02 June 2016
This week’s parasha – Bechukotai – is a tough one, as we read that God will grant favor to those who follow God’s commandments and will punish those who do not. “If you…faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season…I will grant peace in the land…I will make you fertile, and…I will be ever present in your midst “… if you reject My laws and spurn My rules…I will wreak misery upon you.”
Some reject such cause-and-effect theology as too simple, as we all know of bad things happening to some very good people and good things that happen to people behaving badly. The challenge of this parasha and of Judaism as a whole is to find the deeper meaning in straightforward text. In the preface to his book, The Hebrew Prophets: Selections Annotated and Explained, Rabbi Rami Shapiro wrote, “Everything depends on the choice you make in the present moment….Do you choose for God and godliness, or do you choose for self and selfishness?” The essence of this week’s parasha is that of choice. We make choices every day – some right, some wrong and we continuously aim for a higher batting average of right decisions, and certainly the important ones.
Perhaps comfort can be found later in the parasha as we are reminded that the covenant between God and the Jewish people continues to exist, regardless of the dreadful consequences of not following the mitzvot. Similar to a parent’s love for a child – regardless of the behavior, and the consequences for the behavior – God’s commitment to us remains steadfast.