Parashat B'hukotai

Unifying Towards Redemption

We can achieve redemption only when striving for unity, holiness, and justice.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from the UJA-Federation of New York.

Prominent among the themes of the parashiyot (Torah portions) between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) is the insistence that our community be built on a solid foundation of holiness and justice. This theme was articulated at great length in the "holiness code" (Leviticus 19) of Parashat Kedoshim. It also was expressed in Parashat Emor, with its instructions to look after the needs of the poor in our community (Leviticus 23:22). This week, in the culmination of the Book of Leviticus, we once again encounter a strong emphasis on the theme of holiness and justice.

Parashat B'hukotai, the last portion in Leviticus, focuses in part on the consequences of a lack of holiness and justice. This reading contains a series of blessings and curses that portend the rewards and punishments that will be meted out on the Jewish people in direct proportion to their observance of the Torah. Strikingly, the section of curses consists of exactly 49 verses--so too, the counting of the Omer, the semi-mourning period between Pesach and Shavuot, consists of 49 days. This passage warns of the destruction of the land, the destruction of the nation, and the potential for Jewish exile.

What may be most disturbing in this section of B'hukotai is the utter absence of any mention of the rapprochement between God and the Jewish people that would end the horrific exile and usher in the messianic age. In a different place, near its very end, the Torah states a promise of redemption after exile: "The Lord your God will restore you from your captivity when [or "if"] you will return to your God" (Deuteronomy 30:2).

In contrast, Parashat B'hhukotai, in lieu of the promise of ultimate redemption, seems to offer us solace in the form of God's remembrance of the covenants He made with our forefathers: "I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham, and I will remember My land" (Leviticus 26:42).

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David Frankel is the Associate International Director at NCSY. He was previously the director of the Young Leadership Division of UJA-Federation of New York.