“If you walk in my statutes and keep my commandments, and do them, then I will cause the rain to come at the proper time.”
- Leviticus 26:3
And so the portion of Bechukotai begins. Bechukotai refers to the statutes, or laws, that we should follow, and Mitzvotai to the commandments. What is the difference between laws and commandments, and why do we have to obey certain kinds of both?
The medieval rabbi and Talmud commentator, Rashi, explains that Bechukotai (laws) refers to difficult spiritual work. Studying Kabbalah, helping others, scanning the Zohar, practicing restriction of the ego, using spiritual tools – some of these things are easy and natural for me to engage in. Others, not so much; and these are the things take me out of my comfort zone.
Those spiritual actions that are easy for me to take are the Mitzvotai (commandments), and those that are difficult and take me out of my comfort zone are Bechukotai (laws).
Basically, spiritual work is divided into two parts: what is comfortable to do and what is uncomfortable to do.
The following excerpt from the Vayechi portion of the Zohar further illustrates this concept:
תָּאנָא, מַה יִּתְרוֹן לְאָדָם בְּכָל עֲמָלוֹ, יָכוֹל אַף עֲמָלָה דְאוֹרַיְיתָא, ת"ל שֶׁיַּעֲמוֹל תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ. שָׁאנֵי עֲמָלָה דְאוֹרַיְיתָא, דִּלְעֵילָא מִן שִׁמְשָׁא הוּא. רִבִּי חִיָּיא אֲמַר, אַף עֲמָלָה דְאוֹרַיְיתָא, דְּאִיהוּ עָמָל בְּגִינֵיהוֹן דִּבְנֵי נָשָׁא, אוֹ בְּגִין יְקָרָא דִילֵיהּ, הַאי תַּחַת הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כְּתִיב, דְּהָא לָא סָלֵיק לְעֵילָא. תַּנְיָא אֲמַר ר' אֶלְעָזָר, אֲפִילּוּ אִי ב"נ קַיָּים אֶלֶף שְׁנִין, הַהוּא יוֹמָא דְאִסְתַּלַּק מֵעַלְמָא, דָּמֵי לֵיהּ כְּאִילּוּ לָא אִתְקַיַּים בַּר יוֹמָא חַד.
293. We learned, "What profit has a man of all his labor wherein he labors"(Kohelet 1:3). One may say that this is true also for laboring in the Torah. Yet it is said "wherein he labors under the sun," and the labor in the Torah is different by being above the sun, OF THE SUPERNAL ONES. Rabbi Chiya said, “This is true also for the Torah, THE WORDS "WHAT PROFIT..." if it is done for the sake of people or to gain respect. Of this, it is said "under the sun," for this study of the Torah does not ascend. We learned that Rabbi Elazar said, Even if a man lives to a thousand years, on the day he departs from the world, it would seem to him as if he lived but one day.
Every time the Zohar refers to the sun it is talking about Zeir Anpín (the spiritual worlds). And every time it refers to the moon, it’s talking about Malchut (the physical world).
If we look at the relationship between the moon and the sun, we see the sun has its own light and is not dependent on anyone. The sun has a direct connection with the source of infinite Light, and therefore never ceases to illuminate. The moon, however, depends on the sun to reveal light, since it doesn’t have a connection with the infinite Light.
We connect with the consciousness of the moon when we are expecting to receive something from others through our work. The consciousness of the sun is the consciousness of the unconditional. The work that is comfortable for us is a result of the expectation of receiving something. It may be acceptance, gratitude, or simply the pleasure of pleasing another person. However, when we look for discomfort, it is an indication that we are connecting with the unconditional.
Why does the Torah mention the word ‘rain’? Why does the Creator send us rain (Gishmeijem) and not blessings, Light or happiness? The word Geshem (rain) comes from the word gashmiut (physical matter). The Torah is telling us is that in order to control the physical stuff in our life, we must do the spiritual work that is outside our comfort zone.
To be able to create miracles in our life, we must connect to the level ‘above the sun’, the level that is uncomfortable to us, the level of Bechukotai. However, this does not mean we should stop doing spiritual actions that are comfortable. We must do both! Those actions that are comfortable give us the energy to do those that are uncomfortable.
Rav Berg said that the purpose of spirituality is not just being kind and sharing; we must also reach a level of mind over matter. This is the true purpose of our spiritual work.