The major topic in Parashat BeChukotai is the binding contract that Hashem makes with Bnei Yisrael before they enter Eretz Yisrael. In this contract, Hashem states that if the Jewish people maintain and fulfill all of the Mitzvot, then they will live comfortably and will go into Eretz Yisrael, the “Eretz Zavat Chalav UDevash,” the land of milk and honey. On the flipside, if they don’t keep the Mitzvot, then God will turn away from the Jewish people and they will stand unprotected.
When beginning this contract, at the very beginning of the Parashah, the Pasuk states, “Im BeChukotai Teileichu VeEt Mitzvotai Tishmeru VaAsitem Otam,” “If you will follow in My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them” (VaYikra 26:3). Even a quick reading of this Pasuk gives rise to a few questions. First of all, what specific Mitzvot is the Torah referring to when it says, “VeEt Mitzvotai?” Secondly, why does the Torah use this double language of both “if you will follow in My decrees” and “observe My commandments?” Finally, why does the Torah add the seemingly unnecessary clause of “VaAsitem Otam?”
One possible answer is offered by Rabeinu Bachya. He suggests that the Mitzvot which the Torah is referring to in this context are the Mitzvot and Halachot mentioned in the preceding Parashah, BeHar; i.e. the Mitzvot concerning Shemitah and Yoveil. He explains that if one were to fulfill and uphold the Mitzvot of Yoveil and Shemitah, then that person would receive the reward explained later in Parashat BeChukotai. Rashi presents a different approach, based more on the Peshat of the Pasuk. Rashi explains that the double language of the Torah teaches us two different obligations. The first obligation, “Im BeChukotai Teileichu,” teaches that Bnei Yisrael required to fulfill all of the commandments and to follow all of the Halachot outlined to them in the Torah. Then the second phrase, “VeEt Mitzvotai Tishmeru,” according to Rashi, comes to teach us that not only is one required to actually fulfill all of the Mitzvot of the Torah, but also obligated to immerse himself in Torah study itself. Therefore, according to Rashi, in order to receive the reward from Hashem, we are required both to fulfill the commandments, and to understand them.
The Kedushat HaLevi has a completely different, Derash-oriented approach to this Pasuk. He explains the first clause of the Pasuk in the same fashion as Rashi, of fulfilling the Mitzvot to the best of his abilities. However, he offers a completely different explanation of the Pasuk’s second clause. According to the Kedushat HaLevi, the words “and observe my commandments” come to teach us that not only are the Jewish people rewarded for performing the Mitzvot, they even receive a certain amount of Sachar just for thinking about doing the Mitzvot. He adds that we derive a principle of Jewish faith from this Pasuk: the idea of Mitzvot adding up. He explains that based on the language found in the phrase “VaAsitem Otam,” we derive the concept that when one fulfills a mitzvah, that person advances one level higher up on the staircase of Kedushah. After a person does each mitzvah, he continues to climb up the staircase until he reaches a level where he can enter into Olam HaBa.
From this Pasuk we can learn an important lesson. It is important for one to always continue to build up his Mitzvot, and to always concentrate on improving the way in which he fulfills them. If a person does this, he will have the key to enter into Olam HaBa.