Bechukotai - The Traveler

If you follow My statutes and observe My mitzvot and perform [lit. performed] them.  I will give your rains in their time, the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give forth its fruit.
אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְו‍ֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם. וְנָתַתִּי גִשְׁמֵיכֶם בְּעִתָּם וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ וְעֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה יִתֵּן פִּרְיוֹ
Vayikra 26:3-4
Says Rashi, there seems to be a redundancy in this verse:
One might think that "If you follow My statutes" refers to doing mitzvot. However, the next phrase says, “and observe My mitzvot,” referring to the [actual] fulfillment of the mitzvot. So, then what is the meaning of “If you follow My statutes”?
It means that you must toil in the study of Torah (שתהיו עמלים בתורה). [Why? Where do we learn toil from? From the word תֵּלֵכוּ -which literally means “walk,” and walking is a strenuous activity (Gur Aryeh)]. — (Torath Kohanim 26:2)]
What is Toiling (עמל)?
In the Gemorrah in Brechot, we have the famous statement read at the siyum of mesechetot:
For I rise early and they rise early,
I rise early for words of Torah and they rise early for frivolous talk;
I toil and they toil, but I toil and receive a reward and they toil and do not receive a reward;
I run and they run, but I run to the life of the world to come and they run to the pit of destruction.
שאני משכים והם משכימים
אני משכים לדברי תורה והם משכימים לדברים בטלים
אני עמל והם עמלים אני עמל ומקבל שכר והם עמלים ואינם מקבלים שכר
אני רץ והם רצים אני רץ לחיי העולם הבא והם רצים לבאר שחת
Brechot 28B
Says The Ben Ish Chai ( בן יהוידע-על התורה): The toil itself is considered the reward, since one who toils in Torah is happy and satisfied from this toiling.

How is that? It's like when a man is instructed by his doctor that to feel better he needs to go and do some real hard work and sweat. So he joins a construction crew. He works hard the whole day, his clothes are wet and full of sweat. At the end of the day when the boss comes to hand out paycheck, he just walks home. "Hey what about your pay?"
"Look at me, I've already been paid. I came here to get healed and feel better by working hard and having a good sweat, and that's what you gave me."
Why this Specific Wording?
The Kedushat Levi, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak from Berditchev, also asks why does the parshah open with such a seeming repetition of similar phrases. The pasuk could have started with a much simpler statement like 'If you keep my commandments, then I will give you rains in their time..." Reb Levi Yitzhak is concerned with the phrasing at the end of the first verse, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם - literally 'and you DID them'. So what is the significance of this specific wording and what else do we learn out of the seeming repetition?

Where does Toiling Begin? The Right Intention
We learn in a Gemorah in Kiddushin (40A):
Good intention is fused with deed, for it is said (Malachai 3:16): "Then the G-d-fearing men spoke to one another, and Hashem listened and heard. And a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared Hashem and for those who valued His name highly." Now, what is the meaning of 'for those who valued His name highly'?
Said R`Assi: Even if one [merely] thinks of performing a mitzvah but is forcibly prevented, the verse is ascribed it to him as though he has performed it.
מחשבה טובה מצרפה למעשה שנאמר (מלאכי ג, טז) אז נדברו יראי ה' איש אל רעהו ויקשב ה' וישמע ויכתב ספר זכרון לפניו ליראי ה' ולחושבי שמו מאי ולחושבי שמו
אמר רב אסי אפילו חשב אדם לעשות מצוה ונאנס ולא עשאה מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאה
 Kidushin 40A
That is to say even when we just have the intention to take upon ourselves to do a particular mitzvah, then HaKodesh Baruch Hu credits us, as if we had already completed the mitzvah. And all the more so, when we actually complete a mitzvah is this regarded, raising us up to a higher level for performing additional mitzvot, and still going higher and higher.

Moving Forward
This reminded me of an amusing story I heard. 
There was a guy who was hired to paint the stripe down the middle of a road. And so the first day he had his little bucket and his paint and he painted a kilometer and he came back and his boss was like, “That was really good, you painted a whole kilometer. That was terrific.” The next day, the boss comes back to see his work, he said, “Oh, you painted another half kilometer. Okay, well, that’s great. Still pretty good. That’s better than most people.” Then the next day, he came back and only painted a quarter of a kilometer. And so the boss said, “What’s going on? Why did you slow down so much?” And the painter says, “Well, I have to keep walking back to the beginning to get to the paint.”
Hashem credits us for performing the mitzvah from the outset to help us move forward, and not have to go back and 'pick up our paint' but to keep us rising higher and higher. Based on this perspective, Reb Levi Yitzhak explains that the tzaddik is called a 'traveler' since in his life, he travels from one  level to a higher level.

