Parshat Behar - Bechukotai
Parshat Bechukotai begins with the words:
אִם-בְּחֻקֹּתַי, תֵּלֵכוּ; וְאֶת-מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם
If you will walk in accordance with My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them. What is the real difference between these two clauses of "im b'chokotai taileichcu" and "v'et mitzvotai Tishmoru?" Rashi explains that since the second clause "v'et mitzvotai Tishmoru" is clearly speaking about mitzvah observance (and you should observe my mitzvot), the first pasuk must be referring to something else. Rashi's observation is that since the second clause of observing commandments speaks about mitzvah observance, the first clause "if you walk in accordance with my statues" must refer to something else. Rashi quotes the Sifra (the midrash Halakha on Vayikra) and explains the first phrase of "im b'chokotai taileichchu" as a reference to beameilim baTorah - to be engaged in intensive Torah study, to walk with it, routinely.
Why is this type of intensive study connected with chukim? Because, this is what one does daily: There needs to be a sense of urgency and intensity when one learns Torah.
The Kli Yakar explains that there is a linguistic basis for understanding chukim as a daily routine. In Mishlei, Perek 30, pasuk 8, we learn the phrase לחם חוקי - "my daily bread." The word chukotai, according to the Kli Yakar refers to an uninterrupted, daily, rigorous involvement in Torah study. This, does not require full day learning on the part of the people. Rather, it should be daily scheduled learning that one engages in daily. To be "k'viat Ittim laTorah" - to establish set times for learning Torah." As it says: "teileichuchu" - this refers to day to day commitment. Consistent walking, with devotion to Torah. This intensive involvement in Torah has the capacity to deepen an attachment to the giver of the Torah and the deep devotion and emotional strength to not run away from serious effort - a condition which is necessary to truly succeed in Torah learning, to not give up. Torah life is not always easy or convenient. Being ameilim baTorah allows us to exercise discipline and confront challenges in mitzvah observance without running away from them. While the "interesting" and easily accessible topics for learning can provide for more entertainment and easier accessibiity to learning, we need to train our children and ourselves to not skip over the more intricate and detail oriented subjects of Torah. The idea of Ameilut, challenges us to work with patience and dedication to what might not come naturally. Toiling in Torah will bring the greatest reward: L'fum tza'arah Agrah: According to the effort is the reward. This helps prepare us all for the challenges of religious life and commitment to observance of Hashem's mitzvot. As we near the end of the seven week counting of the Omer, and move closer to re-experiencing the Matan Torah moment, let us find a way to incorporate this teaching of being ameilim baTorah in our daily lives. The entire nation was directed to engage in and devote oneself to routinely be involved in learning. Be it learning a d'var Torah, a pasuk in the Torah, a line in a Gemara, daf yomi, a parsha or somewhere in between - whatever one dedicates him or herself to do, let it be more than a cognitive act, but, a consistent learning which seeks to deepen one's thought and create a meaningful bond with Hashem. In this way, we gain a more profound appreciation for the gift of the Torah we received on Har Sinai and this motivates us for Mitzvah observance, "v'et mitzvotai tishmoru". Shabbat Shalom.