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 22, 2008

Parshat Bechukotai

Taming the Wild

In this week's parsha, God promises Israel that as a result of their loyalty: "I will remove wild beasts from the Land, and no army will pass through your land" (VaYikra 26:8)

What does the Torah mean when it says that it will remove the wild beats from the world?

The simple explanation is that because the land of Israel will flourish, it will be full of people. As a result wild animals will leave the land. Why?

Even though human s are afraid of wild animals such as jackals, lions and tigers, the truth is they are much more afraid of humans and they stay away from human habitation. Indeed, the presence of these animals is usually a signal for the absence of humans.

The Talmud in Bava Batra relates a story of a group of rabbis passing by Mount Scopus. From the peak they were able to look down upon Temple Mount. There they witnessed jackals walking around the Temple ruins. They cried. The presence of these animals brought home to them the Temple's destruction. Seeing wild animals in cities is evidence of destruction. Therefore, the Torah promises us that should we obey God, there will not be any wild animals in the land, meaning that the whole country will flourish and will be fully populated.

Nevertheless, the Ramban suggests an alternative explanation. He says that this promise refers to the end of days. Rather than removing wild beats, God will remove the wild from the beasts.

At creation it was forbidden for both humans and animals to eat flesh. After the flood, this law was rescinded and humans together with many animals, became meat eaters. Therefore, this promise says that once Israel fulfills their destiny, the world will return to its original state and all creatures will be vegetarian.

More than that humans and wild animals will no longer be enemies, as Isaiah promises:

"A wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid; and a calf and a lion cub and a fatling [shall lie] together, and a small child shall lead them. A cow and a bear shall graze together, their children shall lie; and a lion, like cattle, shall eat straw. An infant shall play over the hole of an old snake and over the eyeball of an adder, a weaned child shall stretch forth his hand" (Isaiah 11:6-8).

On that day, God also promises: "I will grant peace in the Land" (VaYikra 26:8).


Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Bechukotai entiled: "The Blessing and the Curse" appears at

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