Torah Portion: B’chukotai (In My Statutes) Leviticus 26:3-27:34
HafTorah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Our Torah portion this week is one of two places in the Bible that we read a listing of blessings and curses that hinge on obedience to G-d. Here there are 11 verses that talk about blessings and 36 verses that tell us the consequences of disobedience. I would like to propose that here we read the last line of the story first. I think we now are in and have been in the age of the curses. We see disobedience to G-d’s word on every side.
However given that, how can we live our personal lives as if we are in the end of the story. I read an interesting verse this week that puzzled me. Psalms 23:4 “Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” What do rods and staffs bring to our mind? What are they used for? They are used to correct and to bring back in line. So how can that comfort us? Many of you know I have not been feeling 100% lately. This morning, while we were eating breakfast Jean mentioned this Torah lesson. After breakfast I took a nap and before drifting off to sleep I had a revelation from G-d. I think this issue I am struggling with has an upside. It affords me more time to pray and seek out G-d. I don’t feel like doing busy things so I choose to look at this as a blessing and time to spend more quiet time with G-d. I have come to think and believe that since we know the last line we are not ruled by the present. Our perspective is vitally important. I still don’t feel completely well but somehow there seems to be a purpose now. I think I see the end of the story to some extent.
Challenges and difficulties can be blessings on several levels. They remind us of the transience of this world. We realize that life now is really about the world to come. We can realign our values and hold fast to what is lasting and true. In the New Testament suffering is mentioned often. Read Philippians 3:8, I Peter 3 and 4. Our suffering also allows us to be sensitive to the pain of others and allows us to comfort them. Pain can cause us to rail against G-d or to cry out to Him. It’s all about perspective. Don’t let the circumstances and situations of life affect your spiritual walk; let your spiritual walk affect the circumstances and situations of life.
None of this means we seek out pain and suffering but when it comes and come it will, it can also bring revelation and closeness to G-d that can be found in no other way. Some of you may remember the lady we met in Israel that is a Jewish believer. She was paralyzed due to a car wreck that happened to her 25 years ago and says she is thankful it happened. She said, “I would never have come to believe in Messiah had I not gone through the suffering of the accident.”
Think of the story of Ba’alem in the Torah. He blesses the people of Israel while Moses, the great teacher, chastised them on many occasions. Why was it so? Ba’alem’s blessing lulled them into sin. Moses sometimes spoke to the people harshly and truthfully to make sure they become the best they could be. Think of your own children. Which helps them more to discipline or not to discipline? I do want to end with this caution. This does not mean we lecture or brow beat people going through suffering. Our job is to be there for them, cry with them and do what G-d leads us to do to bring comfort.