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Parshat Behar-Bechukotai

In a quote: "Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation" - Oscar Wilde

This week's double parsha moves away from purity related laws to general laws and Israel's adherence to these laws.

Let us examine two contrasting verses

אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כוּ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתַ֣י תִּשְׁמְר֔וּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָֽם׃

If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments.....

וְאִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֣י תִּמְאָ֔סוּ וְאִ֥ם אֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֖י תִּגְעַ֣ל נַפְשְׁכֶ֑ם לְבִלְתִּ֤י עֲשׂוֹת֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺתַ֔י לְהַפְרְכֶ֖ם אֶת־בְּרִיתִֽי׃

If you reject My laws and spurn My rules, so that you do not observe all My commandments and you break My covenant....

These two verses present two contrasting realities. The first is one in which the people of Israel are obedient and are rewarded with peace and prosperity. The second is one of a delinquent society which is punished by the promise of havoc and terror. Textually, both are described vividly with the success of Israel being painted as a utopia and the fall of Israel as a terrifying, morbid and war torn reality.

God presents Israel with these two options, or more aptly. Two end-games. Israel's actions will result in one of these realities. This begs the question, why present these "options"?

To answer the question let us examine an excerpt from Bereshit:

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־קָ֑יִן לָ֚מָּה חָ֣רָה לָ֔ךְ וְלָ֖מָּה נָפְל֥וּ פָנֶֽיךָ׃ הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשָׁל־בּֽוֹ׃

And the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you distressed, And why is your face fallen? Surely, if you do right, There is uplift. But if you do not do right Sin couches at the door; Its urge is toward you, Yet you can be its master.”

Here we are faced with a reality. Mankind is susceptible to evil actions, they fill the empty space. In our text it is suggested that the empty space be filled with good, thereby ensuring evil remains on the periphery. The text may suggest, that there is no evil action, only the absence of good actions.

Abraham Lincoln extends this:

We are a nation formed by a covenant, by dedication to a set of principles and by an exchange of promises to uphold and advance certain commitments among ourselves and throughout the world. Those principles and commitments are the core of American identity, the soul of the body politic. They make the American nation unique, and uniquely valuable, among and to the other nations. But the other side of the conception contains a warning very like the warnings spoken by the prophets to Israel: if we fail in our promises to each other, and lose the principles of the covenant, then we lose everything, for they are we.

Not only can it be concluded that evil action is the absence of good, but Lincoln also suggests that this evil is indicative of a failure to uphold our sense of good, justice and to betray our soul.

The choice given to Israel is one of remaining true to one's values or one of betrayal.

We must always ask ourselves, judging by the landscape of the world, in what reality do we currently exist? In particular we need to examine Yom Yerushalayim and decide if we are on the right track or not.

Shabbat Shalom.

Text of this week's portion: CLICK HERE

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