The passuk states by the tochacha, “ואם תלכו עמי קרי ולא תאבו לשמע לי, and if you will go with Me קרי and you will not desire to listen to Me” Hashem will then smite 7 times for your sins. A bit further it states “ואם באלה לא תוסרו לי והלכתם עמי קרי, and if with these you will not be reigned to take rebuke, and you will go with Me קרי.” “והלכתי אף אני עמכם בקרי, and I too will go with you with קרי,” Hashem will then smite an additional 7 times for your sins. What does it mean we will go with Hashem קרי and Hashem will also go with us קרי?
Rashi brings b’shem Raboseinu, קרי means temporary, by chance, something that is not constant. This describes Bnei Yisrael who are fulfilling mitzvos only occasionally, periodically, and not on a steady basis. If we will serve Hashem only by chance, temporarily, then Hashem in return will assist us by chance, temporarily, and incomplete. Just as we go with Him, so too Hashem will go with us, midah k’neged midah. This is a bit difficult, since before this point in time, Bnei Yisrael were already not fulfilling mitzvos and were punished. Yet, it only mentions now that they are going with Hashem קרי, temporarily. The Radak explains ואם תלכו עמי קרי differently and answers this question: “And if you will say about that the yissurim which I bring upon you to teach you a lesson, “they are merely by chance, and are not as punishment for our sins,” then Hashem will continue to bring more yissurim until the message is brought across.” After we received punishment, we did not heed to the messages Hashem sent to cause us to change.
Onkelos translates קרי differently, as “with stiffness (בקשיו),” from the lashon קשה, hard. Rashi says Onkelos means, as Menachem explains, קרי is a lashon מניעה, holding back. Bnei Yisrael are hardening their hearts to hold back from coming close to serve Hashem and learn Torah and perform His mitzvos. This is similar to a child who doesn’t want to do something, and is stubborn. Just as we harden our hearts and make ourselves stiff, so too Hashem will go with us with stiffness, without having mercy and pity on us.
Ha’Rav Yerucham Levavitz zatzal says Onkelos translates as בקשיו, with stiffness, which refers to cruelty. This is as the Rambam says, one who doesn’t repent is acting cruelly. A person is surrounded on all sides with tremendous mercy to no end; he is reminded numerous times to change, yet he doesn’t pay attention. Not only does he hold back from correcting his ways with stiffness, he shows that he does not have softness in his heart. Rather he is stiff and cruel.
The Mi’at Tzuri explains Onkelos with the Ibn Ezra: קרי means might and victory. This is like a person strengthens his heart and is not worried that he won’t be victorious, he is not scared anyone will harm him. The H’ksav V’hakabalah adds: קרי is one who intentionally sins against Hashem with קשה ערף, stiffening the neck to anger Him. One who sins להכעיס, in order to anger Hashem, is liable for a lot of punishment, more than one who sins לתיאבון, for desire.
Onkelos does not translate קרי, by chance, temporarily, rather stiffness. The Nefesh HaGer explains this is because it states ואם תלכו עמי קרי, and if you will go with Me קרי,” in order to distance any physicality with Hashem. Also, how is it possible to say about Hashem, by chance, temporarily? Hashem exists always and everywhere all the time. Therefore, he translates as “with stiffness” to put the word קרי on Yisrael, how they are acting – not Hashem.
May we soften our hearts to go with Hashem, and serve Him constantly and continuously.