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IMMERSION IN TORAH IS NOT ABOUT MITZVOT

June 2nd, 2016

The first phrase of the first pasuk in Parshat Bechukotai seems to be superfluous, at least once one reaches the second phrase. The whole portion discusses how our collective fate will be determined through an adherence to mitzvot, or the opposite. So why mention “chukotai” – “My statutes”? Surely all the Torah’s statutes are included in the more general noun “mitzvot”, found in the next phrase?

Rashi suggests that “chukotai” refers to ‘immersion in Torah’? But why would this be a separate category? More importantly, why doesn’t God simply instruct us to observe the chukim/mitzvot, or suffer the consequences? Why introduce it as a conditional proposition?

The commentators use various Talmudic and Midrashic sources to make sense of it all, and in the process introduce us to various crucial concepts relating to how we behave as Jews, and how our Torah observance is not a personal affair, but something that can have universal and even cosmic consequences.

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