Good evening and welcome to The Real World.
Chazal tell us that before Shavuos and Rosh Hashana, we read parshios about curses and tochacha because תכלה שנה וקללותיה, let the old year be finished with its curses. This week, we read the tochacha of Parshas Bechukosai because Shavuos, like Rosh Hashana, ushers in a new year.
Every pasuk in the Torah is laden with meaning, hope, and relevance. One of the pesukim of tochacha warns: you shall flee, but none pursue. You will be running away from nothing. This is the curse of rustling of the leaves sending a person into a panic, but in reality, nothing is even there.
This appears to be a bracha! Running away from nothing is definitely better than running away from something. To visualize this, sometimes a person runs away from a dog or person chasing them, but when they turn around they realize that nothing is even there. While it is true that it is very frightening, very often a person is relieved to see that nothing there puts them in danger!
The Gaon explains that in Halacha, the one chasing is referred to as a רודף and the one fleeing is referred to as a נרדף. The passuk teaches ואלוקים יבקש את נרדף, the Ribbono Shel Olam is with the one that is oppressed. Whether the one being chased is in the right or wrong, the Ribbono Shel Olam is with them because someone is out to get them.
The Gaon explains that in this curse, the “נרדף” is running from nothing, so they aren’t a נרדף at all! Therefore, they do not get the siyata dishmaya that comes with being a נרדף.
Everybody has been in situations where they have been a victim. Whether it was when someone was nasty to them, bullied one of their kids, didn’t include them in a simcha, or made them feel insignificant- it is a situation that is familiar to all. We have to appreciate what it means when we get knocked down and the siyata dishmaya that comes with it.
The Gemara famously tells the story of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa’s wife who did not have enough money to bake bread for Shabbat. She put a pot of water onto the stove, so that smoke would drift out of her chimney to give the appearance that she had what to bake. An antagonizing neighbor came over to “borrow” something from her kitchen and in the process, approached to “check” what she was baking. When she opened the pot, she found dough rising. Hashem made a miracle and the pot filled with loaves of bread and a mixing bowl full of kneaded loaves.
Rav Meilech Biderman highlights that it was Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa’s wife’s embarrassment that allowed her to merit this miracle! The Gemara teaches that when that neighbor came in, Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa’s wife ran into her room and locked the door because she was so humiliated. That humiliation brought the nes!
This is the Gaon’s message on this week’s parsha. The gift of being chased, of being broken down, and of being humiliated is never something that we daven for; we don’t want to be in that situation. But when it happens, don’t take it for granted- it is a gift!