This week’s Torah reading includes a terrible curse on the Jewish people and the Land of Israel for disobeying His commands, but even when He must curse us, He always adds a blessing.
This week’s Torah portion is Behar Bechukotai, (Leviticus 25:1-27:34), and in it we read about the curses for rejecting the Torah and God’s commandments. These curses aren’t pretty. This Torah portion is certainly not one of the more enjoyable passages to read.
One curse is that the Land of Israel will become desolate after the Jews are exiled from the land, as it says, “and your enemies shall leave it [the land] desolate.” (26:32).
The commentators point out that there may actually be a blessing hidden in this curse. Sure, it is horrible that the Jews were exiled from their land and that the land was essentially uninhabitable, but there is a deeper meaning between the lines: All the unfriendly nations that will occupy the Land of Israel in the future will not be successful in developing the land.
In the curse of the desolation, however, is the blessing that only the Jews can inhabit the land. Only the Jews can be successful in the Land of Israel. All the Land wants and yearns for is for her people to return home.
Indeed, this has been so true! During the 2000 years of exile, the land was desolate, barren, and filled with disease. This was true right up to modern times. The Turkish and the British failed to make the Land of Israel prosperous. As famous American author Mark Twain wrote after visiting Israel in 1867, “…. A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
God’s Promise Fulfilled Before Our Very Eyes
The only times in history when there was success and prosperity in the Land of Israel was when the Jews were in control. It was only when large numbers of Jews began returning to the Land of Israel in modern times that things started to “move” here. In a mere 69 years of statehood, Israel has made proportionately more progress in development than any other country has ever done in history.
This is God’s promise being fulfilled before our very eyes! It has been suggested that if the British had known what the land would look like only a few decades after leaving, they never would have issued the Balfour Declaration!
And back to our Torah portion, and the way God “works.” Even when He must curse us, He always adds a blessing!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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