Thoughts on Bechukotai

This week’s parasha is Bechukotai (with My statutes), Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34. * The haftarah is Jeremiah 16:19-17:14 and the reading from the Apostolic Writings is John 11:17–37.

Technically, there are multiple kal v’homer or if/then clauses in this week’s parasha, 26:3 & 12; 26:14 & 16, essentially “if you walk in My ways then you will walk in My blessings” or if you do not walk in My ways then you will walk in the consequences of your choice.” Then there are a couple of with sub-categories (26:18-28; 26:40 & 42) which also are kal v’homer clauses, which affirm, “if you continue (to choose) to walk contrary to My ways then the consequences will get even worse. However, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is filled with the promise,

“Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I hate them into utter destruction, and break My covenant with them, for I am ADONAI their God. But for their sake, I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am ADONAI.” (Leviticus 26:44-45)

For those who erroneously assume that HaShem has finished with His covenant people, Israel, this affirmation should soundly quell that idea. Then if they bring up the fact that this statement in the “Old Testament” and thereby before “Christ”, let them be reminded of these words of Rav Shaul,

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 11:1)

Neither in the Tanakh nor in the Apostolic Writings could it be said that HaShem rejects His covenant people Israel, even when He needs to discipline them. The Psalmist records the heart cry of HaShem when he wrote,

Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes. (Psalm 81:14-15)

The heart cry is immediately preceded by the discipline that HaShem was forced to bring upon Israel due to their choice to not walk in the way of HaShem,

But My people did not listen to My voice. Israel was not willing to be Mine. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own counsels. (Psalm 81:12-13)

Notice that the Psalmist agrees with the text in this week’s parasha that discipline or judgment is brought about not due to HaShem’s anger, rather discipline is the consequence of the people’s choice to not to walk in the ways of HaShem.

We also hear the same sentiment echoed in the words of Yeshua as he cried over Jerusalem,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)

While the killing of the prophets and the stoning of the messengers of HaShem is bad, without a doubt, the most telling accusation here is again the choice signified by the words, “but you were not willing.”

There is another thing about choices that I want us to consider in this week’s “Thoughts.” We often hear the assertion that “though I do not follow the commandments of the God of the Bible, I don’t do anything really bad either” or the declaration that “I live a moral, ethical life without following God.” What these people are trying to say is that there is a middle ground, between the positive and negative poles that our parasha seems to set.

In Kiddushin 61b:13, our Sages did away with the idea that there might be a middle ground or that place where rejecting God might lead to a neutral position.

The Gemara asks a related question: Granted, according to the opinion of Rabbi Meir, this is the reason that it is written: “If you walk in My statutes” (Leviticus 26:3), you will receive blessings; conversely: “And if you shall reject My statutes” (Leviticus 26:15), you will receive curses. However, according to the opinion of Rabbi Ḥanina ben Gamliel, why do I need both of these clauses? The Gemara answers: They are both necessary, as it might enter your mind to say: If you follow My statutes you will receive a blessing, whereas if you reject My statutes you will receive neither a blessing nor a curse. The verse, therefore, teaches us that the rejection of God’s statutes warrants a curse. **

The compiler of Mishlei would agree with the Sages, as at least twice there is the warning not to reject the way of HaShem,

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25)

On the other hand, John stated about Yeshua, the Living Word and the embodiment of the Torah,

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment, so that we may know who is genuine; moreover, we are united with the One who is genuine, united with his Son Yeshua the Messiah. He is the genuine God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20, CJB)

Our being united with him, following his way and not our own way, requires that we make a choice to do so. Yeshua has given us the discernment to know the right way to walk, but we still have to make the choice. After Joshua had led Bnei Yisrael into the promised land, after HaShem had given the victory over all their enemies, Joshua challenged all the people to, “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:14-15). This challenge comes down to each of us today, may we choose wisely and walk in the ways of HaShem.

Shabbat Shalom

  • Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

** https://www.sefaria.org/Leviticus.26.15?lang=bi&with=Kiddushin&lang2=en

 

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