Mitzvah Brings Mitzvah
This is comprised in the teaching in Pirkei Avot:
Ben Azzai would say: Run to pursue a minor mitzvah like a stringent one, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression.
 בן עזאי במשנה במסכת אבות: "הֱוֵה רָץ לְמִצְוָה קַלָּה כַּחֲמוּרָה וּבוֹרֵחַ מִן הָעֲבֵרָה, שֶׁמִּצְוָה גּוֹרֶרֶת מִצְוָה, וַעֲבֵרָה גּוֹרֶרֶת עֲבֵרָה
Avot 4:3

Reviewing Learning
This brings clarity to the Gemorrah at the end of mesechet Nidah:
The Tanna debe Eliyahu [teaches]:
Whoever reviews halachahs every day may rest assured that he will reside in the world to come, for it is said: (Halikoth) his ways (or travels) are as of old; read not halikoth (travels) but halakoth (Torah law).
תנא דבי אליהו:
כל השונה הלכות בכל יום מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא שנאמר (חבקוק ג, ו) הליכות עולם לו אל תקרי הליכות אלא הלכות
Nida 73A

That is to say everyone that learns and reviews their learning daily, meaning that each day one (yishneh halikhotav) changes their travels, that is to say that he travels each and every day to a greater level - then Hashem's statement resounds: I assure him that he is guaranteed a place in The World to Come.

The Meaning in Seeming Repetition
This shows  seemingly repetitive phrasing from the opening verse in another light, reading as:
  • "If you travel in my My statutes, (אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי בחוקותי תֵּלֵכוּ)" this is to say that if you attach yourselves to My statutes, you will assume an aspect of a "traveler" - one who goes higher in spirituality.
  • "And observe My mitzvot (וְאֶת מִצְו‍ֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ)" emphasizing the word observe (שומר) from when Yosef first tells his brothers and father about his early dreams (Breisheit 37:11):

 So his brothers envied him, but his father awaited the matter
וַיְקַנְאוּ בוֹ אֶחָיו וְאָבִיו שָׁמַר אֶת הַדָּבָר
Rashi explains this saying, "שָׁמַר אֶת הַדָּבָר" (awaited the matter). He was waiting and looking forward in expectation to the time [when the dreams] would be fulfilled.

Story: Sacrifice for a Mitzvah 
We started with a commentary from Reb Levi Yitzhak, and we will conclude with a story from Reb Levi Yitzchak m'Berdichev.

The rabbi was distraught that there were no etrogim in all of Berditchev and he asked his followers to be on the lookout for someone who might have one. Two days before the holiday, R. Levi Yitzchak was told there was a traveler with an etrog. He begged him to stay in town for the holiday, as multiple people can use the same etrog. You’ll have a life of prosperity! But he refused. Finally the rabbi said if you remain here, you can have a place near me in Gan Eden, in eternity. Now this was too valuable to refuse! He agreed to stay.

R. Levi Yitzchak instructed his followers: do not allow this man into your Sukkot. Now, this was a big deal because a Jew is required to eat in a Sukkah on Sukkot, especially the first night. Of course they followed the rabbi’s instructions. The merchant was enraged and he confronted R. Levi Yitzchak. This is how you treat me?

And the rabbi replied, we will let you in a sukkah only if you release me from my promise that you will share the world to come with me!

Sound fair? Not at first glance.
The merchant said, "Fine, I release you from your promise."

The mitzvah he was able to perform in that moment was more important than the promise of the world to come.

R. Levi Yitzchak welcomed him in and embraced him and in that moment said: Now you will be next to me in Gan Eden. It can’t be acquired in a business deal, yet you were willing to give up Gan Eden to fulfill a mitzvah, and through that sacrifice alone you earned your place. 

Performing a Mitzvah
When Hashem says "I further say that if you keep My mitzvot, that is say if you THINK to do my mitzvot, even though you have not done them yet, then it is as if you have done them. The explanation: that I will consider you as if you have done them, since Hakadosh Baruch Hu fuses good thought with action, and that is the meaning of YOU HAVE DONE THEM.

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