Etched in stone ­ Article ­ BINA

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Etched in stone

Etched in stone

by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton

The thief crouches by the window patiently waiting for the perfect moment to break in. He looks around once, twice and sees that right now would be the best moment to make his move. But just before he climbs through the window, there's one last thing he must do - he lifts up his eyes to heaven and mumbles a quick prayer asking G-d to help him succeed in his mission and make sure he doesn't get caught.


Most people know very well which morals and values are important in life. Most people fully understand the necessity of living an honest, ethically correct and upright life. Nevertheless, many people don't necessarily conduct their lives as mandated by their own understanding. Many live the life of the thief in the abovementioned Talmudic parable - recognizing the existence of G-d and His ability to help him succeed but at the very same moment being fully prepared to act in a way completely antithetical to G-d's will.

Recent surveys show that given the chance over 80% of people would cheat on their taxes and over 50% would have an extramarital affair. I wonder how many of those surveyed would say that to cheat on taxes or on one's spouse is ethically correct. It seems that just knowing about the ethical importance of something does not mean that one is going to act accordingly.

The name of this week's Torah portion is "Bechukoitai". The word "Bechukoitai" means "my laws". G-d promises us that if we follow His laws and keep His commandments He will shower us with blessings. The word "Bechukoitai" is also strongly connected to the word "chakuk" which means "engrave".

There is an essential difference between words written on paper and words engraved into a stone. Though in both cases the letters may be identical to each other, when letters are written on a piece of paper the letters and the paper remain two totally separate entities. When letters are engraved into a stone they become totally one with the stone.

G-d calls His laws "chukoitai" - "engraving" because He wants His laws, values and ethics to become an intrinsic, inseparable part of our lives. G-d is not interested in us just understanding and agreeing to his ethical system but remaining indifferent - that would be like letters written on paper where the letters and paper combine but remain separate entities. This kind of a combination can lead to all sorts of behaviour. G-d wanted His laws and values to become an integral part of our very being, our very personality - He wanted His words to be etched in us as letters are engraved into a stone. 


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