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S.A.L.T. - Motzaei Shabbat

Rav David Silverberg
12.05.2022

Parashat Bechukotai begins by describing the blessings that God promises to bestow upon Benei Yisrael in reward for their observance of His laws, starting with, "Ve-natati gishmeikhem be-itam" – "I shall grant you your rains in their time" (26:4).  God assures the people that He will provide rain showers "in their time," when they are needed and beneficial for the crops.

The Maggid of Duvna, in Ohel Yaakov, suggests that the emphasis on the timing of the rainfall reflects also on the manner in which the Torah's laws must be observed in order to be worthy of these blessings.  Mitzvot, like rainfall, are valuable only if they occur in the proper amounts at the proper times.  Certain mitzvot are bound to particular times and circumstances, and are inappropriate on other occasions.  More generally, mitzvot need to give way to one another; if we focus inordinately on one or a small handful of religious obligations, we will end up neglecting others.  Just as rainfall is beneficial when it falls in the right amounts, at the right time and in the right manner, and can otherwise be harmful and destructive, mitzvot, too, must be performed in a wise, carefully calculated manner, and not randomly and haphazardly.  It is possible to engage in a mitzva excessively, performing it at the wrong time, or at the expense of other, equally important mitzvot, in which case the mitzva resembles rainfall at the wrong time, which provides no benefit and can in fact be destructive.  Thus, the Maggid explains, God promises that if we observe the mitzvot properly, at the proper times, then we will be worthy of receiving rainfall "be-itam," in a manner which is most beneficial and will bring us prosperity.

The Maggid adds that this might be why, as Rashi famously cites from Torat Kohanim, these blessings are promised on condition that we not only observe the mitzvot, but also "toil in Torah" ("she-tiheyu ameilim ba-Torah").  If we learn Torah superficially, the Maggid writes, we will likely be unable to determine how to perform the mitzvot "be-itam," in an appropriately measured and proportioned manner.  Without delving into the intricacies and nuances of Halakha, we cannot know when and how to perform each mitzva, and how to properly balance our religious responsibilities against one another.  These decisions can be made only by scholars who have "toiled in Torah," who have devoted vast amounts of time and effort to understand the complexities of Halakha.  It is thus only if "tiheyu ameilim ba-Torah," through the intensive study of Torah, that we can observe the mitzvot "be-itam," in the proper manner, and thus be worthy of God's blessings.

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