This weeks Parsha is Parshas Bechukosai. The Parsha contains the famous blessings that are promised for us if we keep the Torah, and the curses that are to befall us if we don’t. The blessings are quite beautiful – plenty of produce, many children, no sickness, overcoming our enemies, … The curses are strong and frightening - starvation, sickness, losing our land, exile, … The curses are so strong that in most Synagogues the custom is that the one who reads the Torah reads this part lower than the rest of the Parsha, to show how dreadful it is. The Chofetz Chaim warned that although one may read it lower, it should not be read too low. If the Almighty wrote these curses in His Torah, He wants us to hear them, and to be aroused from them.
At the end of these curses, the Torah describes what will happen after all these tragedies befall us. “And they will confess their sin and the sins of their fathers, in the treachery that they have done against Me, and for going with Me with casualness. So too I will act towards them with casualness and bring them into the land of their enemies; perhaps then they will humble their hearts…” (Leviticus 26:40-41). The question that jumps at us is obvious: If the Jews are confessing their sin, and acknowledging their wrongdoing, isn’t that the quality of repentance? Shouldn’t that deserve reconciliation with Hashem? Why is it that they are told that for doing this confession they will get punishment from Hashem?
A beautiful answer is offered in the work Even Habochen. If a person wants to acknowledge wrong doing, it’s not enough to just say “I made a mistake”. The mistake must be corrected. If we recognize a sin, and keep on doing it, we are in a worse position than when we were when we first did it. This is the situation that the Torah is describing. The people had acknowledged their sin in the treachery that they have done against Me – that is while they are still sinning!! This incurs the wrath and retribution from Hashem.
The lesson we are taught is quite penetrating. We may sometimes sin. We hope Hashem will forgive us. The true test for this is when we realize that we have made a mistake: Do we change? Do we correct our behavior? Or do we keep the status quo, delaying any action to improve? Hopefully, with this lesson in mind, it will be easier for us to improve as we climb the ladder of growth in life.