Bechukosai – A Story about A Life of Giving

This dvar Torah is based on a shmuz I heard many, many years ago from Rav Moshe Chait zt”l.
 Towards the end of this week’s Torah portion of Bechukosai, which is the last portion of the Book of Vayikra, it states: “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, if a man articulates a vow to Hashem regarding an evaluation of living beings” (Vayikra 27:2). This pasuk refers to a person who isn’t just making a vow, but is evaluating how much he should give as part of a pledge of donation to the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash.
 A Medrish Rabba (37:2) expounds on this pasuk and the Maharz”u says it is a kind of contrast to the value of a human being. The medrish says that the deeds of a man will be repaid for the actions he shows in his lifetime, and the manner a person seeks to walk, he will find that path. The deeds and actions will be the reward for the person, and the way one was is the way he will find them.

The medrish brings a story to explain this point: There was once an incident with a man that had two sons. One of them always did the mitzvah of tzedaka and the other never gave tzedaka. One time the son that always gave tzedaka sold his house and all of his property and gave it to tzedaka. On Hoshana Rabba his wife gave him ten coins and said to her husband, ‘Go out and buy something for your children.’ When he went to the market the gabbai tzedaka spotted him and came over. He said, ‘Here comes the mitzva man!’ He then asked the man to please contribute to a mitzva of supporting a certain orphan in need. The man gave the collector the ten coins, but was ashamed to go home emptyhanded. He was scared and didn’t know what to do. So, he went to a shul and found the esrogim that were left behind on the last day of Sukkos, which were pretty much worthless. The children would take these extra lulavim and use them as toys to hit things with, and the esrogim they used to eat. The man collected a bag full of esrogs. He then decided to take a voyage across the sea to the capital of the country he lived in. When he got there something had happened and the king had a stomach ailment. The king had a dream that he had to eat citrons (esrogs) which Jews had at this time of the year. Only then would he be healed. The king’s advisors scoured the town for the esrogs but couldn’t find any. They kept on searching and finally stumbled upon this man sitting on a sack full of esrogs. They asked him if he had anything to sell. He said he was poor. They asked to search his sack. Upon searching they asked what are these? So he answered that they were used for the Jewish holiday. They took him to the king who ate from the esrogs and was cured. The advisors emptied the esrogs and filled the man’s bag with coins. The king was so happy about all that transpired that he told the man he can take anything he wishes. The Jew said, ‘Give me back my esrogs and I will give you back the money.’ The king was so impressed with his humility and lack of care for money he paraded him around the country and announced that everyone should come to greet him. Included in those coming out to greet him was his brother and brother’s children. As they were crossing a bridge over a river a title wave came and wiped them out. This man wound up inheriting his brother’s estate. This is what the pasuk in Iyov (34:11) means when it says, “For the action of a person, He will pay him for.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
This Chaza”l is telling us that a person can have something worthless, and it is really priceless.

Towards the end of “the rebuke,” which was part of the first part of the Torah portion, Hashem says that if you follow My commandments then you will get all the rewards listed above. Chaza”l say that even though “the rebuke” looks bleak, you don’t know the results. We think things are against our wishes and we pray for the better. But you don’t know what the end result will be, what will happen to you. If you hold on to the mitzvos and emuna (faith) then those misfortunes could turn into benefits.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder