Choose to Grow

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Bechukosai

There are two paths before us. There is the path of the brave and the strong, the path walked by those who will do whatever it takes to do the right thing. Then there is the path of the weak, the path of least resistance, the easy street that leads to nowhere.

“If you will walk in my statutes”. Why does the Torah say “walk” and not follow or keep? Rashi teaches that there is a valuable lesson in this word. One must keep on walking. Keep on going. There is no standing still. Life is to grow, to reach greatness, to attain heights, and to reach our potential. You can’t do that by leaning, sitting or standing. You have to keep going – Bechukosai talaichu!

A human being is greater than an angel. An angel is called an “omeid” (a stander); it stands in one place. An angel has its job and is not a candidate for promotion. The human is a “holaich”, a walker, a mover and a shaker - always trying to reach greater heights. The Halachic man is the man who keeps on walking.

I recently came upon a statistical analysis of adult Jewish education in the United States of America . The survey was conducted amongst a cross section of Jews of all affiliations as well as the unaffiliated. There is a list of eighteen Jewish subjects, including prayer, Talmud, spirituality etc. The chart takes these subjects and rates them from most popular Jewish subject matter to least popular. I closed my eyes for a moment in order to guess what might be the most popular subject amongst Jews. I wanted to see if I have my finger on the pulse. My immediate thought was “spirituality”. With the new age movement, the popularity of kabbala and the secular rage for “Universal Energy” and Eastern religions, I voted for spirituality. A glance at the chart told me spirituality came in eighth. How about the Hebrew language? Sixteenth! So what was number one? The winner was … cooking – yes, Jewish cooking! Number two was the Holocaust, while the prize for the least popular subject in Judaism went to Intermarriage.

Thank G-d 20% of all American Jews participate in some form of Jewish learning. Sadly, 80% seem to have no interest at all. But even amongst those that want to learn, there are very few that want to grow. They want to be Jewish but they don’t want to keep moving.

To this the attitude the verse responds: “Im Bechukosai Teleichu” you have to keep growing.

There are so many areas to grow in: honesty, integrity, charity, prayer, loving our fellow Jews, to name just a few. Pick one and make it your challenge! It’s hard work to examine every sentence I say to make sure it is honest. It is hard work to examine my actions and make sure they are not egocentric. It’s hard to share and to pray with ones heart and it’s sometimes very hard to be honest in business. It’s easier to sit down and just let it happen. Its easier to stand in one place, but to be a Jew one must keep moving, and keep growing.

We are living in difficult times for the Jewish people. We are fighting for our existence and we are fighting for our land. The Torah tells us that if we keep on growing, “I will grant peace in the Land, you will go to sleep at night without any fear … and the sword will not cross your Land.” (Vayikra 26;6) May that be His will!

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