Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Parshat Behar-Bechukotai

The Blessing and the Curse

The second of this week's parshat hashavua begins with all the blessings that Israel will receive should they "follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them" (VaYikra 26:3).

It then continues to give stark warning as to what will happen should Israel "despise My statutes and reject My ordinances" (ibid 15). These curses are so harsh that synagogue reader utters them quietly.

One cannot help but notice a major discrepancy between the blessing and the curse. The blessing, the reward for obeying God, covers a mere 11 pesukim, while the curse, the punishment for disobedience, covers 37 pesukim. Is this the behavior of a merciful, compassionate and a just God?

The answer is yes. If we notice the descriptions in these pesukim we notice an interesting pattern. The punishments do not come all at once.

  • "If you do not listen to Me and do not perform all these commandments" (ibid 14)
  • "And if, during these, you will not listen to Me, I will add another seven punishments for your sins" (ibid 18).
  • "And if, through these, you will still not be chastised [to return] to Me, and if you [continue to] treat Me happenstance" (ibid 23).
  • And if you treat Me as happenstance, and you do not wish to listen to Me, I will add seven punishments corresponding to your sins" (ibid 21).
  • "And if, despite this, you still do not listen to Me, still treating Me as happenstance" (ibid 27).

The curse does not come all at once. At each stage, God stops the punishment to check whether Israel has repented. Only, if Israel continues to sin the punishment continues.

This is God's mercy. He always gives us a chance to return to Him, to come back.

Furthermore, the blessing is bestowed all in one go. As soon as Israel is obedient, it receives all the blessings possible.

"The deeds of the Rock are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful God, without injustice He is righteous and upright" Devarim 32:4).

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Behar-Bechukotai, entitled: "Shemitta and VaYikra" appears at

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