“First, Rectify the Brit!”
From the writings of Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera, AKA the Abir Yaacov
The Torah portion, Bechukotai, is known as the portion of rebuke. The portion begins with G-d’s promise that if the Jews observe the commandments of the Torah, prosperity, blessing, and peace will befall them. However, if they turn away from the Torah, G-d warns them that terrible curses and sufferings will be their fate - they will be pursued and ravaged by their enemies and forcibly expelled from the land into exile where they will be relentlessly persecuted and killed:
“But if you will not hearken to me, and will not do all of these commandments, and if you shall despise My statutes, or if your soul abhor My judgments, so that you will not do all of the commandments, but that you break My Brit, I also will do this to you: I will appoint over you terror, consumption, and fever, that shall consume thy eyes, and cause sorrow of heart, and you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies; they that hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when none pursue you. And if you will not yet for all this hearken to me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.... And if you will not be admonished by Me as a result of these things, but you will walk in contrariness (keri) to me, then I will also walk contrary to you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you that shall avenge My Brit; and when you are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy...” (Vayikra, Behukotai, 26:2-25).
The saintly Tzaddik and holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera, z’tzal, grandfather of the holy Baba Sali, z’tzal,
Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera
explains this Torah portion as referring to transgression of the Brit:
(From the book, “Abir Yaacov,” section, Pitochei Chotam; Bechukotai)
“It is possible to infer that this is referring to the holy Brit, for as is known, someone who blemishes the holy Brit, even though he observes all of the Torah, his doings are for naught. As the holy Zohar writes, a person who does not have fear of sin in matters of the Brit, has no fear of G-d in anything he does. This is because his body which performs the commandments is blemished. Thus, everything which he does is blemished.
“According to the holy Zohar, the verse: Be afraid of the sword, for wrath over sins brings the sword (Iyov, 19:20) refers to this. Both the Rishonim (early rabbincal authorities) and Achronim (later rabbinical authorities) have stated that the majority of man’s sufferings, whether through pestilence, the sword, or famine result from transgressions to the Brit. And whatever mitzvot and good deeds that a person does, as long as his Brit is blemished, it all goes to the Sitra Achra (Other Side), may G-d have mercy.
“Whoever blemishes the holy Brit is considered to have been false to the seal of the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed Be He. This is the meaning of ‘We have not been false to your Brit.’
“Therefore, a person who comes to serve G-d should first rectify any blemish to the Brit in the proper fashion, and afterward begin to serve G-d.
“For the matter of transgressing the Brit, and all of the sufferings that stem from this, is referred in this rebuke (in Bechukotai). So that when the verse says: “But if you will not hearken to me, and will not do all of these commandments, and if you shall despise My statutes, or if your soul abhor My judgments, so that you will not do all of the commandments, but that you break My Brit...,” it does not mean to say that they do not do any of the precepts, or that they do not occupy themselves with Torah; but rather, they do occupy themselves with Torah, and they do perform the commandments, but the main thing is missing, for the Brit, which is the principle matter, is blemished and has not be rectified. Since the Brit is blemished and has not been rectified, everything is canceled and considered naught.
“This is why the verse concludes: ‘but that you break My Brit.’ That is to say: ‘Everything that I said about your despising My statutes, and your abhorring My judgments, and your rejecting My commandments, is not to be taken literally. Rather you broke My Brit and you blemished it, and you did not rectify it. For this reason, even if you hearken to My voice in performing all of the other commandments of the Torah, behold I proclaim to you that you have not hearkened to Me. Even if you will do all of the mitzvot, I will consider that you have not done them. Even if you will observe My statutes with love, I proclaim that you have despised My statutes. And even if you will perform My judgments with great joy, I proclaim that you have abhorred them. All of this is because ‘you break My Brit. For you violated My Brit and have not rectified it. For this reason, everything you do is considered canceled and as naught. And all of the Torah and mitzvot that you do, it all goes to the Sitra Achra. And because you betrayed My Brit, I will bring upon all the sufferings in the world....’
“Therefore, whoever desires to do t’shuva (repentence), let him first rectify blemishes to the Brit, and after that the things he does to please G-d will succeed.”
Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera’s commentary on the Torah portion Behukotai explains that it is Israel’s betrayal of the Brit that brings horrible tragedies and exile upon them. Nonetheless, it is also the merit of the Brit that saves them after the long generations of suffering in exile, as G-d goes on to promise:
“Then will I remember My Brit with Yaacov, and also My Brit with Yitzhak, and also My Brit with Avraham will I remember; and I will remember the land... And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor will I abhor them to destroy them utterly, and to break my Brit with them; for I am the L-rd their G-d. But I will for their sakes remember the Brit of their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their G-d; I am the L-rd” (Vayikra, Behukotai, 26:42-45.)