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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Leviticus/Vayikra - Bechukotai 101
Posted May, 2000
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The conclusion of Vayikra (Leviticus) is found in Parashat Bechukotai which begins at Perek Chav-Vav:gimel (Chapter 25:3).  In reading this Parashah slowly and carefully during Shabbat, I was struck with two things.  First the wording is very clear and easily understood.  Second, God makes a number of promises in this Parashah - promises He has kept more than once.  In order to make this point, it is necessary to quote a great deal of the Parashah.  Notes of interest will be interspersed throughout the text. 

3. I f you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them:

4. then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit:

5. Your threshing will last until the vintage, and the vintage will last until the sowing; you will eat your bread to satiety and you will dwell securely in your land: 

6. I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you; I will cause wild beasts to withdraw from the land, and a sword will not cross your land:

7. You will pursue your enemies; and they will fall before you by the sword:

8. Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand; and your enemies will fall before you by the sword: 

This particular quote " Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand; and your enemies will fall before you by the sword:" has been demonstrated in history a number of times.  Most notably, this is a clear example of the War of 1948 when 50,000 Israeli men and women fought against an army of over 5,000,000 from the surrounding countries. 

9. I will turn My attention to you, I will make you fruitful and increase you; and I will establish My covenant with you: 

There are some key words here that will be important later.  Those words are, "I will establish My covenant with you."  God is setting the covenant - not man.

10. You will eat very old grain and remove the old to make way for the new:

11. I will place My Sanctuary among you; and My Spirit will not reject you:

12. I will walk among you, I will be God unto you and you will be a people unto Me: 

13. I am Hashem, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt from being their slaves; I broke the staves of your yoke and I led you erect:

14. But if you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments:

15. if you consider My decrees loathsome, and if your being rejects My ordinances, so as not to perform all My commandments, so that you annul My covenant:

16. then I will do the same to you; I will assign upon you panic, swelling lesions, and burning fever, which cause eyes to long and souls to suffer; you will sow your seeds in vain, for your enemies will eat it:

17. I will turn My attention against you, you will be struck down before enemies; those who hate you will subjugate you -- you will flee with no one pursuing you: 

In the previous Parashot, I have discussed and presented commentaries relative to the people of Israel being taken captive by the Romans after the fall of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).  The verse above provides a clear example of just this situation.  Keep in mind that the Romans (Edom) were descendants of Esau (Esav) who was known for his hatred of Yaakov (Jacob).

18. If despite this you do not heed Me, then I shall punish you further, seven ways for your sins: 

19. I will break the pride of your might; I will make your heaven like iron and your land like copper:

20. Your strength will be spent in vain; your land will not give its produce and the tree of the land will not give its fruit:

21. If you behave casually with Me and refuse to heed Me, then I shall lay a further blow upon you -- seven ways, like your sins: 

22. I will incite the wildlife of the field against you and it will leave you bereft of your children, decimate your livestock, and diminish you; and your roads will become desolate:

23. If despite these you will not be chastised toward Me, and you behave casually with Me:

24. then I, too, will behave toward you with casualness; and I will strike you, even I, seven ways for your sins:

25. I will bring upon you a sword, avenging the vengeance of a covenant, you will be gathered into your cities; then I will send a pestilence among you and you will be delivered into the hand of your enemy:

26. When I break for you the staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread by weight; you will eat and not be sated:

27. If despite this you will not heed Me, and you behave toward Me with casualness:

28. I will behave toward you with a fury of casualness; I will chastise you, even I, seven ways for your sins:

29. You will eat the flesh of your sons; and the flesh of your daughters will you eat: 

For those interested in this particular verse, read the history surrounding the Greek occupation of the Land of Israel just prior to the Maccabean uprising.

30. I will destroy your lofty buildings and decimate your sun-idols, I will cast your carcasses upon the carcasses of your idols, and My Spirit will reject you:

31. I will lay your cities in ruin and I will make your sanctuaries desolate; I will not savor your satisfying aromas:

32. I will make the land desolate; and your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate:

33. And you, I will scatter among the nations, I will unsheathe the sword after you; your land will be desolate and your cities will be a ruin: 

Again, this is reflected in the catastrophe done by the Romans between 70 and 110 CE. 

