Shabbat is more than a day of refraining from worldly activity.

When experienced to its spiritual fullest, its holiness enlightens all other days of the week.

We invite you to enhance your Shabbat with these words of Torah.


Painting of the old city of Jerusalem

Parashat Bechukotai

Parashat Bechukotai

Morrison, Rabbi Chanan, adapted from Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
May 30, 2024

The purpose of the Jewish people living together in Israel is to demonstrate on a national level their mission of bringing Divine influence to the world. When they can no longer fulfill their mission in the land of Israel, Hashem sends them into exile, where they must recognize while scattered across the world that they are indeed different from all other nations.        

Why Exile?

The Torah warns us that if we fail to listen to God and keep His mitzvot, we will be punished with famine, war, and ultimately — exile.

“I will scatter you among the nations, and keep the sword drawn against you. Your land will remain desolate, and your cities in ruins.” (Lev. 26:33)

Why should the Jewish people be punished with exile? To answer this question, we must first understand the true significance of residing in the Land of Israel. If the goal of the Jewish people is to bring ethical monotheism to the world, would their mission not be more effectively fulfilled when they are scattered among the nations?

The Purpose of Israel in their Land

There is… a unique reason for the Jewish people to live in the Land of Israel. They need to dwell together in the Land so that there will be a nation in the world… for whom Divine providence is revealed in its history and circumstances…

For the Jewish people to fulfill their national destiny… The nation must recognize its special mission as God’s people living in His land. When the Jewish people as a whole abandoned God, even though many individuals still kept some of the mitzvot, the nation had lost their distinctive mark. The land was no longer recognizable as God’s land, and the nation was no longer recognizable as God’s nation… 

At that point, the Jewish people required exile. They needed to wander among the nations, stripped of all national assets. During this exile, they discovered that they are different and distinct from all other peoples. They realized that the essence of their nationhood contains a special quality; and that special quality is God’s Name that is associated with them.

Staying in Babylonia

We find in the Talmud (Shabbat 41a) a startling opinion regarding the nature of exile… Rabbi Yehudah taught that anyone leaving Babylonia for the Land of Israel transgresses the positive command, “They will be carried to Babylon, and there they shall stay, until the day that I remember them” (Jeremiah 27:22)… Why did Rabbi Yehudah think that moving to the Land of Israel was so improper?

Babylonia at that time was the world center of Torah study… This great revival of Torah learning instilled a profound recognition of the true essence of the Jewish people. As such, Babylonia was the key to the redemption of Israel and their return to their land. Only when the Jewish people fully assimilate this lesson will the exile have fulfilled its purpose, and the Jewish people will be able to return to their land.

Rabbi Yehudah felt that individuals, even if they have already prepared themselves sufficiently for the holiness of the Land of Israel, should nonetheless remain in Babylonia… 

For Rabbi Yehudah, each individual Jew is like a Temple vessel. A vessel cannot fulfill its true purpose by itself, without the overall framework of a functioning Temple. So too, an individual can only join in the renascence of Israel in their Holy Land when the entire nation has been restored in its Land, via divine redemption.


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