Shabbat Table Talk
Parashat Behar-Bechukotai – Erev Shabbat 12 May 2023 (5783)
Week of 7-13 May 3, 2023
Torah portion: Leviticus 25:1-27:34   Haftarah: Jeremiah 16: 19-17-14
Theme: I am the Lord your God.” 

As our closing reading of Leviticus for 2023 (5783) we have a combination of two Parashot. The first is B’har meaning “at the mountain of (Sinai)” and the second is B’chukotai “my (God’s) laws”. When I was preparing for my study of Leviticus in 2008 by reading it for the first time, I was discouraged by many people from going to study that book of rules and laws. I persevered in my reading and investigation and the one thing that struck me was what the ‘holiness of God’ demanded of God’s chosen people. I encouraged people to read it so as to come to a deeper understanding of how much is required of us to be fully the ‘holy people of God’. 

This affected me so much that I returned to Exodus 20 to reread and reflect upon the Ten Words (20:1-14). My prayerful reflection convinced me that these were not “you shall not” but rather: this is how “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Lev.19:2b)

 As I read through these chapters I kept getting reminders of why this behaviour towards the land and its people was important: You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 25:17) The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.” (vv. 23-24) “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.” (v.38) Parashat B’Har ends with: “You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no carved images or pillars, and you shall not place figured stones in your land, to worship at them; for I am the Lord your God.You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.”  (Lev. 26:1-2)

Parashat B’Chukotai  covers two sections: 1) Epilogue 26:3-46, and 2) Appendix 27: 1-34, which  is regarded as a later addition to the book with the conclusion: “These are the commandments that the Lord gave to Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.” The original ending is thus verse 46 of chapter 26: “These are the statutes and ordinances and laws that the Lord established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses.”

It is interesting that the curses for disobedience to the laws of God cover 31 verses in chapter 26 while the blessings cover 10 verses. I believe that all that God provides for us in creation and in ourselves and one another are blessings; it is we who bring the curses upon ourselves by disobeying the original innate laws in ourselves and all of creation.      

For Reflection and Discussion1. What if we went back to, and took seriously God’s law of the Sabbath and the Jubilee year and all that these entail? How different would be our district, our country, our continent and our world? 2. What if we teach our children with fervour and conviction that God’s laws are for our protection and for that of all of creation? What a wonderful world we would have! 3. What am I called to do to bring about a better world?

Bibliography: Ezkenazi ed. The Torah, A Woman’s Commentary (NY 2008); www.biblegateway.com NRSVACET

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, Ethekwini,
 South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008.

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