Bechukosai. In the Parsha the Torah tells us of the tremendous blessings promised to the Jewish people if we observe the Torah. Then the Torah goes on to describe the tremendous curses that will befall us if we don’t observe the Torah. Seven sets of curses are recorded; one after another, all sorts of horrific suffering is predicted. Indeed, the very curse of a Holocaust is described by the Torah. The custom in many communities is that these verses are read lower than the rest of the Torah reading. Understandably, it is a most unpleasant part of the Torah reading for us to listen to. Indeed, there were communities where the Torah reading was so low for this portion, that no one other than the person reading it could hear it. The Chafetz Chaim strongly admonished those who read it so low. He pointed out, that if Hashem saw a need to warn us with these curses that will befall us if we fail to keep the Torah, certainly we must find out what they are and take the message to heart. Just as closing ones eyes doesn’t help ward off oncoming events, failing to hear the curses contained in this weeks Parsha doesn’t prevent them from happening.
Among the blessings contained in the beginning of the Parsha if we do keep the Torah, Hashem says “And I will break the bars of your yoke and you will go upright” (Leviticus 26:13). What does it mean to go “upright”? Rashi quotes the words of the Medrash that this means that Jewish people will go Bkomah Zekufah – with erect stature. Is this simply a question of pride and haughtiness? Rav Moshe Sternbach explains, that there are many people who although they observe the commandments of the Torah, do so secretly. They try to hide all the times they do keep commandments with artificial excuses. They only keep kosher, but claim not to eat at a non-kosher restaurant because they have no appetite. They lack any sense of pride in their heritage, and any sense of accomplishment as they do mitzvohs. Perhaps they are scared that their social status may be diminished if they are known to be observant. Perhaps they are fearful that they will be looked at as being different. The Torah promises us that if we do the mitzvohs properly, we can walk and stand erect. We will take pride on them, with nothing to hide, but with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and of dignity, as we uphold the banner of the Torah.