Behukotai - God Gives No Automatic Promise Of Jewish Land
- From MWM: Here are some more thoughts of coming from the growing
Behukotai - No Automatic
Promise Of Jewish Land
We're not the Chosen People just by virtue of our forefathers;
Leviticus warns that if we continue to be stiff-necked
and evil, the land will vomit us out, too.
By Avraham Burg
This Sabbath we read the last weekly portion in the Book of Leviticus.
Most of the book deals with the Cohanim (priests) - their duties,
privileges and responsibilities.
However, here and there, the book interjects topics that apply to us,
the simple people. One of these topics appears at the head of this
week's Torah portion, Behukotai ("in accordance with My laws"), and
deals with the complicated relationship between the Chosen People, God
and the Land of Israel.
In the opening verses, God presents the simplest and most generous of
offers: If we behave as we are supposed to then not even the sky is
the limit to God's generosity.
But there's a downside: If you break the covenant, I, God, will not
follow through on My commitment. The verses go on to elaborate a
frightening list of punishments and plagues that will befall without
respite on our heads - here and in the exile.
It'll be a very personal, no-holds-barred grudge match between God and
the Jewish People.
What is the significance of this covenant? What are these verses,
stuck in the middle of details about sacrifices, supposed to teach us?
It seems that there's no eternal guarantee to this holy land.
Still, the Land of Israel is our destination and our only land. True,
we do not dream of any other place in the world. But out presence in
the land is neither eternal nor automatic.
Rather, our presence in the land is intimately connected with our
moral behavior (our treatment of the stranger, widow and orphan) as a
The limits of choseness
If we act wickedly towards the stranger; turn our heads from the
poverty of the orphan, and stuff our ears to the cries of the widow,
then the land will vomit us out - just as it had done to so many
nations before us.
When life is not lived morally, there's no difference between Jews and
Amorites, between Israelis and Canaanites, Romans or Crusaders.
Every time the land tries to vomit us out, it's incumbent upon us to
figure out what have we violated in the covenant.
The hassidim of the Greater Land of Israel movement should ask
themselves in what way was their zealotry, which gave expression to
our distorted and unjust existence in the land, was a violation of the
Because of their superfluous zealotry, we are being punished and
expelled from part of the land -- perhaps to be given another chance
to save what's left of Israel and its society.
-- Presented in collaboration with the radio program "Mishal in the