The Torah promises prosperity for the Jewish People if they follow G-d's commandments. However, if they fail to live up to the responsibility of being the Chosen People, then chilling punishments will result. The Torah details the harsh historical process that will fall upon them when Divine protection is removed. These punishments, whose purpose is to bring the Jewish People to repent, will be in seven stages, each more severe than the last. Sefer Vayikra, the book of Leviticus, concludes with the details of erachin – the process by which someone vows to give the Beit Hamikdash the equivalent monetary value of a person, an animal or property.
“But if you will not listen to Me...” (26:14)
A bright red bouncy ball bounds into the middle of a busy highway followed by a small child in hot pursuit.
The driver of a large truck slams his foot on the brakes and screeches to a halt inches away from the child. The child looks at the driver with a somewhat bemused expression. The driver holds his hand down on the horn for several long seconds, rolls down his window, shouts an intelligible stream of invectives at the errant child, rewinds his window and proceeds about his business.
Five minutes later, this scene is repeated by a different driver, and some ten minutes later a third truck again screeches to a halt narrowly missing the same child. However, this time the driver jumps down out of the cab and chases the child, scrambling over trash cans and fences until he finally catches him. The driver then beats the ‘living-daylights’ out of the child.
Why did this driver react so much more violently than the other two drivers?
The reason is that the third driver is child’s father.
The fact that G-d punishes us is a sign that He cares for us.
The Mitteler Rebbe was once sent by his father on a mission to a distant town. On Shabbat Bechukotai he found himself in a small town. Naturally, the Chassidim were delighted to be able to host such a distinguished guest and they followed his every movement in great detail to see if they could learn something from the habits of this great man.
In the middle of the Torah reading, when the ba’al koreh reached the “Tochacha” — the section that details the dire consequence for the Jewish People for failing to keep the Torah — the Rebbe fell in a faint to the floor. A gasp went up from the crowd as everyone rushed over to see what had happened.
A few seconds later, the Rebbe regained consciousness and the Chassidim asked him if they should call a doctor.
“No,” replied the Mitteler Rebbe. “I am not sick. I fainted because of the shock of hearing the severe words of the Tochacha.”
The Chassidim were puzzled. “Surely the Rebbe has heard the Tochacha many times before? What disturbed the Rebbe so much more this time?”
The Mitteler Rebbe answered, “It’s as though I’d never heard these words before. Until this Shabbat I always heard the Tochacha read by my father. Today it sounded so different!”
The question remains: Didn’t the Rebbe’s father read those same words year after year? Why did it sound so different this time?
Answer: When you know something is coming from your father it’s different.
Sometimes a father has to punish his son severely, but the son is never in doubt that it comes only from a place of love.
Every Jew is able to hear the Tochachah in the same way if he listens closely, remembering the words are coming from our Father in Heaven.