Commentary on Parashat Bechukotai, Leviticus 26:3 - 27:34
God says: If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant rain so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees their fruit. I will grant peace and you shall sleep with no fear. I will cause vicious beasts to withdraw from the land and your enemies will fall before you.
I, your God, will look with favor upon you and make you fertile and multiply. I will establish My covenant with you. I will place My Sanctuary among you and My Spirit will not reject you. I will walk among you, I will be God to you, and you will be a people to Me. I, who broke the bonds of your slavery and taught you to walk upright.
But if you will not listen to Me, if your soul rejects My laws and if you do not carry out My commandments and break My covenant, then I will do the same to you. I will bring upon you illness that fills the spirit with grief. You will then sow your seed in vain. I will set My countenance against you and you will be beaten by your enemies. Those that hate you will rule over you and you will flee even though no one pursues you.
If you still will not heed Me, then I shall punish you further. I will break the pride of your might. I will make your heaven like iron and your land like copper. Your strength will be spent in vain; your land will not give produce and your trees will not bear fruit. And if you walk with Me only by chance or walk contrary unto Me, I will add yet another blow. I will let loose wild beasts to rob you of your children and destroy your cattle, and your roads will become desolate.
If you still walk with Me only by chance or walk contrary unto Me then I, too, will walk with you only by chance and walk contrary unto you. I will strike you seven times for your sins. I will avenge the covenant and I will deliver you into the hand of the enemy. I will send a pestilence. You will eat your food but will not be satisfied. And if you still walk with me only by chance, I will walk with you in the random fury of chance, then chastise you seven times for your sins.
I will destroy your lofty buildings and decimate your sun idols and place your remains beside the remains of your monstrous gods. My Spirit will reject you. I will make your sanctuaries desolate and will no longer accept your expressions of compliance. I will scatter you among the nations and your land will remain desolate and your cities in ruins.
In desolation, the land will finally rest to compensate for when you dwelled upon the land during the sabbatical years.
Those survivors among you shall be heartsick. They will confess their sin and the sin of their ancestors for the treachery with which they betrayed Me and walked with Me only by chance.
I, too, will walk with them only by chance and bring them to the land of their enemies. Perhaps then their unyielding heart will bow and be humbled and punishment will be paid for their sins. Then I shall remember My covenant with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, and I will remember the land. I will remember how they despised Me and how I have not despised or rejected them or broken My covenant with them, for I, God, am still their God.
There are ways of uttering a resolve to God, ways of showing a value for each soul. The people may do it with shekels or land or animals and then consecrate it with priests in a holy manner. All tithes from the land, whether seed from the ground or fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s. They are holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem any of his tithes, he must add one-fifth to them. All tithes of the herd or the flock–all that passes under the shepherd’s staff, every tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. One shall not inquire whether it be good or bad, neither shall one change it. If one does change it, then it shall be holy. It shall not be redeemed.
These are the commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses, for the children of Israel in Mount Sinai.
Parashat Bechukotai Discussion Questions
1) In return for following God’s laws, God promises to provide rain for hearty crops and enemies that fall easily. What does it mean then today when it doesn’t rain or when enemies do not fall? Does it mean that God isn’t keeping God’s promise or that the Jewish people aren’t keeping their promise to God?
2) God tells the children of Israel in this passage that if an Israelite does not hearken to God and to God’s laws and commandments, that God will bring, among other things, illness that fills the spirit with grief. How do you feel when you have knowingly (or unknowingly) broken a commandment? Do you believe these feelings stem from God or from you?
3) What does it mean to walk with God only by chance or to walk in a contrary way with God? How do you walk with God?
This article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!