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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

We read this week two portions and I believe the theme of the double portions of BeHar and BeChukotai is faith. We begin with the command to observe the Sabbatical year. This is certainly one of the most difficult commandments to fathom. Imagine being asked to close your store for one year every seven and not only that, you close the store but leave the doors open and anything which may have remained is available for someone to take.

Here, the Torah is asking a farmer to simply let his field sit for the seventh year. The farmer is forbidden to turn the land, he is forbidden to plant, he is forbidden to harvest and everything and anything which does grow on its own, for example in an orchard or a vineyard, must be left for anyone to take.

Understanding how difficult this request is, the Torah continues: : "And if you will say, what will we eat in the seventh year? ... I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three-year period .” It would be within human nature to ask because I am worried, how will I feed my family, how will I pay my bills, how will we survive? And those who ask will see. But the rabbis seem to agree that the greater person is the one who has so much faith that he doesn’t ask and will be blessed in a hidden way as if the world itself will support him (as the world was meant to do prior to the sin of Adam and the curse of the land). The one who asks is at a high level of natural man.

The one who does not ask goes beyond nature to Adam before the sin and before the mixture of good and evil caused man to believe he is subject to nature.

When any of us encounters a situation which presents itself as unknown or dangerous, it is natural for us to be afraid of the world's nature. But what can we do? We are human.

The second portion presses our faith even further. Here we encounter a list of blessings in eleven verses perhaps they combine with the eleven spices of the ketoret to battle the eleven forces of evil and then 36 verses of curses or punishments. Perhaps the secret in the number 36 is that they can be overcome when we let in the light of creation symbolized by the number 36; The 36 hours of Adam’s Shabbat, the 36 lights of the chanuka menorah and the 36 hidden sadikim which keep the world going.

But why are we threatened with so many punishments? Are hardships a good thing? This troubles me greatly.

I spoke with a rabbi recently who I know has gone through and is going through some of the most difficult hardships imaginable within his family and my heart literally breaks for him. But he only smiles, encourages and pushes through.

He told me that we must understand that the most popular Psalm in the world is the 23rd Psalm of King David - Mizmor L'David, "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me." He asked me, what does David mean? How are we comforted with a staff and rod which are tools of punishment?

I recalled a story I had heard from Rabbi Abba Wagensburg. He tells us to imagine a scene of children playing ball in the street. The ball is kicked into the gutter and a child runs after it - into the path of an on-coming vehicle traveling at typical speed. Seeing the child dart, the driver slams on his brakes and the car stops a quarter of an inch from the child. We in the distance who observe the event may run over to see if everything is OK and if we can help. Confirming that there is no injury and marveling that the car literally came within millimeters of the frozen child, we walk away with a story to tell.

But imagine the same scene with one difference. You see the children playing and recognize your own child. It’s your child who runs into the street. Time freezes as you rush and perhaps imagine the worst. See the miracle and that your child is safe, what do you do? Most likely you grab the child by the arm and scream repeatedly at the child to "Never, Never do that again". And in my day the the screaming would have come with paddling of the child's posterior with one’s hand.

Most likely the child in his immaturity thinks that his parent is being cruel to him. The child certainly wonders, "But I’m OK, why isn’t my dad happy?" We all understand that the screaming and even the paddling are part of a lesson we hope to impress to never run in the street again and to avoid putting ourselves in danger.

So the Rabbi turned to me and said that sometimes what we perceive as bad is not only good, its what we need then and there.

The Rabbi then told me, that after the sin in the garden, the snake was cursed to eat the dust of the earth. He asked, Is that a curse? The snake will never go hungry and get his nutrients from the earth. How is that a curse.

I responded that Rabbi Abittan would explain that we often connect with Hashem when we need something. And connecting with Hashem not only helps us, its necessary for us. There are those Hashem never wants to connect with. Hashem gives them no reason to come running or to call home (like the snake). The Rabbi would tell of a king with two sons. One son the king wants nothing to do with. The other son, he loves and wants to be with always. He sends the first to a foreign country with a generous trust fund. The other lives closely and must come to his father each week for lunch where a check is delivered by the purser before the son leaves.

The second son complains why he must come to collect each week while the first simply draws on his account as he wishes. The king explains. I want you to have a reason to see me every week so we can spend time together while your brother displeases me so that I would rather he limits his visits to once a decade. The Rabbi would conclude that we bless Hashem with the blessing "Boreh Nefashot Rabot VeChesronan" - "Hashem who created numerous living beings with deficiencies. Why bless for deficiencies? It’s the deficiencies which remind us to call home and reconnect each day.

The rabbi explained that it’s more than accepting perceived evil with a blessing of Baruch Dayan Emet. It’s more than what Rabbi Akiva said when he taught that everything Hashem does must be for our benefit. Its more than the teacher of Rabbi Akiva, Nachum Ish Gamzu said when he taught that all is for good. He explained that it’s not simply good, its having faith and trust that this –whatever Hashem is doing - is what we need now for our own benefit from our Creator who takes pleasure only in our success.

He concluded by explaining that this concept of Bitachon must be better understood. It’s certainly not that we have faith that things will come out as we want and more than having faith that in the end it will be good. He explained that when presented with a difficulty, one is challenged. We see a world of nature. We see odds. Unfortunately too often the evil side uses these odds to bring us to a state of depression thinking that chance is our master.

Depression separates us from Hashem when the purpose of challenges is to bring us closer. Whatever we see and whatever predicament we face, we must have faith and trust – true Bitachon as he called it – that there is nothing preventing Hashem from changing the situation, from saving us or from preparing causes that will change all the results. It’s at these times that we must remember no matter how difficult the situation is, we must know that everything is from Hashem. It matters not whether we perceive this as good or otherwise. We must connect on the highest level and this will defeat the evil side and our deep-rooted belief will dissipate ours fear and give us courage to believe in the possibility of being saved, and that there is no more likelihood for bad than for good, no matter the odds presented. And in the end no matter the results, it must be for our good, it is good and this is what we need now.

Thinking about what this man was going through at that very moment I was moved by his strength and encouragement, his care for others and the fire in his eyes and in his soul.

It’s a difficult task to find and locate and develop our inner faith and trust, but it is a task we all must work on.

By: Rabbi David Bibi