Parashat Bechukotai begins with the verse, "If you will go in the way of My laws and keep My commandments and do them, I will give your rains at their times." In his book, Noam Elimelech, the famous tzadik, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhinsk, writes that the word in Hebrew for 'your rains/gishmachem' is the same word that applies to our physical needs. If we do G‑d's commandments properly, as the verse describes, G‑d will help us to not be driven by our physical urges except when a specific need arises, like eating or sleeping. Other than those times, G‑d is promising that we will be free of our physical desires in order to be able to invest our energy in spiritual thoughts and actions connecting to G‑d.

The Munkacher Rebbe, in his book, Chaim V'Shalom, asks a question. Is this what our physical desires are all about, to be tolerated and relegated to their needed moments and otherwise to be despised at best or at worst forgotten? Does this mean that the real goal is to be perfect, not to have any physical desires at all? And how does this fit with the less than perfect behavior the Torah describes about many of our righteous ancestors?

The answer to this question is no, our goal is not to eradicate all of our physical desires, and is hinted at in the explanation of Rashi, the main commentary on the Torah, of "rain at their times," that it means on Friday evenings, a time when a Jew is traditionally at home enjoying Shabbat with his family. The Munkacher explains that this is related to the teaching from the Talmud that Mashiach can only come when all of the souls (waiting in heaven) are placed in bodies (in this world).

Our physical desires are not negative in themselves, only when used in inappropriate ways.

Friday evening is the (best) appointed time for a husband and wife to be intimate, to fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, i.e. to have children. Even if someone has cleansed and purified their soul until the world and all of its confusion is repugnant, nevertheless, he is still commanded to have children. Not only can he not disregard this commandment (and the desire and pleasure required to fulfill it), he is commanded to do it and even focus on it, in order to hasten the redemption, so that all of the souls will descend from on high and find their place in physical bodies. Our physical desires are not negative in themselves, only when used in inappropriate ways. When used correctly, they are the true fulfillment of our purpose.

This is how we can understand the first verse of the portion. The Torah tell us, "If you walk with My laws…", and Rashi explains that this means that you have to be totally invested in Torah study and observance and that this actually will help weaken the hold of physical desires on the individual. Nevertheless, I will give you your physical desires at their correct times (like on Friday evening) not only at those necessary moments, as we wrote above, but also for the right time (as the Talmud says, that the Mashiach will come at the right time), for the sake of bringing the final and complete redemption.

A bit tongue in cheek, the Munkacher closes with this thought: This is also hinted at in the word 'times,' in the plural, since even though Mashiach will only arrive at one particular time, still, this teaching applies to every time we use our physical desire for good, and particularly every time we use it to have more children. Therefore it is in the plural form.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.