Faith and Ethics

At a TIme of Anger, Remember Mercy

(The title is a quote from Habakkuk 3:2.)
In both the Torah portions of Behar and Bechukotai we see that history is organized in cycles that are related to the number seven. Every seventh day is Shabbat, every seventh year is Shemitta, and after seven cycles of Shemitta the Yovel (Jubilee) comes. We can also add that redemption will come after a cycle of seven thousand years, as is written, “Just Shemitta comes once every seven years, so the world comes to rest one thousand years out of seven thousand” [Sanhedrin 97a]. There are also repeated cycles every seven thousand years (SHELAH, Pesachim 109), and cycles of fifty thousand years (Rabeinu Bechayei, Numbers 10:35). This serves as a hint that the Jewish calendar year and the yearly cycle of Jewish halacha contain within them the entire history of the world.
The number seven is characteristic of the perfection of the natural world in its three dimensions, with six directions and a stabilizing central point. Six represents creation, and the seventh point stands for the goal to be achieved. However, all of this is within the framework of nature. One step beyond nature leads us to a year of freedom, which takes place after a series of seven-year cycles, at the beginning of the eighth cycle. In addition, the expansion to the full set representing the creation, which was accomplished through ten Divine commands, is hinted at near the end of the book of Vayikra, as a cycle based on ten: “The tenth one shall be holy” [Leviticus 27:31] (referring to the laws of a tithe of cattle). This is also a hint of a cycle of ten thousand years.
In addition to the above, the cycle based on seven is linked to a time of crisis. “If you will relate to me as a chance occurrence… I will strike at you, seven times as much as your sins” [Leviticus 26:21]. Why is it important to know that the disturbances and the punishments are both related to the number seven? It teaches us that even when the Holy One, Blessed be He, punishes us for our sins, we are still under His protection and guidance, in a way that is hidden from view. The number seven as related to disturbances and punishments reminds us that G-d’s hand did not abandon us even during our exile, during the dark side of His Divine guidance. This can be compared to the cycle of national disasters which return again and again on the Ninth of Av. We can see that there is a cyclic order to the lack of perceived guidance.
However, while with respect to good events the guidance is embedded and aimed at watching over individuals. When the direct guidance is removed there are external levels of abandonment, almost like an adjustable bubble of a lack of guidance whose size depends on the seriousness of the sin. Even the terrible Holocaust which befell our nation was not the result of complete anarchy, but rather was typical of the end of an era spent in exile. “While they were in their enemy’s land… I did not reject them to destroy them” [Leviticus 26:44]. That is, when the time comes to end the stay in exile, the Shechina (the Divine Presence) leaves and the forces of anarchy take over. But we can console ourselves with the knowledge that we have not been completely abandoned even at our lowest point. We should never lose hope.
Source: “AS SHABBAT APPROACHES” – a biweekly column in Shabbat B’Shabbato, Bechukotai 5774, Volume 1524. (Zomet Institute) See:

Rabbi Oury Cherki

Rav Oury Cherki was born in Algeria in 1959 and grew up in France, and he made Aliyah in 1972. He studied at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, which was founded by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. He performed his military service in the artillery branch of the IDF. He studied with Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi (Manitou), Rav Shlomo Binyamin and Achlag. Rav Cherki heads the Israeli department of Machon Meir, and he is the Director of Brit Olam - the Noahide World Center. He teaches in many places throughout Israel. Rav Cherki is the spiritual leader of the "Beth Yehuda" community in Kiryat Moshe (Jerusalem). He has written many books on Jewish thought and philosophy.

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