Parshat Bechukotai begins, “If you will walk in my statutes to keep my commandments and perform them.” We learn from this that there are three parts to Torah: l’amol, to work at it and study it; lishmor, to know it and protect it within ourselves through consistent review; and v’asitem, to practice it by actually living it. Many people suffer from a form of disconnect. They think that if they are already doing one of the three aspects of Torah then they do not need to do the rest. For instance, if they are practicing Torah, they do not need to study it, or if they are already studying, then review is unnecessary. The yetzer hara tries his best to throw us off. We must not give in to these incorrect rationalizations. Instead, we must work to achieve a balance between all three aspects. Then we will merit the copious blessings enumerated further in the parsha.
The Shem Mishmuel explains that these three aspects of the Torah correspond to the three parts of the human soul: nefesh, ruach, neshama, the biological, emotional, and intellectual levels of our soul. Practicing Torah, v’asitem, rectifies our nefesh, our physical bodies. We put tefilin on our head and arm, we eat matzah, and we sit in the sukka. Our bodies are elevated through the mitzvot.
Aristotle viewed the physical side of man as sordid and the soul as noble. In contrast, the Rambam argued that man has the responsibility to turn this base side into something holy. Our physical selves are a receptacle for the Divine Image. We value life as holy. Doing good deeds with our bodies is the ultimate form of fulfilling Hashem’s will.
Ruach, emotion, is the second level. This corresponds to “Im bechukotai teleichu,” the work involved in keeping Torah. By devoting every extra moment of our time to the sacred obligation of learning Torah we emotionally invest in something precious to us. This is tikun ha’ ruach, rectifying our emotional soul. The highest level is yediat hatorah, knowledge of Torah. Our knowledge of Torah remedies the flaws of our neshama, the highest level of soul.
There are three categories of blessings in this parsha, physical bounty, emotional peace, and Hashem’s presence dwelling among us. These too correspond to the three components: nefesh, ruach, and neshama. If we perform mitzvot, we will merit children, life, and sustenance. If we invest our emotions in Torah, Hashem will bless us with emotional tranquility. Finally, if we know Torah, if we rectify our intellectual souls, Hashem will bless us with His presence. As we focus on the tikun of the three parts of the soul we achieve the purpose of our existence.
Similarly, the three parts of the soul correspond to Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh. Yom Tov is nefesh. Pesach is sustenance, Shavuot is the Torah which is called life, and Sukkot is the holiday of the family.
Rosh Chodesh is the power of ruach. The beginning of the moon’s renewal, it is the holiday of King David. King David suffered so much. He was driven away, forced to wander lost and alone, harassed and persecuted. Yet he merited to come back and to become the king of Israel. This is the power of the moon, its waxing and waning symbolizes the strength of ruach. Our faith and passion for Torah gives us the impetus to carry on through the travails and sufferings of exile.
Shabbat is neshama. It is a day of knowledge of Torah, when we come close to Hashem by studying His holy words. Our neshama senses the sanctity of the day as it unites with its source through the Torah.
Let us recommit ourselves to be ameilim b’Torah, to be passionate for Torah. Let us invest our time and effort to study His words and to practice what we’ve learned. In this way we will attain the ultimate blessing of neshama – that Hashem’s presence will dwell among us.