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Shalom and Bracha!

   This Shabbat we read the portion of Bechukotai, it is the Shabbat before Lag B’omer, and we conclude the book of Vayikra. All of the above have a relevance to the preparation for Shavuot and the receiving of the Torah.

  The Shabbat when we conclude a book of the Torah is referred to as “Shabbat Chazak.” At the conclusion of the reading, it is customary for the entire congregation to call out “Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazeik” which mean “let us be mighty with strength and power. This is because everything that we complete in service of Hashem should give us new strength to go further and reach higher ends. This is particularly underscored this Shabbat, when we finish the third book of Torah, because in Jewish law something which occurs three times is considered a Chazakah, a reliable probability. The number three also bears a special significance to the giving of the Torah, which is threefold (Torah, Prophets and Holy Writings) and was given to a three part people (Kohen, Levi and Israel) in the third month after three days of preparation.

  The portion of Bechukotai is always read shortly before Shavuot because it discusses the weight of the Torah we are to receive. The portion begins with the promise that in reward for diligent Torah study with the intent to follow and observe, Hashem will provide all of our earthly needs. The Torah proceeds with warnings about abrogating the Torah. Seemingly, this is contrary to the principal that one should not serve Hashem in order to receive a reward, but rather to for the very sake of Hashem’s service. The Rambam explains that the Torah is assuring us that by serving Hashem properly; Hashem will remove all obstacles that hinder our concentration and devotion. This is also alluded to by the fact that conclusion of the blessings is “I will place My dwelling amongst you…I will be your G-d and You will be my people”. This teaches that the blessings lead to a more perfect bond with G-d.

  The Midrash explains that the blessings in the portion parallel the time of Adam in the Garden of Eden and refer to the time of Moshiach. Among the blessings are that the earth will yield fruits upon planting, food will have a miraculous ability to satiate,  vicious animals will cease to attack, and Hashem will grant peace in the land. The comparison of Moshiach’s time to the time of Adam has a connection to the Torah. The Midrash teaches that the light in the Garden of Eden was too great for mundane mankind and Hashem hid it in the Torah. Through diligent study of the Torah, we reach this light and merit the return of the blessings that accompanied it.

  This Sunday is Lag B’omer, the day of passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. He was the author of the Zohar, the first major work explaining the Torah according to the Kabbalah. Diligent study of the Torah includes the study of the inner meaning of the verses and the Mitzvot. Furthermore, the hidden light of the Torah is primarily in the inner meanings. The stern warnings of this week’s portion are read near to Lag B’omer because the inner teachings of Torah reveal the blessings hidden within the curses

   May we immediately see the fulfillment of the blessing of peace in the land accompanied by all of the other blessings with the coming of Moshiach!

 Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to the honorees

A project of Chabad of Great Neck

400 East Shore Rd.

Great Neck NY 11024

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