As the Torah Turns
Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah
BeHar/Bechukotai – 25:1-26:2/26:3-27:34 (May 7/8)
Our Torah portion this week is a double portion – and brings to a close the book of Leviticus. BeHar/Bechukotai – 25:1-26:2/26:3-27:34. Bechukotai enumerates the blessings for people who heed God’s commandments, followed by the curses [perhaps we could indeed say, the negative consequences] for those who violate them (Lev 26:3-46). The haftarah portion for this week is Jeremiah 16:19-17:14, and contains a brief wisdom psalm that sits within. The teaching in Jeremiah 17:5-8 offers a parallel blessing and curse, but in reverse order. This prophetic passage contrasts the negative fate envisioned for the individual who trusts in human beings (vv. 5-6) with a positive future for the one who trusts in God (vv. 7-8). Thus said the Eternal: Cursed is the one who trusts in humans and makes flesh his strength and from the Eternal his heart turns away. (Jer. 17:5)After another verse that expands on this curse (v. 6), the prophet expresses the blessings that await the individual who engages in the opposite type of behavior, repeating much of the same wording:Blessed is the one who trusts in the Eternal and the Eternal is his trust. (Jer. 17:7)The medieval commentator Radak (R. David Kimhi, ca. 1160-1235) suggests that trusting humans is actually not so very wrong IF he does not “turn his heart from God;” he is not wrong in trusting that humans will help him, if his intention is that with God’s help the person can help him.In other words, Radak and later commentators teach that people cannot rely exclusively on humans; ultimately, we need to trust both in God and in other people. Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s understanding of this trust in humans as Divine agents is shared in his poem “We Are Loved By an Unending Love” –
We are loved by unending love. We are embraced by arms that find us even when we are hidden from ourselves. We are touched by fingers that soothe us even when we are too proud for soothing. We are counseled by voices that guide us even when we are too embittered to hear. We are loved by unending love. We are supported by hands that uplift us even in the midst of a fall. We are urged on by eyes that meet us even when we are too weak for meeting. We are loved by unending love. Embraced, touched, soothed, and counseled,ours are the arms, the fingers, the voices; ours are the hands, the eyes, the smiles; We are loved by unending love.
May we recognize the blessings in our lives, even in the most trying of times. And as we come to the conclusion of another book of Torah, we say: Hazak, Hazak V’nithazek – Be Strong, Be Strong, and let us strengthen each other!
From Previous Weeks
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