The Righteous Delusion

Parashat Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34)

As the final reading and concluding note to the book of Vayikra (Leviticus), Parashat Bechukotai  (which means, "in my decrees") makes a final appeal to the Children of Israel by listing out a series of blessings and curses related to whether or not they would be faithful to the terms of the covenant made with them at Sinai. Blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. One unique component about this portion is its use of the Hebrew word keiri (קרי). The word is used only seven times in the entire Bible, but only in our current Torah portion. Here is its first appearance:

Then if you walk contrary (keiri) to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. (Leviticus 26:21)

In each of these instances it is used in relationship to living a life not in accordance to the Torah. The way it's typically translated is related to being contrary, hostile or stubborn. Since it seems like the Torah is speaking of a rebellious person, it seems obvious that our word in question should be translated along these lines. However, Rashi, the medieval Jewish scholar and commentator, suggests something entirely different. According to Rashi and his knowledge of Hebrew, keiri has the connotation of casualness or passiveness. This makes for a very different understanding of these passages.

Rashi helps us understand what this means by saying that just as some things appear to happen "by chance," so too will our Torah observance become. In other words, we will behave casually toward the commandments and their performance, and therefore Hashem will act casually toward us. 

We are living in the days of keiri, casualness toward Hashem's Torah. Our generation has brought God down to our level. He is no longer holy and revered. We know His requirements, but we are casual in living a spiritually disciplined life. Although we may know the Torah, living out its principles is seldom on our radar. James, the brother of the Master, reminds us of the danger of this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)

R. Chiyya taught his disciples something similar. He said, "He who learns [Torah] with no intention of practicing had been better unborn." The Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) is clever. It does its best to makes us think that we are acting righteously even when we are apathetic about living according the Scriptures. It creates a delusion that is nearly impossible to break through. How can we ever hope to escape its influence? The Midrash tells us that the Torah itself is a protection against the Yetzer Hara. It says that the Torah was given for the purpose of refining man and learning to overcome the negative influence of the Yetzer Hara (Gen. Rabbah 44:1). R. Acha gives us a key as to how this works: 

He who learns with the intention of practicing will be privileged to receive the Holy Spirit. As it is written, So that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. [Joshua 1:8] (Leviticus Rabbah 35:7)

Maybe we've been learning for the wrong reasons. Are we studying Torah for intellectual stimulation or simply to fit in the classification of being "Messianic"? Or are we studying for application? Because if we're not studying for the sake of application, then we are not fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to work within us. We are simply prolonging the exile, delaying the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and denying the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom on earth. When we study the Torah portions, let's look for application so that the Holy Spirit will be able to use us to change the world through changing ourselves first.

Chazak! Chazak! V'nitchazeik! 
Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!