Jewish Concepts / Judaism / Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto / Shabbat Times / Teshuva / Torah Parasha / Yom Yerushalayim

Parashat BECHUKOTAI and the Meaning of Reward & Punishment in Judaism

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Photo: Miriam Woelke

 

B”H
Parashat BECHUKOTAI is the last Parasha in the Book of Leviticus (Sefer Vayikra). Next Shabbat we are starting to read the Book of Numbers (Sefer Bamidbar). At least in Israel because I think that Diaspora Jews are still a little behind due to the seventh day of Pessach.
This week’s Shabbat is starting tomorrow evening at 6.53 pm. Shabbat Bechukotai ends on Saturday night at 8.10 pm. Rabbeinu Tam is at 8.47 pm !
Next Sunday, Jerusalem will be celebrating it’s Jerusalem Day – Yom Yerushalayim. The anniversary of Israel winning the Six – Day – War (June 1967) and reconquering the Old City including the Temple Mount. And, as we all know, Israel then made one big mistake: Moshe Dayan returned the key to the Temple Mount to the Arabs. After Israel beating the Arab countries, no one would have said a word if the present Jewish State had kept the Temple Mount. However, the opposite was the case and, again, we lost it. Maybe it was all Dayan’s fault or it just had to happen because it was G – d’s plan until the arrival of Meshiach. 
Next Tuesday is Rosh Chodesh SIVAN. The new month stands for Shavuot and thus the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Parashat Bechukotai starts with a long list of blessings. If the Jews keep the Torah Mitzvot, G – d will take care of them and their lives will be just great. No other nation is able to conquer us. However,  if we do not follow the laws, there will be punishment.
One of the main principles in Judaism is called “Reward & Punishment – S’char ve’Onesh”. It is basically about us keeping Mitzvot or not. If we do – great and if we don’t – we may face punishment. However, “Reward & Punishment” doesn’t necessarily have to take place in this world but can occur in Olam Habah (the World to Come). So, if we do something good, we don’t need to await our reward right now. 🙂
Judaism is full of different levels. Levels of “Reward & Punishment” and also different levels of Teshuva (repentance). Nothing is only right and wrong or black and white but there is always an in – between. Depending on a person’s potential. 
Each of us should strive for perfection. Not a career but in terms of getting closer to G – d. We were created with a Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer HaRah and it is up to us making the right choice. G – d doesn’t demand a 100 % perfection from us but we should, at least, make an effort. Not every person has the same potential and skills. What others are able to accomplish, I may never be able to but it is important to set your own goals in life and work them out step by step. 
The Ramchal, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, writes in one of his essays on Reward & Punishment:
The human race is unique among all other species insofar as it was given a free will … As a result of this, man has an additional quality that does not exist among any other species, namely, that his deeds are recompensed measure for measure. 
We could get the idea that we are no criminals but just an average person with ups and downs in life. What we mostly forget is our decision making influenced by pride, arrogance or selfishness. There are many character traits influencing our behaviour in various situations.
People like to search for definite answers they can grasp. However, when it comes to Reward & Punishment or even Teshuva, there is no real answer but it depends on each of us. Every Jew has a different Teshuva and Reward & Punishment is up to G – d. Only He decides and I love that because He is the only one who really knows why and in what situation we did such an such.
I know it is hard and we get distracted many times but we should try to improve as much as we can and refrain from giving up too fast ! 
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