Parashat Bechukotai – Erev Shabbat 20 May 2022
Week of 15-21 May 2022
Torah portion: Leviticus 26 :3-27 :34 ; Haftarah : Jeremiah 16:14 -17:19
Theme: Be holy, as the LORD our God is Holy
According to the commentaries, chapter 26 of Leviticus is the final chapter of the Holiness Code (17:1-26: 46) while chapter 27 is an Appendix to the book. In chapter 26 we read about the following: A. Blessings for Obedience (vv. 3-13); B. Curses for Disobedience (vv. 14-45); and C. Conclusion (v. 46). I note that ‘blessings for obedience’ cover 10 verses while ‘curses for disobedience’ cover 31 verses! The purpose of the above is ensuring obedience to God. It seems as if fear was still what motivated the people of God according to the above! And yet we know that in spite of this, they strayed many times as do we. Do all these ‘rules’ help us? Maybe that was the purpose behind the lawyer’s question to Jesus (if it weren’t, then we are the gainers and maybe he was converted): Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? (Matt. 22:36) The Holiness Code presents the LORD speaking to Moses (representing the whole Israelite community) and saying: you shall be holy, for I, your God the LORD, am holy. (Lev. 19:2)
As we journey in our spiritual life as a group or individually, I believe we move towards God with less and less baggage – love drives our lives in one form or another: we see God in all people and in all of creation and we are inspired by the words of Julian of Norwich (1342-1416): “Everything has being through the love of God.” [Showings, p. 182, (1)]
In verses 44 and 45 the LORD God shows love and fidelity towards his chosen people: Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord.
When I read the so-called ‘curses’ and then look at our world today then I wonder whether what has been happening in our world over the past two or more years has happened because we have not obeyed the laws inherent in God’s creation. Nature is rebelling against us in the form of Covid, floods, unproductive land, excessive heat, desertification and wars. We have raped the earth and the inhabitants by our greed and ideologies. If we look at world and religious leadership the masculine in its authoritarian, hard-hearted approach rules (like Pharaoh at the time of Moses) and the poor and the helpless – often women and children but not only – are being destroyed or displaced. There is a great need for compassion, caring and sharing (the feminine) in what has become a global world. It is time for our world to grow up into integrity, depth and intergenerational responsibility for the world.
And how are we going to do that? Fox states in his commentary on Lev: 27 that besides being an appendix, it could also be said that it provides an appropriate ending to Leviticus, since it talks about dedication of property to God, as the book does in regard to all areas of life. (1997: p.640) This is our duty and calling as the Face of the LORD God! Have we forgotten this?
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) Read: Joshua 24:14:28, then Micah 6:8, and then John 13:34 and note the similarities and differences. I think this process of reading (listening) and following in our lives, is a journey to integrity, depth and intergenerational responsibility for the world – being holy as God the LORD is Holy. Discuss. Bibliography: Eskenazi, T. C. Weiss, A.L. A Women’s Commentary (New York: 2008); Fowler, James W. The Stages of Faith (New York: 1981); Fox, Everett. The Five Books of Moses (New York:1997)
This week’s Parashah Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008