Monday, May 10, 2010

the connection between tochacha and archin

Someone asked me on Shabbos why the parsha of archin follows the tochacha – what does one thing have to do with the other? The Rishonim ask this question and explain (see Rashbam in particular, also Ramban, Abarbanel) that the tochacha is primarily a punishment for failure to observe shemita. Rashi writes that the length of the galus predicted by the tochacha corresponds exactly to the years of shemita and yovel that were not observed properly by the Jewish people. The tochacha is therefore connected with the laws of shemita that open Parshas BeHar. The close of Bechukosai, with its discussion of the assessment of the value of property, returns the discussion to the laws of yovel. Since a field will return to its original owner at the yovel, its value must be assessed relative to when the next yovel will be.

It is a bit difficult to understand, however, why the Torah inserted the tochacha between the sections that deal with yovel. Abarbanel addresses this point, but I like the idea suggested by the Ishbitza. The theme of the parsha of archin is pidyon – redemption of pledges. The Ishbitza suggests that the idea of redemption should be understood more generally. Faced with a disheartening list of punishments, the Torah ends the parsha by telling us that all is lost; there is always an opportunity to redeem onself. Excluding the first pasuk of "Vayidaber Hashem el Moshe…" and the last pasuk which closes the parsha, there is an exact pasuk by pasuk match between the thirty-three pesukim of parshas archin and the thirty-three pesukim of tochacha. Every punishment has an escape clause should a person sincerely return to Hashem.

My wife thought of a slightly different formulation along these same lines. By connecting archin to tochacha perhaps the Torah is teaching that punishment itself is a means of redemption. G-d does not punish merely to cause pain; he punishes for the sake of kaparah and to teach us to change our ways.

1 comment:

  1. Baal Haturim says there are a total of 143 tochochos between bechukosai and Ki Savo. Siilarly, if one pays all payable moneys listen in Parshas Erchin, it comes to 143. This is Tzedaka tatzil Mimaves.

    The Chozeh of Lublin explains that after tochocho people feel worthless, so Torah reassures us.