(Torah Portion Bechukosai) Terrific!
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah commands that one must tithe the kosher animals that were born during the year. The animals were gathered in a corral with a small doorway which allowed only one animal to go through at a time. As the animals made their way through the opening, the owner would count 1, 2, 3, etc. When the tenth animal passed through he would mark it with red paint. This procedure was repeated until all the animals went through. The animals with the red markings became sanctified to be brought to Jerusalem, where they would be slaughtered and offered in the Temple. The meat of these animals was eaten by the owner and his guests in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Eliezer Gordon, the Dean of the Telshe Yeshiva n Lithuania, asks, why did the Torah instruct the owner to count each animal one at a time in such a time consuming fashion. Wouldn’t it have been more efficient for the owner to count the entire flock and then take off a tithe?
Rabbi Gordon explained with the following psychological insight. Had the Torah instructed the owner to count all his newborn animals and then take a tithe from the total sum, the owner would see a herd of animals marked with red paint that were worth a great deal. Thus it would be challenging to comply with this mitzvah.
Instead, the Torah tells the owner to start counting, 1 for me, 2 for me, 3 for me, ….. with the 10th sanctified to G-d. After this procedure is done a number of times, the person will feel embarrassed that he is taking so much for himself and giving so little to G-d. This will motivate him to separate his tithe in a willing and even a joyful manner.
Each morning we recite 15 blessings in which we thank G-d for providing us with just about every function in our daily life. This week while I was reciting these blessings it occurred to me that this is not just an exercise of thanking G-d. It is our way of counting and proclaiming for all to hear all our blessings in life. By reciting all the blessings it equips us to focus on our good fortune and not let distress or worry obscure the multitude of kindnesses and blessings that are continually present in our lives.
There was a radio talk show host named Bruce Williams who advised his audience on business and financial matters. I often recall a precious piece of advice he shared.
“When someone asks you how business is going (or how your day is going), whether it is going good, bad or miserable, answer them, ‘Terrific!’ They will be stunned by your reaction and you will be relieved from sharing your gloom and doom – which by and large, they couldn’t have helped you out with in any case!”
Although he was an upbeat person, when the great Sage Rabbi Shneur Kotler o.b.m. lost his son Reb Meir, he was beside himself with grief. Nothing offered by the visitors during the Shiva – mourning period – could comfort him.
Then the Blushiver Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Spira o.b.m. came to visit. Uncharacteristically for a Shiva visit, the Rebbe began asking Reb Shneur the names of all those who were sitting Shiva. “These are my sons ….over there is my wife and daughters etc.” After Reb Shneur went through the names of his eight surviving children, the Blushiver Rebbe turned to him and said, “Before the war, I had a wife, children and grandchildren, and they all were killed by the ruthless Nazi’s. Look at me, I am here today. Hashem had given me the strength and courage to move on and begin a new family.” The Rebbe then continued, “Look at all the blessings that you currently have!
Rabbi Kotler’s son Rabbi Aaron related to me that from that point on, he noticed a complete change in his father’s ability to accept condolences and continue his work heading the largest Talmudic Academy in the world.
In the Portion, the Torah tells us the wonderful blessings that G-d provides for us if we adhere to Torah and its laws, and then enumerates the many calamities that will befall us if we continually ignore His mandate.
Commentators ask, why does the Torah only spell out a few blessings but lists many of our troubles?
Perhaps we can answer, that in regards to Tzorus – problems and difficulties – the list can go on and on for each difficulty is separate from the others.
However, when life goes smoothly without worries and concerns it provides an all encompassing feeling that makes it irrelevant how many blessings there are! Contentment is the greatest blessing!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and enjoyable Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family