B’chukotei, The Laws Of Physics And Eternity

Although B’chukotei begins with a series of blessings if Yisrael lives in harmony with the the design of reality embodied in the mitzvot, the curses we suffer by rejecting them outnumber (in terms of verses) the blessings by almost three-to-one.

Although the principle deviates in both the astronomical and the quantum realm, for the most part the universe we experience is defined by what for long has been called the “laws of physics”.  One of the most well-known is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

We’re cautioned in Avot (2:1 and 4:2) (which many communities read during this period between Pesach and Shavuot) not to try to calculate the relative values of mitzvot. We don’t have the wisdom or the knowledge for this and our instincts and emotions and “common sense” will likely prove inadequate.

However, perhaps physics does provide an insight into the relative weight between conformance and non-conformance. The benefits accrued, the “equal and opposite reaction” to the effort and kavvanah (inner intention) we expend in performing mitzvot appears to be significantly less than the damage we provoke by ignoring them. While progress in just about any worthwhile endeavor usually requires a tremendous amount of time, effort and patience, often seeming to be more than “value received”, things fall apart much more rapidly. Civilizations which grew and developed over centuries and even millennia crash and disappear in almost no time at all, often leaving barely a trace of their former glory and achievement.

But since Yisrael’s job in this world, illuminating the presence of God in the universe, is eternal, even when we fail, we don’t disappear. At the end of the curses we read, וְאַף גַּם־זֹאת בִּהְיוֹתָם בְּאֶרֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶם לֹא־מְאַסְתִּים וְלֹא־גְעַלְתִּים לְכַלֹּתָם לְהָפֵר בְּרִיתִי אִתָּם כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם: וְזָכַרְתִּי לָהֶם בְּרִית רִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי־אֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֵי הַגּוֹיִם לִהְיוֹת לָהֶם לֵאלֹהִים אֲנִי יְהוָֹה, And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor will I loathe them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God; I am the Lord (Vayikra 26:44-45).

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