Torah Tidbits with Yael Koskas, Judaic Studies Teacher

Parashat Bechukotai

This week we are exposed to two kinds of behaviors, the one who follows the principles of the Torah, and the one who does not. The question is, what does the Torah mean by requesting one to be a Torah observant? Hold on, isn’t it evident? If you do the Mitzvot you’re a good guy and if not, then…! The Ramban says, not so quick. Many times one could be observing the mitzvot to the letter of the law, but be completely wrong in his or her Avodat Hashem. One must ask himself first the question, is this action in the spirit of what God wants from me, or is it going against the spirit of our purpose.

Let’s give first a metaphorical example. Once, a wealthy but stingy man was asked by a poor person to open his hand and feed him. The rich man after replying by the negative told the pauper that he could help himself by the garbage can, which he did. He found old smelly fish from the previous Shabbat. But he was so hungry that he devoured it. Later that day, the rich man heard that the poor man was being hospitalised for food poisoning. He told his wife that he had a mitzvah to do, Bikur Cholim, go visit the ill. The next day, he heard that the pauper died. He told his wife that he had a great mitzvah to accomplish, Levayat Hamet, to accompany the dead person to his burial site. The next day he told his wife that he was going the be Menachem Avel, go consol the mourners. After getting back home, he told his spouse, “isn’t the Torah great? With a stinky piece of smelly fish, i did four of the most respectable deeds in the Torah, Hachnasat Orchim, Bikur Cholim, Levayat Hamet and Nichum Avelim”!

That’s who the Ramban calls a Naval Birshut Hatorah, or a degenerate in the domain of the Torah.

In order to observe the Torah the real way, one first must ask himself the question if he is in the spirit of the Torah. We cannot use the Torah as an excuse for justifying our negative deeds. For example, one who studies pretending to not have seen another person in need, is using the Torah against the spirit of the Torah. That person is completely wrong in his understanding of Avodat Hashem.

The biggest problem is that there’s no book that will explain the guidelines of the above discussed concept. So how do we know what is the spirit of the Torah?

The answer is, from our surroundings. When our environment is Shomre Mitzvot people, one starts learning what it means to be a real Torah observant individual.

Yael Kostas
High School Judaic Studies Teacher