we faced the hunger described in Eikha.  The simple reading of the Midrash’s comment is that it laments the people’s forfeiting the blessing of prosperity and instead suffering hunger due to their failure to obey God’s laws.

            Rav Aharon Lewin (the “Reisha Rav”) Hy”d, however, in his Ha-derash Ve-ha’iyun, adds a deeper reading of the Midrash.  He suggests that Chazal here note a contrast between two different attitudes towards food.  In the state of spiritual devotion of which the Torah speaks here in Parashat Bechukotai, people eat their bread “to satiation” – simply to satisfy their hunger and sustain themselves.  In Eikha, however, Yirmiyahu speaks of people “mevakshim lechem” – who seek and pursue food as an end unto itself, purely for the sake of enjoyment and indulgence.  Of course, the simple meaning is that in Parashat Bechukotai people enjoy prosperity and are thus able to experience satiation, whereas in Eikha people frantically seek food to relieve their pangs of hunger wrought by shortage.  Nevertheless, on a deeper level, the contrast noted by the Midrash also refers to the difference between satiation and wanton indulgence; between approaching food as a need that we must fill, and as an objective all its own.  When we devote ourselves to God as described in Parashat Bechukotai, we view our physical needs as means which enable us to pursue higher and loftier goals, rather than the goal itself.