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Parsha Bechukotai

05/30/2019 05:23:07 PM


The Parsha opens with God’s assurance that our observance of mitzvos will be rewarded with many physical returns, the foremost of which being rain in the right time.  For the middle-eastern agricultural society, rain is the empirical idea that Man's efforts need help from God, and that we must believe and trust in His help.  The Midrash notes that the Pasuk’s wording of “your rains” implies a sense of entitlement for rain, and that God almost gives us the right to claim his help if we keep the mitzvos.  Embellishing upon this theme, the Pasuk is Parshas Ki Savo discusses the declaration one makes after fulfilling all Ma’aser obligations, and in the concluding part we implore God to look down from Heaven and bless his nation and Israel.  Rashi comments there: “We have done what you told us.  Now you do what is incumbent upon you, as you said “If you follow my ways…I will provide your rains in their times.”  Because of this intrinsic cause and effect nature of rain, lack of rain becomes a formidable challenge not only in economic terms but in theological terms as well.  There is nothing more frustrating than feeling entitled to God’s gifts in life and finding them inaccessible or unreachable.  “Where is my rain?” is the cry of suffering that unfortunately comes in all shapes and sizes, and the cry that threatens to undermine Man’s motivation to plant, plow, and work all the “fields” of life.

The assurance of rain comes with one added word- “B’eetum”- in their times.  Quoting the Talmud, Rashi explains that the best time for rain is Friday night, because people are at home.  Beyond convenience and comfort, there is another subtle message in Shabbos being the right time for rain, as Shabbos is the day of the week when we cannot be working ourselves.  As much as we do control the destiny of our rains, God’s gifts will be beyond the reach of our efforts and seemingly incommensurate with our measure of labor.  We have the right to demand our rain from God if we work for it, but its delivery time is Friday Night, a transcendent time beyond our scope of work.  The reason for this discrepancy between our entitlement to rain and its perplexing sense of delivery is the very word “B’eetum” itself- time.  Our minds are simply not calibrated with God’s mind because our perception of time can never be the same as the Almighty’s.  As God famously told the angels who questioned the Ten Tanaaic Martyrs, “If you are not silent I will return the world to a state of vanity,” meaning that if you could see the world as I do, with simultaneous clarity of past, present, and future, than you would understand.  God does not “return the world to a state of vanity” for us to perceive time as He does; he expects us to realize our narrow limitations in understanding time and to trust His discernment of time.  We may think we see time correctly and we may order our rain for a specific time, but the truth is that the right time for rain is Shabbos, the day of God, the day that transcends time and the limitations of Man’s work.  This is a necessary discrepancy, as the beauty in the simple autonomy of Man is dependent upon our inability to have a full perception of time.  Our efforts are always rewarded and they even grant us the right to claim rain, but the timing of rain is something completely in God’s domain.  “Timing is everything” is the truth of all blessings in life- opportunity and chance are the “right times” that God gives us, and the saying “in the right time” is Man’s recognition that he wants to trust God in this area.

Wed, June 7 2023 18 Sivan 5783