| Parshah |

Parshas Bechukosai: New and Improved

The tragedy of this world is when people live their lives in a circle


“If you follow My chukim and keep My commandments and perform them.” (Vayikra 26:3)


The first 11 pesukim in this parshah contain a listing of the brachos that will be bestowed upon Klal Yisrael when they are deserving of them. Every letter of the alef-beis appears in these 11 pesukim, with the exception of the letter samech, that does not appear at all.
The same thing holds true in the first perek of Sefer Bereishis. Within the pesukim discussing Brias Ha’olam, every letter of the alef-beis appears (including the final letters), except the samech.
Another interesting thing to note is that of the many thousands of pesukim in the Torah, there are only two pesukim that begin with the letter samech, which in itself is highly unusual. These two pesukim relate to the Cheit Ha’eigel and Cheit Hameraglim. 
On the same lines, while the kinnos we say on Tishah B’Av morning follow the order of the alef-beis, the first kinnah is an exception. It begins with the word “suru,” starting with the letter samech. It seems that the samech only appears in connection to misdeeds. What is the deeper meaning of this concept? (Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shiurim al Chumash)

Been there, done that. Our society is defined by a sense of ennui, bored and disinterested as we scrabble about the hamster wheel we call life. Round and round we go, but where we get to, nobody knows.

I recently was chatting with a distant relative who shared that she was planning on attending a class reunion. Aubrey was traditional, never married or had kids (“I left that to the professionals,” she claims), and was bemoaning the upcoming reunion as a waste of time. “No one ever changes from year to year,” she said. Her comment left me uneasy.

I would like to share with you a thought I heard from Rav Moshe Shapira. The samech is shaped like a circle. If you draw a line, the line can go anywhere, up and down, twist and turn. When you draw a circle, however, no matter how much you twist and turn, you come back to the original point.

I know I live 7,000 miles away from most of my classmates, but if I were to attend a reunion, wouldn’t we all be different than we used to be? I know I have some new lines on my face, some extra pounds, and the bifocals I detest. But even beyond that, I can’t be the same person I was back then, can I? If life’s experiences haven’t made me wiser, what good were they?

The tragedy of this world is when people live their lives in a circle. They just go around and come back to the same place where they were. They aren’t really heading anywhere. Every day is like the day before; they eat, they sleep, they earn, they spend, and their life is heading nowhere.
So the samech is a symbol of a pathetic life, a sad life, the life of an ant that just provides for its young and then disappears, while its offspring does the same. That should not be the life of a human being. In the gashmi world, the physical world is full of circles. All of nature is a cycle. But the samech, the circle, is not desirable in a spiritual life.

This past Friday, my daughter called and asked if I would mind last-minute company; they wanted to come for Shabbos. Mind? Why would I mind? I’d love that! So there I was, Friday night before the seudah, sitting on the couch snuggling with my latest granddaughter. I breathed in the heady scent of newborn baby, the soft velvet of her skin and the sweet sound of her gentle breathing as she lay cuddled in my arms. Shouldn’t this be boring already? Same old, same old, no? I’ve held many newborns before.  Why does each one evoke excitement, awe, and wonder anew?

She opened her tiny mouth, gave a delicate yawn, and I kissed the tip of her button nose, realizing what I should have responded to Aubrey. The answer was right there in the promise of the future. We both, my granddaughter and I, were not the same old. She was the new, and I… hopefully, I was the improved version.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 895)

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