Parashat Bechukotai 5776 and how do we link between us
There is a common custom when writing Sifrei Torah called “Vavei Ha’amudim”. Such practice establishes that all the columns of the Sefer Torah, column in Hebrew is amud, must start with the letter vav. Therefore Vavei Ha’amudim. This is true for all columns of the Torah except for five. The Hebrew expression “Vavei Ha’amudim” has its origins in the construction of the Sanctuary in the desert. In the book of Shmot we are told that on top of each of the sixty columns that surrounded the atrium of the Sanctuary was a silver hook, from where linens were hanged. Vav in Hebrew means also hook, from there the play of words “Vavei Ha’amudim” meaning both the hooks of the columns of the Sanctuary and the letter vavs at the beginning of the columns in the Torah. Through such description, we can also understand the function of the letter Vav in the Hebrew language. In the same way, that the hooks in the Sanctuary linked between the columns and the linens, so the letter vav links words and expressions. Therefore, when it has this function, it is called “Vav Hachivur”, the connecting Vav. In our Parashah, Bechukotai, appears a long tochecha, a terrible warning that detail the curses that will fall upon Israel if they don’t follow the commandments. It is harsh, with words of death, destruction, exile and reminders of the darkest days that the Jewish people knew in history. Towards the end of this warning we are told: “Then I will remember my covenant with Yaakov, also my covenant with Yitzchak and my covenant with Avraham; and I will remember the land”. It is very interesting here that the name of Yaakov is written with a Vav, when in most cases it is not written with a Vav. Why do we have that difference? Rashi said on his commentary that in five places Yaakov’s name is written with a Vav and in five places Eliyahu the Prophet’s name, whose name should be written with a Vav, it is written without it. So Rashi claims that Yaakov took a letter from Eliyahu’s name as a guarantee that the Prophet will come to announce the redemption of his children with the coming of the Messiah. We could ask, why did Yaakov took specifically the Vav as a guarantee and no, say, the letter Yud that also appears in both names? A Rabbi called Issachar Frand suggests that this has to do with the particular function of the letter Vav in the Hebrew language. If the Vav is a link between words, then we could think that Eliyahu chose to give up his Vav to give a message to the children of Yaakov, us: “If you make links between you and respect each other, then I will come to announce the redemption”. The first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, said in his book Orot Hakodesh: “If we have been destroyed and our world has been destroyed by baseless hatred, then we will rebuild ourselves and the World with us, just through the work of baseless love”. If you went into exile, says Eliyahu the Prophet, because of baseless hatred, then I will announce the redemption only if you manage to link to each other and to free yourselves from the leftovers of baseless hatred still in you. Maybe that’s the reason because it is specifically the letter Vav the one chosen to head the vast majority of the columns in the Torah. In that way we will always remember that when we speak about Torah, all its ways are ways of pleasantness and its paths those of peace.