BeHukotai (In My Statutes) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion
In A Nutshell
The portion, BeHukotai (In My Statutes), deals primarily with the topic of reward and punishment for the children of Israel according to their behavior—whether they follow the ways of the Creator. It is written, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and do them” (Leviticus, 26:3). The portion begins with presenting the reward: “Then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit” (Leviticus, 26:4). Opposite that is the presentation of the punishment: “But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments” (Leviticus, 26:14), “I will appoint terror over you: the tuberculosis and the malaria,” (Leviticus, 26:16), and the worst punishment of all—exile.
If the people of Israel repent, the Creator promises to remember the covenant He has made with them and forgive them. It is written, “Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God” (Leviticus, 26:44). The portion ends with additional laws concerning vows, ostracism, tithing, and others.
The issue of reward and punishment was not presented at the beginning of the Torah because it is impossible to understand it unless you are able to make free choice. Without this ability it is pointless to instructions on this issue. First you must learn the laws and judgments. Then, if you keep them you will be rewarded, and if not, you will be punished. You cannot punish in advance. First one needs to reach the spiritual degree of shifting from unfounded hatred to brotherly love, to “love your neighbor as yourself,” which is the whole Torah. This is the way we must walk: we must correct our evil inclination and turn it into a good inclination through the light that reforms, by studying the wisdom of Kabbalah, the wisdom of light.
An ordinary person does not have free choice. Rather, such a person is “managed” by Reshimot (recollections), which are desires and thoughts that awaken within without knowing their origin. A person simply wants something without knowing the source of that desires, living one’s life aiming to satisfy the desire that awakens within without any ability to rise above those Reshimot, these bits of data, or govern them.
Such people cannot scrutinize and sort: I want this but I do not … as it is written, “And you will not follow after your own heart” (Numbers, 15:39). Rather they do it as a natural instinct, as part of the process of development. This sort of work does not require reward or punishment. This is why it is written, “They are as beasts” (Psalms, 49:13).
A person begins to develop through the Torah—by studying the wisdom of Kabbalah and drawing the light that reforms, thus correcting the heart. The heart is all the desires we must correct from aiming to receive for ourselves to aiming to bestow, to love of others, in favor of the world and in equivalence of form with the Creator—similarity with Him, as good as He is.
We do not feel this goodness because it is hidden from us. Through our egos we feel everything as bad, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination.” We are required to gain extensive knowledge and experience in order to correct ourselves so we can control our inclinations and thoughts, to aim those lights, those upper forces, and connect with the right approach, in mutuality and partnership with the Creator. By that we adhere to the Creator, connect with Him, understand the purpose, the plan of creation, everything that is happening, and the process we must undergo.
In the physical world we teach children until they are twenty years old or so. According to the Torah, at twenty, a child is ready for everything, unlike at thirteen. At twenty years of age we can control everything and be in our own right. That degree gives one the ability to withstand any correction in spirituality, face the reward and the punishment.
We cannot tell a person who knows nothing, “Be careful or you will be punished.” That person is like a little child who has no idea what is being asked. Therefore, reward and punishment requires serious preparation.
This portion comes after a person has gone through a lot, the exit from Babylon, the development leading to the exile in Egypt, the reception of the Torah, and so forth. Following the learning in the desert, a person seemingly rises a little above the ego, gradually reaching the state of reward and punishment.
Today the whole world is in a process and a system that are in fact, reward and punishment. All 613 Mitzvot (commandments) are to correct the evil in us toward others. We are all good to ourselves and to an extent, mean to others. We must invert it, become considerate only of others because this is the only way is go from “The love of man to the love of God.”
Many people doubt that it is even true that if they correct their attitude toward others, as in “love your neighbor as yourself,” which is the great rule of Torah, all the problems and illnesses, and all the bad in the world will be corrected.
Can we prevent diseases and plagues by correcting our relations? Will the climate suddenly change for the better and we will live in paradise? What is the connection between treating others well and a good life in every sense and on every level?
This is just how it works—keeping the law, “love your neighbor as yourself,” corrects everything; there are no other Mitzvot. All 613 Mitzvot are the 613 desires in our soul. They appear when we begin to correct and rise above our “beasts” in the correction of the human in us, in our desire to connect with others, to give them abundance, desiring to rise above ourselves in order to discover the Creator.
As we come to know the 613 desires of the soul, we discover that they are all bad. This is why we say during the days of the Selihot (asking forgiveness, special days before Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement]) and on Yom Kippur, “We are to blame,” “We are at fault,” without understanding where all this evil came from.
As we discover our soul, we first discover that it is broken. This is how we receive it because “I have created the evil inclination.” If we correct these desires we will not need to correct anything else, and all the problems will vanish and disappear.
