No matter how badly Jews have been beaten, tortured, exiled and abused, we must know that each and every one of us has tremendous value. No one can take that away from us!
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week we read the double Torah portion of “Behar-Bechukotai” (Leviticus 25:1–27:34), and with it we conclude the book of Leviticus. It’s on to Deuteronomy!
The second Torah portion of the week, “Bechukotai,” contains within it the infamous ‘rebuke.’ Although the reading begins with all kinds of blessings and promises for those who keep the Torah commandments, it continues with very graphic and painful warnings of what will happen to the Jewish people should they fail to observe the Torah.
Some of the punishments and curses mentioned are personal, some of them are national. It predicts wars, enemies, exiles and captivity. For example, it is taught that the verse “G-d will return you to Egypt in boats” refers to the days of Titus, when the Jews were loaded onto boats and shipped as slaves to Egypt. So, too, we are told that the verse “The King which you will appoint over yourself…” refers to Agrippa, who should not have been appointed king. There are many more such examples.
According to many commentators, even the horrors of the Inquisition and the Holocaust with descriptions of barbarism, Jews betraying Jews, and mass starvation are alluded to in this week’s reading. It is not the most exciting Torah portion to read, but it is part of our tradition and we must learn it and internalize it.
Nevertheless, this scary and eerily prophetic reading ends with God’s promise that wherever we will be exiled to in the world, we will always yearn for our homeland and feel connected to it. There will always be a relationship between God and the Jewish people. And these verses certainaly were proven true.
Now here’s something interesting: Immediately after this disturbing reading, the Torah portion ends with some lesser-known and rarely practiced laws known as “erchin,” which concern a person who would like to donate the equivalent value of himself or any of his possessions to the Temple. He may declare the value of his home, his animals and other possessions as a donation for the Temple. When he does this, an official evaluation takes place to determine exactly how much money is owed.
The question is asked: We are told that there is usually a connection between any two linked chapters in the Torah. What could possibly be the connection between the reading of the curses and the mitzvot (Torah commandments) concerning erchin that immediately follow?
The answer, it is explained, is that no matter how badly we have been beaten, tortured, exiled and abused, we must know that we all have value. No matter what the Hitlers try to do to us, no matter what all the anti-semites say about us, we must remember that we are treasured in the eyes of God. We are wanted in the service of the Temple. We have an individual value and a national value. We are are Jews, we are the Chosen people, we preach morality and monotheism to the world. We know our tremendous value. No one can take that away from us!
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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