This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34).
* Lev. 26:2 says to revere God’s Sabbaths and His sanctuary. The Sabbath is the most sacred time and the sanctuary is the most sacred space. Judaism sanctifies time and space and food and sex.
* So what do the blessings mean? If you keep the commandments, God will do what for you? Or are the blessings for the nation as a whole? Does this mean God will do miracles for Israel if it keeps His commandments? The blessings don’t list spiritual benefits, they list only physical benefits.
* God doesn’t say, so long as you keep My ethical commandments or the most important of my commandments. He says his commandments without proviso. Many commandments have no meaning to me but I feel bound to observe them anyway.
* Most Jews don’t like to use the word “sin.” In my experience, most Orthodox Jews and most Orthodox rabbis don’t like to use the word “sin.” Yet sin is a focus of Torah.
* Is God’s covenant with Israel revocable? If Jews ignore His commandments will they cease to be His people? That’s what Christians say. Are Jews God’s people only if they act like God’s people?
* Rashi says the rains will come on Shabbat. Lev. 26:4 (AS)
* Lev. 26:5 Constant work is part of the blessing. (AS)
* Lev. 26:14 If you do not listen to Me, indicates to not engage in daily Torah study. (AS)
* Most Jews today don’t care about these rituals in Leviticus, and to the extent they do care, it is because they can link them to some ethical upshot, but these rituals have psychological, social, aesthetic, and inspirational value. God’s directives for our lives are not only ethical, but also holy.
The joy of living in accord with God’s commandments is hard to describe but the rabbi and I will try. It’s this deep sense of inner peace and this yearning to help other people.
* AS on Lev. 27:10: “Although the commandments of the Torah are decrees, it is proper to meditate upon them and seek reasons.”
* Am I very particular and exacting and does everything have to be done my way?