It is written in the portion that if they follow it they will have rain in time, health, and success in everything they do. They will be blessed in everything. It seems perplexing that there is a connection between rain and good behavior, especially if we are talking about treatment of others. And yet, this is the general solution for everyone.
According to the development of humanity, we are in a state where we are begin to take control over our fates, something we did not have before. It is surprising because we have always developed through desires that appeared from within.
Today, however, we are moving into a very special situation where the next degree is appearing to us, the degree of the “round,” integral world where everyone is interconnected, and where the obligation to be “as one man with one heart” is appearing.
For the first time in history we must implement this law, and not only in Israel, but throughout the world. Therefore, we must tell about it and explain to everyone, learn, to teach, and be the “light of the nations” (Isaiah, 42:6). We must convey the light that corrects the evil inclination, and this is how the whole world will achieve the desirable correction.
Questions and Answers
If I can see and feel the reward or punishment, there is no need to explain. If I mistakenly put my hand in the fire, I will naturally pull it out. But if I cannot see or feel the transgression, what is the point of explaining it? I cannot keep what I do not know, so what are the reward and punishment for, and for whom is the explanation?
We are not talking about putting our hand in the fire. We are talking about correcting our egoistic desires. Each desire is luring us to what appears as good so we will profit at the expense of others, consider only ourselves, and never give a thought to what happens outside of us. This is how we feel naturally, namely that the world was created for our own pleasure. But the Torah requires the opposite—that we rise above the ego and transform into “love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is why we must obtain Arvut (mutual guarantee) between us, Arvut that was the initial precondition for the reception of the Torah. Arvut means that I think of everyone and vouch for them. It seems as though the Arvut is like signing for everyone and being responsible for what every person does. This is unreasonable. Yet, this is the degree we must achieve. It is the correction we must eventually obtain.
The world is advancing. Each day we are discovering that it is changing toward demanding this of us. The Torah explains that if we do this, things will be good, and if we do not, we will be punished. And if we are completely unworthy, we will be exiled.
Exile is complete detachment. It is a state where one is living a harsh life, detached and tormented. These torments are like the torments of Pharaoh, leading us back toward the goal, as was said about Pharaoh, who “brought the children of Israel closer to our Father in heaven.” From this point onward we try once more to rise to the degree of choice.
It is best if we learn in advance what to do and how, and on what it depends. We need to learn the general law of reality using the wisdom of Kabbalah, which explains how the forces act on us, how they are set up, and how they rear us as embryos and as growing children.
As we are advancing toward that state, we must take upon ourselves the laws of this vast reality, and keep it consciously and willingly. In other words, we have to change our desires, as it is written, “Make your wish as His wish.”
The world is in a very difficult state today. If we look at where we are and at what lies ahead, we will feel obliged to make that leap of faith and spread the wisdom of Kabbalah.
From The Zohar: If You Walk in My Statutes
“If you walk in My statutes.” “In My statutes” is Malchut, the place upon which the sentences of the Torah depend, as it is written, “My statutes shall you keep.” Malchut is called “law.” The sentences of the Torah are included in her. “My ordinances shall you keep.” An ordinance is another, high place, ZA, to which that statute, Malchut, grips. Thus, upper and lower conjoin. The statutes in Malchut are in the ordinances in ZA, and all the Mitzvot [commandments] in the Torah and all the sentences in the Torah and all the sanctities in the Torah are gripped to these ZA and Malchut, since the written Torah is ZA and the oral Torah is Malchut.
Zohar for All, BeHukotai (In My Statutes), item 16
Malchut is called the “Assembly of Israel” because she assembles all our souls. She is also called Shechina (Divinity) because the Creator is in her. She becomes revealed by the law of equivalence of form.
The Creator is called “The Holy One Blessed Be He,” Zeir Anpin. Toward Malchut, it is her upper one, and the upper one is always considered the “emanator.” Our work is only to correct Malchut (kingdom/kingship) as it is written, “To correct [also establish] the world in the kingdom of Shadai [the Lord].”
The world is concealed, and we must make everything revealed. Shadai means She Dai (enough), meaning under limitations. When Malchut clings to Zeir Anpin there will be Zivug (coupling), connection between them. This will connect the Creator and the Shechina, Zeir Anpin and Malchut, law and ordinance, the written Torah and the oral Torah. Everything will connect.
