The Tochachah, one of the more famous sections of the Torah, is written in this week’s Parashah, BeChukotai (VaYikra 26:14-46). However, while many people are familiar with the general themes of this gruesome series of warnings, most are unaware of the exact text of the Pesukim themselves. These people are not to be blamed, as the Tochachah is, in fact, read quickly and in an undertone by the Ba’al Korei, but nevertheless, it would be beneficial to get a better understanding of the warnings that Hashem gives to Bnei Yisrael should they go astray.
However, many serious sinful acts that are prohibited by the Torah are rooted in the issue of treating Hashem’s presence as happenstance. By not properly recognizing Hashem, it will become easier for us to do as we please without the fear of consequence or punishment. This will eventually lead to us doing the gravest of Aveirot, such as the ones mentioned prior. At the beginning of the Tochachah, Hashem attacks the root of all sin—a lack of fear that goes hand in hand with treating His presence as happenstance. Human nature fears punishment from higher authority; this is the reason for legal codes, police, and judges. Of course, Hashem is the highest authoritarian, and if we do not fear Him, we will not fear anyone else, and the world will be one of chaos and disarray.
In today’s world, with all of the distractions and temptations to go astray, it is extremely difficult to constantly realize that we are living in Hashem’s presence. “How can Hashem allow for high murder and crime rates, scandals, and inappropriate television?” they ask. Very few — if any — open miracles still occur today. For these reasons, many Jews have erroneously concluded that Hashem either does not exist or has little to no impact on the world. Sadly, this has led to an appalling number of Jews who have assimilated and do not even know they are Jewish. Even the ones who remain and identify themselves as Torah-abiding Jews often struggle with their faith and wonder whether Hashem still has an impact on the world in which we live.
As the Tochachah attests, this is exactly where things will turn against the Jewish people; not being fully aware of Hashem in all of his glory and doubting Hashem in any way will lead to severe punishment. However, if we understand the severity of our actions and are able to come to the realization that Hashem’s existence is not happenstance but rather the central figure of our daily lives, it will naturally become more difficult to violate His Torah. And once we have achieved this understanding, we will find it easier to follow the Derech Hashem.