This week’s Torah reading, Parshas Behar, warns us of the terrible curses that will befall the Jewish Nation as a whole if we God forbid forsake the Torah and become lax in keeping its laws. Towards the end, the verse says (26:44), “Despite all this, [even] while they (the Jews) will be in the land of their enemies, I shall not loath them and not become disgusted with them to [the point that I would] annihilate them.”
The Zohar elucidates the meaning of this verse with a parable: There was a man who would always avoid going through the tannery market in town. He could not stand the odor emitted there, and no matter what, he would never step foot through this location. One day, he met a woman who happened to live precisely in the middle of the tannery market, and they eventually got married. However, the woman could not leave her place of residence. The man loved his wife so much that he was no longer revolted by the stench of the tannery market. Out of his tremendous love for his wife, the tannery market had now taken on a sweet smell to him, as if he entered a marketplace of perfume.
So too, even if we have fallen to the point where we must be sent into exile and dwell in places which are spiritually unsavory, we learn from Parshas Behar that God will not forsake us and will always be with us, out of his great love for us.
These words of the Zohar are truly enlightening. At times, we may feel we have strayed too far from the right path. We are consumed with feelings of guilt and we feel that God must have lost all love for us. In some instances, a person may even think God is no longer interested in him. Sometimes a person may be going through a difficult period in life and he feels that God is angry and had enough with him.
These notions are as false as can be. At the end of the horrific description of the repercussions the Jews will suffer, should they sink down to an all-time spiritual low, the Torah imparts a vital message: Despite it all, God will not forsake us. God loves us deeply and is waiting nearby for our return. As low as we may have sunken, God’s love for us will never be truly severed. God does not give up on us, and He is there, with us, yearning for us to return to Him.
There was once a boy who strayed off the path of Torah. His parents invested a tremendous amount of effort and money in bringing him back to the fold. Eventually, he turned a corner and returned to living an upstanding Torah life. At one point, the father asked his child, “What was it that brought you back?” The son replied, “It wasn’t because of the influence of anyone you hired to help me. I once received a warm greeting from a rabbi and asked him in surprise, ‘Do you know who you just greeted?’ I then proceeded to reveal to him the sinful lifestyle I had adopted. In response, the rabbi told me, ‘It doesn’t matter. God has not forsaken His love of you, and He is eagerly awaiting your repentance.’ I then divulged the graver sins I had committed, but the rabbi, still, was unimpressed. He continued on insisting, ‘Even so, God is your Father, waiting for you to return.’ With that, the rabbi gave me a kiss and left. The words of this rabbi made such an impact on me, that indeed, I was inspired to make the move to return to my Father in Heaven.”
The curses mentioned in Parshas Behar are as real as ever. Unfortunately, we have already experienced many of them throughout our history. If we fail to live our lives with Torah standards, God will not turn a blind eye to our misconduct, and will cease his blessings from us accordingly. Nevertheless, God will never forsake us. No matter how far we have strayed and how badly we must suffer for our misdeeds, God’s love will always be there. In spite of how loathsome our conduct might be to God, God is always there, waiting with love for us to return to Him. We must always remember that, no matter what we have done or how low we may have sunken, God will never give up on us.