It is not the Torah that we know as a printed book or as text on parchment. Rather, the Torah is a revelation of the Creator to the creature. According to our level of revelation, we have the written Torah and the oral Torah, either at the level of Malchut or at the level of Zeir Anpin. The Zohar relates to our ascent from souls scattered in the worlds Beria, Yetzira, Assiya, to the collection of our souls, desires, our cravings to reveal the Creator, to rise to His degree, when all of us gather in Malchut, the Assembly of Israel. By the force of our desire to be together we compel Malchut to rise to Zeir Anpin and unite with him. This is how we achieve Dvekut with the Creator.
Do reward and punishment indicate where we are not acting according to nature’s laws, so nature acts toward us in an unfavorable manner?
We live in the world we have built for us. Even now we are standing right before the light of Ein Sof (infinity). The world is a projection of our own qualities. The Creator fills everything; we only feel the world outside and others. That is, we only feel our own qualities: still, vegetative, animate, and speaking, projecting various shades on the abstract light, which we see as the image of the world. We have no idea how truly immersed we are in that depiction, in the charade. We build our world by ourselves. The wisdom of Kabbalah often writes about it, such as in Baal HaSulam’s “Preface to the Book of Zohar,” and in the ARI’s Gate to Intentions.
Today even science is saying that to the extent that we correct ourselves, we see an opposite world. If we change one of our qualities from bad to good, we will see a different world. This is how we correct all the desires that the light that reforms shows us. Of course, it is impossible to correct them alone, but one can ask for the correction and sympathize with it, and thus achieve the corrected state.
In other words, the animate degree that humanity is currently in must pass away and rise to a higher degree, called Adam (human). Only then will we understand what reward and punishment truly are feel them.
When and how will that transformation take place?
It will happen only through disseminating the wisdom of Kabbalah, as the Kabbalists write. This is why the Kabbalists hid it until now, as Baal HaSulam writes in his essay, “Time to Act.” Today we must disseminate the wisdom and correct ourselves, as well as work for the correction of the world, thus being a “light for the nations.”
Is this the natural flow of humanity?
Of course, we have to do it. It is the future of the whole of humanity. In the near future all of us will have to make that change. First, the people of Israel will dispel anti-Semitism and the negative attitude toward Israel that is prevailing in the world today.
Actually, anti-Semitism is a natural attitude, which will only worsen as the ego grows and the people of Israel delay the correction. Israel will be blamed for the world not being in good condition. It is arranged this way from above. The world is feeling it subconsciously, and we are witnessing reflections of that accusation on a daily basis.
From The Zohar: Seven Times More for Your Sins
The Creator’s sublime love for Israel is like a king who had an only son who sinned before the king. One day, he sinned before the king. The king said, “All those days I have been striking you but you did not receive. Henceforth, see what I will do to you. If I expel you from the land and take you out of the kingdom, bears might charge you in the field, or wild wolves or murderers could obliterate you from the world. What should I do? Instead, you and I will go out of the land.”
“You and I will leave the land and go into exile.” This is what the Creator said to Israel. “What shall I do with you? I have stricken you but you would not listen; I have brought upon you enemies at war and harm-doers to strike you, but you would not listen. If I take you out of the land alone, I fear that several bears and several wolves will rise against you and obliterate you from the world. But what shall I do with you? Thus, you and I will leave the land and go into exile, as it is written, ‘And I will chastise you,’ to go into exile. And if you say that I will leave you, I, too, am with you.”
Zohar for All, BeHukotai (In My Statutes), item 49-50
The above text does not concern exile from the plot of land we live on and call “the land of Israel.” rather; it is exile from the spiritual land of Israel. The word Eretz (land) comes from the word Ratzon (desire). Ysrael (Israel) comes from the words Yashar El (straight to God). We want to correct all of our 613 desires one at a time, so they all aim Yashar El, in order to bestow, like the Creator.
It is called being in the “complete land of Israel.” As long as we want to correct our desires so they are Israel, we will be worthy of being in those desires, as well as in the physical land of Israel. Baal HaSulam writes that we have received the land of Israel and the state of Israel as an advance so we may begin the correction. However, we have not actually won it, and if we do not carry out the correction, it will be taken away from us.
 Jerusalem Talmud, Seder Nashim, Masechet Nedarim, Chapter 9, p 30b.
 “Through engaging in it, the light in it would reform them” (Midrash Rabah, Eicha, Introduction, Paragraph 2).
 Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Kidushin, 30b.
 Rav Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “The Love of God and the Love of Man,” p 482.
 RASHI, Exodus, 19b.
 “Who caused Israel to draw near to their father in heaven? It was Pharaoh, as it is written, ‘And Pharaoh drew near’” (Zohar for All, BeShalach (When Pharaoh Sent), item 67)
 Mishnah, Seder Nezikin, Masechet Avot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4
 Likutey Moharan (Assorted sermons of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev), Part 1, 17.