19 May 2017

Parashat Behar-Bechukotai 5777

23 Iyyar 5777
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Day 38 of the Omer
"According to Alshich, the Torah relates the observance of Shemittah to Israel's arrival in the land that I give you to counteract the normal human feeling that someone's property is his alone, especially the land that he works with sweat and travail. The Torah emphasizes, therefore, that it is God who gives the land." (Torah commentary on Parashat Behar)
Interestingly, it is on the very verse (v. 10) which deals particularly with HaYovel - the Jubilee year - that the commentary states...
"The Jubilee laws bring home to people that the land and freedom are Divine gifts and that ownership reverts to whom He wills it."
After a long discourse on the laws concerning HaYovel, the Torah says...
"For the Children of Israel are servants to Me, they are My servants, whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt - I am HASHEM, your God. You shall not make idols for yourselves,...for I am HASHEM your God." (Vayikra 25.55-26.1)
This is followed immediately by Parashat Bechukotai and the chilling tochachah...
"This Sidrah begins with the idyllic blessings that await the Jewish people if they live up to their covenant with God, and are thus worthy of God's esteem. It then proceeds to the tochachah, Admonition, a sobering account of punishments, frustrations, and curses that will be the inevitable outcome of any attempt to destroy the covenant. Indeed, though God's underlying mercy prevents all of these curses befalling Israel in any one unbearable instant, a careful reading of Jewish history - and perhaps the twentieth century in particular - shows that they have taken place at intervals, before and during the exiles. Just as the curses have come, however, so the final blessings will come, for the final words of the Admonition are God's irrevocable oath that He will remember His covenant with the Patriarchs and redeem His children." (Torah Commentary)
And if anyone remains in doubt, for those who believe that they can set aside the Torah and put their own reasoning ahead of God's clear commands, our haftarah gives some strong advice...
So says HASHEM: "Accursed is the man who trusts in people and makes mortals his strength, and turns his heart away from HASHEM.* He will be like a lone tree in the wilderness and will not see when goodness comes; he will dwell in the arid desert, in a sulfurious, uninhabited land. Blessed is the man who trusts in HASHEM, then HASHEM will be his security. He will be like a tree planted near water, which will spread its roots alongside brooks and will not see when heat comes, whose foliage will be ever fresh, who will not worry in years of drought and will never stop producing fruit." (Yirmiyahu 17.5-8)
[*If a man puts his trust in people, his heart will turn away from Hashem.]

Yirmiyahu HaNavi then makes an interesting observation: "The heart is most deceitful of all and it is fragile; who can know it?" (Yirmiyahu 17.9) Good Jews can go wrong because their hearts lead them astray. They feel misplaced mercy and compassion where the Torah demands justice and reason. They choose the heart over the mind: "I, HASHEM, plumb the heart and test the mind; to give a man according to his ways, like the fruit of his deeds." (Yirmiyahu17.10)

Reward and punishment, the curse of exile and the promise of redemption. And the war for hearts and minds. That is our parashah this week. 

And it has been the focus of this blog all week, as we have fought a hard battle for the hearts and minds of Am Yisrael to shun idolatry and cease dependence upon idolaters and to close the door firmly in the face of it. 

The time for learning our lessons is over. Now, we are sitting our final exam. Who will pass, who will fail? It's all up to you!

~ Shabbat shalom ~