Parashat Behar-Bechukotai / פרשת בְּהַר־בְּחֻקֹּתַי
Read on 8 May 2021 (26 Iyyar 5781).
Parashat Behar-Bechukotai is the 32nd and 33rd weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.
Torah Portion: Leviticus 25:1-27:34
The first of this double portion, Behar (בהר), starts talking about a Shabbat for the land. We sow and reap for six years, but leave the land a year of rest in the seventh year. We do not work the land in that year, but we, and anyone else in need, are allowed to gather any produce that the land provides. Hashem assures us that we have plentiful crop in the other years to provide for those years of rest.
If our fellow is in dire straits, we provide a no-interest loan. If they can not pay it back by the seventh year, all debts are forgiven. Hashem assures us that what we think we will lose by not having the loan paid back will be made up by prosperity. The highest form of charity is to do business with a fellow Jew to help them make a living.
Seven by seven years is the Jubilee year. Any land that has been sold off because our fellows has not been successful is returned. We are paid for the amount of time we used the land. If our fellow has to sell themselves to fellow Israelites because they can not support themselves, they go free in that Jubilee year as well. Meanwhile, a fellow’s relatives should do all they can to redeem them. Foreign slaves, however, do not get freed.
The second of the two portions, Bechukotai,(בחקתי),, discusses the blessings and the warnings if the Israelites do, or don’t do the commandments. It starts out discussing the blessings, that if the Children of Israel follow Hashem’s decrees and judgments and perform them, the rain will appear at their proper times and there will be prosperity. They will not fear any enemy and defeat any that attack them. Hashem will walk with us.
The sedra then goes on to discuss the consequences of us not following G-d’s laws, the “admonition” or “tochachah”. This seven series of progressively worse consequences that will befall Israel for not following Hashem’s laws and decrees. As the people get more and more apathetic, the consequences get worse and worse.
Finally, Israel sees the error of their ways and return to Hashem, who in turn restores their strength and prosperity. Ultimately, however, each stage of punishment is a call to repent.
Finally, Bechukotai and Leviticus ends with gifts to the Temple. People can have themselves or their animals assessed for a contrived value, which they then donate.