Regaining Lost Worth – Parshat Behar-Bechukotai
No matter how long the first 8 innings of a baseball game last, or what the score is, there is always a sense of anticipation entering the ninth inning. Will the losing team make a comeback? After all, there have been teams who scored 7 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win a game. There is always a buildup to the end. As Yogi Berra was quoted as saying, "it aint over til its over."
The end of Sefer Vayikra, as with every book, is expected to have a logical progression of what preceded it - much as we find in the other 4 books of the Torah. Vayikra discusses the laws of sacrifices, ritual purity, acts of kindness, the shemita year and builds up to the brachot and kelalot (blessings and curses) that the nation will receive depending on the national adherence to the aforementioned mitzvot. The sefer, however, then ends with a discussion of monetary worth of people, animals and land which is determined in a number of ways.1 The Kotzker Rebbe asks about this seeming non-sequitur. After the listing of the 49 kelalot outlined in the parsha - which ends with a resounding promise that no matter how bleak the situation may seem, God will always retain his relationship with us - this discussion of monetary values seems to be almost anticlimactic.
The Kotzker explains that after reading in the parsha about so many possible curses which will befall the nation if it strays from the path, the nation will have many questions about their own self-worth. Not being on the path to a meaningful life of service to God will create a negative feeling about their own worth and their relationship with God. Therefore, the Torah needs to stress that everybody will retain an intrinsic worth while being able to rebuild any loss of actual value. Intrinsic worth will always be there and remain constant. Rebuilding our actual worth is up to us. And it's doable.
This differentiation between actual worth and intrinsic worth is fascinating. We can, then, always create for ourselves a life which will have far greater actual worth. After experiencing a downturn, we generally expect from ourselves to try to rebuild our momentum and continue living. How do we do that? "Resilience", writes logotherapist Dr. Steven Southwick, "comes from staying true to one’s values and moral compass." Even if we falter, have a setback, or go through a pandemic, we can rebuild whatever may have been lost or possibly even use the situation as a springboard to build something new.
Our intrinsic and potential value may be constant. How much we are actually worth, depends on us.
Have A Great Shabbat!