The taste of Shabbat – Behar-Behukotai 5777
Rav Mordechai Elon
Behukotai, The second parsha we read this Shabbat opens with the words
אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי בחוקותי תֵּלֵכוּ…
If you follow My statutes..
The word "statutes" is usually used by the Torah to describe mitzvot that cannot be understood by human beings, for example the Red heifer (parah adumah), as Rashi tells us about the parah adumah:
I have decreed it; You have no right to challenge it.
On the other side we have "mishpatim" – laws that are understandable by us. This makes the opening of the parsha " If you follow My statutes" strange, as it seems to be a condition. If we then read the continuation of the pasuk :
וְאֶת מִצְוֹתַ֣י תִּשְׁמְר֔וּ וַֽעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָֽם.
and observe My commandments and perform them
We must ask why does the Torah repeat itself, as following and observing seem to be the same?
This leads Rashi to give a completely different explanation:
I might think that this refers to the fulfillment of the commandments. However, when Scripture says, “and observe My commandments,” the fulfillment of the commandments is [already] stated. So what is the meaning of “If you follow My statutes”? It means that you must labour in the study of Torah
We must ask why Rashi calls the study of Torah following the statutes, since when is studying "following"?