Behukotai 5771

Posted on May 22, 2011

by Max Bartell, 2011 USY Religion/Education Vice President International General Board

“And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will no reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.” (Vayikra 26:44) You’ve really got to love it when no matter what, God has our back. Shabbat Shalom USY. In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Bechukotai, God really struck me as a typical Jewish parent. We all know the feeling of being constantly loved and cared for, while at the same time being scolded or reprimanded (lovingly) for doing something small. This really seems to be the overarching theme in this week’s Parsha. As part of the book of Vayikra, laws are a very common occurrence. In fact, there are Parshiot which consist only of laws. However, this week the way that these laws are given out is a little bit out of the ordinary.

God proceeds to give out a large group of laws, ranging from Shmitah (resting the fields), to taxes that must be paid to the Temple, all the way to a repetition of the Ten Commandments for the entire nation. While it may seem strange that the Ten Comandments were recited for at least a second time, many scholars see it as a logical event. It also signals that the Israelites were growing exponentially. Because of their rapid growth, there were many people who were not present in person at the first recitation, and therefore must hear the commandments at this point in order to be familiar with everything that is going on. As the clear parent figure in this situation, God wants to make sure that everyone knows exactly what is going on.

However, after the blessings and commandments are given, God feels that it is appropriate to inform the Israelites what will happen if they do not follow God’s laws and commandments. Some of the punishments are pretty graphic, but they clearly make their point. The Israelites do not disobey God’s laws. It seems like this is exactly the way that a loving and caring Jewish parent would act. In fact, I had a very similar experience with my own parents just this past weekend at my installation as Chazak Divisional President.

When I was informed that my parents were coming to my installation, I was really excited. As soon as they arrived, I left the room to see them, and was greeted by hugs and showered with compliments and congratulations (blessing part). However, the moment they finished, they began fixing my suit, tie, and hair. You know, normal things that parents do. While this may not have been anywhere near the punishments that God promised the Israelites, you get the point.  While it may sound a little odd, I think that God and my parents felt pretty much the same way. They were both very proud of their respective “children’s” goals, but at the same time they were a little hesitant. They were hesitant to let what they had worked so hard to cultivate, grow up. God was afraid for the Israelites and my parents for their son. Both my parents and God had that sense of anxiety that comes with not being able to control what happens next. Even though they didn’t know what would happen next, both my parents and God still had to let go, and hope for the best. Shabbat Shalom USY, have a restful and peaceful Shabbat :)