This week’s Torah portion is Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34), and it contains a scary rebuke. God warns us about what will be if we do not keep the commandments of the Torah.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
To be frank, Bechukotai is not the most comfortable or enjoyable of Torah portions. The Torah is very direct, with a series of graphic tragedies that will befall the individual and the nation for not observing the Torah. One with a good eye for historical hindsight will be able to see that, unfortunately, most of these curses have come true through the many sufferings and persecutions that the Jewish people have faced since the beginning of time.
Nevertheless, the reading first opens with promises of blessings for those who observe the Torah. We are told that as a reward for keeping the mitzvot, we will have abundance, peace and victory over our enemies, and that the Jewish people will become numerous. I would like to focus on one of the verses of blessing, which says, “And I will dwell in your midst…and I will not detest you.”
The commentaries note that this verse is quite odd. If God is telling us how much he loves us and will bless us, why does it conclude with the very anticlimactic, “I will not despise you”? It certainly puts a damper on the mood.
Let’s transplant the spirit of this verse to a modern-day scenario. Imagine a person is proposing to his fiancée, and he begins his proposal with the following preamble, “I am going to love you, I am going to cherish you, I am going to take care of you…” and then, “…and I am not going to despise you.” Imagine! I think most women would propose some psychiatric treatment to their fiancés after hearing a proposal like that!
This appears to be exactly what God is doing in the verse cited above! What’s going on here?
‘No Greater Hatred than Love Spurned’
There are different types of relationships in life. Some relationships are never too warm or friendly to begin with. Then there are relationships in life that are incredibly loving from the get-go and continue forever more (i.e. my marriage!). There are also relationships that begin as incredibly loving, but the parties eventually end up as bitter enemies. When the relationship of a married couple who had fallen in love turns sour, often the divorce proceedings and their relationship thereafter are worse than a horror movie. As the saying goes, there is no greater hatred than love spurned. We all know of divorce cases in which the couple’s relationship simply sinks into the mud and they spend the rest of their life trying to destroy each other. Nothing is worse than former lovers who now hate each other.
So what our verse in this week’s Torah portion is saying is that God will always love us, no matter what. God knew then that the Jewish people would not always be faithful to the entire Torah. God knew that we would face “rebuke” (to say the least) for our lack of observance of the Torah. But God is also telling us that even though He will “divorce” us – with such measures as exile from our land – He will never despise us or let us go. He will never hate us. We will always be His children in His eyes.
Knowing that no matter how bad or rebellious we act towards God, He will never hate us and will always welcome us back. This is a blessing indeed!
For more insights on this week’s Torah portion by Rabbi Ari Enkin, click on the links below.
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