Engraving Judaism into our lives

Insight into: Parsha Bechukotai



What is Chasidism? Many people perceive Chasidim as a movement that stresses simcha, serving G‑d with joy. Others will say it's the Ahavat Yisrael, unconditional love to each and every Jew. Very few know that Chasidus has an intellectual dimension.


The Torah can be learned on many levels. We can read the verses literally and try to make sense of often, difficult concepts. The next level would be to use the Talmud and classic commentaries, such as Rashi and Nachmanides, to understand the Torah's intent on each verse. Chasidic teachings help us uncover the neshama (soul) of the Torah. 

This week's parsha, Bechukotai, provides us with a perfect example of this. The parsha begins with G‑d telling the Jewish people: (Leviticus, 26:3) If you will walk in the ways of My Laws, then I will reward you with great blessings, peace in the land etc. And if you will not follow in My ways, then ... a whole list of punishments follow. 

Chasidus examines the name of the parsha Bechukotai. In Hebrew, the word bechukotai has more than one meaning. It could mean laws, as it is literally translated, but it can also mean engraving, chakikah. 

There are two ways to put something in writing. We can take pen to paper, ink to parchment, and transcribe the words. This is the way the Torah scrolls and mezuzot are written. In this manner, we are taking two separate entities and combining them as one. Very often, however, some of the words get erased or become unclear. 

A different method is engraving. When you engrave letters into a stone, the letters and the stone are one entity. The letters are now a part of the stone itself, just like the Ten Commandments were engraved on the two tablets that Moses received on Mount Sinai. 

These letters can never be erased. 

Chasidism teaches us that every Jew is a living Torah. But with which method the words of G‑d are written on his heart and mind n that is up to each one of us. We can utilize the written method or the engraved method. 

Some have the "ink-and-parchment" attitude, where they and their Judaism are two separate identities. Whenever they have a chance, they insert some Judaism in their lives. "If I'm available, then I'll do this mitzvah …" 

The harder, but more secure, method is the engraved way. This is when Judaism is a part of you in everything that you do. An "engraved Jew" will turn his vacation into a Jewish experience. Engraved Jews will light the Shabbat candles no matter where they are n college, a cruise … Judaism is just a part of who he or she is. 

There is more to this parsha than just observing mitzvot. It's about engraving Judaism into our lives.

Printed for the Cleveland Jewish News