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1. Blessings are mentioned briefly, with little detail. Curses are described graphically, and at length. Why, according to Ibn Ezra, is that so?
2. Why, according to the Ramban, are the rewards and punishments described in the Parasha earthly and materialistic, rather than spiritual and in the World to Come?
3. 'If you do not perform "all" these commandments' (26:14). What is the significance of the word "all" according to the S'forno?
4. What message is given to those who conquer and settle the Holy Land when the Israelites are exiled - following the text according to Rashi?
5. 'Those who remain', say the Curses, 'shall disintegrate in their sins in the "land of their enemies"'. (26:39) What is the meaning of "the land of their enemies" according to Hirsch?
6. Why is the section of the Torah detailing voluntary gifts to the Temple placed at the end of the Book of Leviticus, rather than in the earlier sections dealing with the offerings - according to Hirsch?
7. What types of 'ma'aserot' (tithes) are mentioned in this Parasha, and who gets to eat them, following Rashi's explanation?
PARASHAT BECHUKOTAI - ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES
1. According to Ibn Ezra, the curses are given special prominence and detail because they are meant to impress on the Israelites the importance of keeping on the right path.
2. The Ramban's explanation regards spiritual reward in the World to Come as a natural sequel to earthly spiritual achievement and service of G-d. What is unnatural is that spiritually worthy behaviour should bring earthly physical blessings - such as security, prosperity, and good health. The Torah states the unnatural, not the natural.
3. 'If you do not perform "all" these commandments' (26:14), stresses "all" for the following reason. The Israelites must endeavour to keep the entire Torah to the best of their ability - not to pick and choose what they want to keep and what they want to ignore. [That might well include the mentality that is ultra-meticulous on the length of the sidelocks, yet would not observe the mitzvah of standing up for the aged a few verses later - for example, in giving up one's seat on a crowded bus]
4. Those who conquer and settle the Holy Land following the sins of the Israelites will not proper there. 'I will make the Land desolate. Your enemies who live upon it shall be desolate.' (26:32) Although the Israelites would be exiled from the Land, none of conquerors would thrive there (Rashi ad loc). Indeed, history shows that the Land deteriorated during the period of the exiles - few conquering countries succeeded in eking more than a mere existence out of it.
5. They shall 'disintegrate… in the land of their enemies' (26:39), according to Hirsch, applies to those Israelites who adopt the elements of Gentiles' lifestyle that are against Torah teaching, with the claim that Torah Law applies in the Holy Land only.
6. According to Hirsch, such voluntary gifts, whilst being commendable, are not as important as the performance of the commandments, and certainly cannot atone for laxity in performing the Mitzvot. Their placement at the very end of Leviticus is precisely to make that point.
7. The two types of Ma'aseh are Ma'aseh Sheini (second tithe - 27:30) and Ma'aseh Beheima (tithe for cattle 27:32). The former, (following Deut. 14 22-27, and Rashi here) applies in Years 1,2,4,and 5 of the seven year Shemita cycle, where the produce may be eaten by the owner in 'the place that G-d chooses' (Jerusalem) only. Likewise the ma'aseh beheima - each tenth animal that passes from the corral through the exit 'under the stick, is holy' (27:32). Rashi points out that this does not go to the Priests, but is made into an offering and eaten by the owners (in Jerusalem).
ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT BECHUKOTAI
'They will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers, for the treachery in which they have betrayed Me, and for having behaved towards me in a contrary manner. I too will behave towards them in a contrary manner, and I will bring them into the land of their enemies… perhaps then their unfeeling heart will be humbled, and they will gain appeasement for their sins… I will remember My covenant with Jacob…' (26:40-2).
So concludes the Tochacha - the words of rebuke G-d communicated through Moses, regarding what would eventually happen to the Israelites on abandoning the Torah. However traditional Torah teaching - that Vidui - confession to G-d - is an essential element of Teshuva, does not seem to fit into these pesukim. The first part of the above quotation states that G-d will continue to punish the Israelites, even after they have acknowledged their wrong-doings and confessed them to the Almighty. Why does G-d respond by intensifying their persecution instead of accepting their Teshuva?
My attempts to answer the above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website under Behar-Bechukotai 5761
Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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