Consider and choose
Torah Portion: B’Har (On Mount) Leviticus 25:1-26:2, B’chukkotai (By My Commandments) Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Haftorah Readings: Jeremiah 32:6-27, Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Tonight, we finish the book of Leviticus by studying the final two portions. We begin by looking at the Shmita year found in Leviticus 25:1-7. This commandment says that the Land of Israel is to lie fallow on the seventh year. It is not to be worked and what grows on its own is to be left for whomever needs food. It is as if every seventh year the owner of the land relinquishes his ownership and the rights to the food that grows there on its own. He, as well as anyone else, can take of what grows for their immediate needs. What is the reason for G-d giving such a commandment? Also, we read where in the year before the Shmita, the Land will produce double for the owner.
We can look at this as G-d testing us and our faith in Him. It also can be looked at as He is the source of all. He is the provider of what we need. I think all of us would agree that this is a hard lesson for His people to fully grasp. Our natural impulse is to work as much as we can for as long as we can because it all depends on us. In our world we see people who are so driven they literally work themselves to death. If they took a day off their job might fall apart or they would be looked at as lazy or they might miss making another dollar.
I believe G-d is saying He is our provider. We are to rest in Him. Trust is the real issue we all struggle with somewhere along the path of life. Here G-d is saying, “I am your Provider. If you follow My path I will take you to places you could never achieve by yourself. It doesn’t mean we will not face challenges and maybe even hard times. But G-d is with us and will never leave us. We can rest in that . As a side note, this year of Shmita, also provided food for the poor of the Land. It reminded them as well that G-d had not forgotten them.
Now I want us to look at the verses that cover the blessings, Leviticus 26:3-13 and curses, Leviticus 26:14-37, that G-d gave to the people. What brings the blessings? Obedient behavior brings G-d’s blessings. We are expected to live our lives according to His Word. When we get off the path we are, as His people, expected to repent and stop whatever we were doing that went contrary to His word. When we do this, we are restored in our relationship to Him. If we don’t repent what happens?
Before we go further let’s look at a few interesting things concerning the curses. The scripture covering the curses is about three times as long as the verses concerning the blessings. Also, when we read the verses about the curses we have a Hebrew word that appears and is only used in these verses. It appears nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. This word is Keri. We see it translated as contrary, rebellious, indifferent and hard heartedness. It is used in Leviticus 26 verses 21, 23, 24 (G-d himself said), 27,28 (G-d himself said), and 41 (G-d himself said). As we read these verses we see the curses intensify as the people do not repent. So, here we can see a basic principle at work. If you act toward Me and My Word with “keri” I will turn that same attitude against you.
For us as believers this principle is difficult to grasp. G-d is love. And for sure He is Love. However, if we walk contrary (Keri) to Him there will be consequences for our actions. These punishments we read of here are not because G-d loves to punish but because He wants us to live our life for Him and not for ourselves. He wants us to have a victorious life. He gives us these warnings of the result of sin, desiring us to choose Him. Too often we think only of today, our immediate situation, and not of where it may lead us.
I believe we can see around us today a society that stands on the brink. Do we make decisions based only on what we want or what we feel and never consider the ramifications of our choices? When this begins it is very difficult to change. When our nation moves in this direction our society, our country will begin to fall apart. We as G-d’s people are to avoid the bad and choose to live according to our faith, G-d’s word. Think long and hard about the choices you make daily. Choose life not death.
And as we always say when we finish a book of Torah:
Hazak, Hazak, v’nit’chazek!
Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!