34. Then the land will be appeased for its sabbaticals during all the years of its desolation, while you are in the land of your foes; then the land will rest and it will appease for its sabbaticals:

35. All the years of its desolation it will rest, whatever it did not rest during your sabbaticals when you dwelled upon her: 

Here is a very interesting point.  In last week's Parashah, it is pointed out that the Land of Israel does not belong to people.  It belongs to God and God lets Klal Yisrael (the Nation of Israel - called Jews today) use it and benefit from it.  Notice that God is saying that, since you would not treat My land with respect, I will make sure that it rests in your absence. 

For those who are interested in history, I would recommend reading about that small region of the world and what it was like between 110 CE and 1880 CE.  It was desolate, unproductive land.  In 1880, the first settlers began coming to what was then called Palestine to reclaim the land.  Today, of course, it is bountiful with beautiful forests and fields.  For nearly 17 centuries however, during the absence of Jews working the land, it laid fallow.  This is exactly what God promised would happen. 

In the two previous Parashot, I commented on things relative to how we treat others.  In addition, I outlined the terrible treatment of Judeans to one another just before Rome destroyed the Temple, most of Yerushalyim, and took captive the Land.  When the settlers began coming to Palestine in the late 1800's, they had a common goal - to rebuild the land.  Although there were disagreements, seldom did those get in the way of the common good.  In other words, there was a great deal of mutual respect, love, and admiration.  In terms of the Laws concerning our treatment of each other, these were being kept.  Look at the results. 

36. The survivors among you -- I will bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their foes; the sound of a rustling leaf will pursue them, they will flee as one flees the sword, and they will fall, but without a pursuer:

It should be noted that there has never been a time, since the generation following those who came out of Mitzrayim (Egypt) came to the Land that there have not been Jews living there.  Those who remained after the Romans conquered Judea lived in and around Yerushalayim.  For the most part, they survived only through performing menial labor and, in many cases, through charity sent from others around the world.

37. They will stumble over one another as in flight from the sword, but there is no pursuer; you will not have the power to withstand your foes:

38. You will become lost among the nations; the land of your foes will devour you: 

One of the greatest affects of the Diaspora is assimilation.  It is said that once assimilation starts, within three generations, people will no longer know they are Jewish.  Having myself come from an assimilated family, I can attest to the accuracy of this statement. 

39. Because of their iniquity, your remnant will disintegrate in the lands of your foes; and because the iniquities of their forefathers are with them as well, they will disintegrate:

40. Then they will confess their sin and the sin of their forefathers, for the treachery with which they betrayed Me, and also for having behaved toward Me with casualness: 

41. I, too, will behave toward them with casualness and I will bring them into the land of their enemies -- perhaps then their unfeeling heart will be humbled and then they will gain appeasement for their sin:

42. I will remember My covenant with Jacob and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the Land: 

Here we see God saying that He will remember just as He established the covenant. 

43. The Land will be bereft of them; and it will be appeased for its sabbaticals having become desolate of them; and they must gain appeasement for their iniquity; because they were revolted by My ordinances and because their spirit rejected My decrees:

44. But despite all this, while they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them -- for I am Hashem, their God: 

Here God says very clearly that He will not annul the covenant that He has with Klal Yisrael.  There are those who say this is not the case and that covenant between God and the Jewish people no longer exists.  Obviously, as we can see from everything in this Parashah, from everything in history over the past 2,000 years, that is not the case.  The covenant is still very much intact.  This means two things.  The most important is that we, as Jews, are obligated to keep our part of the covenant, to keep Torah, and most important - to love, respect, and care for one another without preference or bias. 

45. I will remember for them the covenant of the ancients, those whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be God unto them -- I am Hashem:

46. These are the decrees, the ordinances, and the teachings that Hashem gave, between Himself and the Children of Israel, at Mount Sinai, through Moses: 

Next week, we will begin Sefer Bamidbar (the Book of Numbers).  The word "Bamidbar" means "in the Desert."

________

Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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