Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha

B’Chukotai

May 21, 2011
Leviticus 26:14-42
Modern Author: Melvin Jules Bukiet, “The Library of Moloch

KOSHI: HOW does our suffering affirm/deny…God’s Covenant? WHAT is the legacy of being a “survivor” ?

V.14-15     But if you do not heed Me, and do not observe all these mitzvoth; if you reject My statutes and spurn My laws, and so break My covenant.

 IBN EZRA… Some people with mush brains count more curses than blessings, but this is not true. The blessings are very general and the curses quite specific simply to frighten ordinary folks[am ha’aretz].

 RASHI“If you reject My laws” That is, rejecting those who observe them.  “And spurn My rules” That is, treating the Sages with enmity. “And do not observe”—preventing others who would observe from so doing.  Thus“breaking My covenant”—denying the basic foundation of this faith…. “Then I, in turn”

V.23/25     And if these things fail to discipline you for Me, and you remain hostile to Me, I will remain hostile to you…I will bring a sword against you to wreak vengeance for the covenant

RASHI… If you do not repent and turn to Me… “To wreak vengeance for the covenant,” or literally, “to avenge covenant vengeance.”  This is a kind of vengeance that is out of the ordinary, beyond normal conventions, as when Zedekiah’s eyes were put out by the Babylonians.

RASHBAM“n’kam—Brit”  that is, vengeance for the covenant which you have sorely transgressed.  

V.31-33   I will spurn you.  I will lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate; nor will I savor your pleasing odor. I will make the land desolate, so that your enemies who settle it shall be appalled by it.  And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword against you.

RASHI“I will make the land desolate…” This is actually good for Israel, since the land will then refuse to accept its enemies. “I will scatter you…” This, on the other hand, is difficult indeed.  For when Jews are exiled to the same place, they can at the very least comfort each other. Think of a man who is scattering barley…Not a single grain falls next to its mate.

MIZRACHI…I do not understand why RASHI does not explain the passage in its P’shat sense?  God is bringing them into the land of their enemies, and their enemies inhabit their home! Not good!

IBN EZRA…It is not enough that “I will scatter you,” I will also “unsheathe the sword” upon you. This punishment is beyond imagining…

 V.39-42   Thos who survive shall be heartsick…and they shall confess their iniquities…in that they were hostile to Me.  When I, in turn, have been hostile to them, then at last shall their obdurate heart humble itself, and they shall atone…Then will I remember My Covenant with Jacob, also will I remember My Covenant with Isaac, and also My Covenant with Abraham.

R’ N. GILLMAN …The main problem with B’chukotai’s answer is that it defies our experience.  The Bible itself recognizes that. One entire biblical book, Job, explicitly rejects it.  Job was a perfectly righteous man…Satan challenges God, claiming, only because God has blessed him is he righteous.  So God frees Satan to make Job suffer, but Job never rejects God…Job’s friends arrive and offer the traditional argument: Job must have sinned to merit such suffering.  But Job rejects that argument…And at the very end of the book, when God restores Job’s fortunes and tells him he was right all along, that his suffering had nothing to do with any sinful behavior, God is incensed at those friends…Something astounding has occurred here: the Bible subverts itself.  God rejects God’s own teaching.  In an act of colossal theological chutzpah…the author of Job is aware that the traditional doctrine does not always work…What is equally astounding, however, is that the traditional doctrine continues to be invoked to this day.  Some right-wing Jewish circles continue to posit that the Holocaust must be understood as God’s punishment for the sins of European Jewry, sins such as Zionism and the Enlightenment…Reform and Conservative Judaism, and others…

R’ P. KNOBEL…While we in the reform Movement are repelled by the concept that victims of the Shoah can in any way be held morally responsible for their fate, at the same time we do not want to dismiss the idea that behavior has serious consequences.  Most progressive Jews reject the idea that God intervenes in a direct way to reward or punish.  On the other hand, drawing from the prophetic tradition, we assert that God demands that we do justly… We believe that ultimately nations thrive and prosper, or suffer and fall, because of the way in which they treat the weakest members of society…If we take the perspective of the Mystics who see all of existence as one, then we recognize that everything is connected one to the other…We also realize that, with Creation having begun with “the breaking of the vessels,”…at the core of our existence is fragmentation…

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One response to “B’Chukotai

  1. Pingback: Leviticus 26:14-42 « Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

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