Bechukotai- weekly Torah portion

“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out…” – so begins the portion of the Torah which we read this week as we conclude the reading of the book of Leviticus. If we go this way the world will be great and every delight will happen to the Israelites. It will prosper that much that “your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land.” However there is also a warning, that “if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant” then many horrible things will fall upon the People of Israel. It is a list much longer than the blessings to be had when behaving well. It is so bad that “because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them.” In today’s words this is not going to be a fun period.

The prophet Jeremiah suggests what such consequence may be in the reading of the Haftarah, noting that “As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, And in [g]the end he will be a fool.” He compares the situation to a bird trying to hatch eggs that are not its own and therefore, being a way of trying to earn wealth in an unjust way is doomed. This cannot succeed in the long run. Sooner or later things catch up and the price must be paid. Injustice and crookedness have a steep price that will eventually have to be borne. There are those who think that they can simply change the laws so that they fit their own agenda, personal or public. However, just like the bird hatching on eggs it has not laid, these attempts will not bear fruit. The wealth can be of course in the form of private fortune, goods, or possessions, or also holding an important public office in the public sector. It is fine to be wealthy, it is a good thing to strive for that, among other things, but it must be done in a way which is just, fair and respectable.

It is hard for me to say that what we see today in the way our elected representative that demonstrate a serious decline in these basic requirements of justice. This is a state of affairs which we should not agree to or accept as normal. It is therefore that the board of the Israel Reform Movement (IMPJ) has decided to unanimously confirm a resolution calling to prevent possible damage to the judicial system of Israel. It is stated there that “The Israeli Reform Movement views the possibility that the future government will move to obstruct the authority of the Supreme Court and other governmental bodies with deep concern. This concern stems from the general and fundamental commitment of our Movement to the democratic character of the State of Israel, as well as the fact that the Supreme Court and other branches of the legal system often assist in the struggle for equality, and prevention of discrimination against Reform Judaism, our communities and congregations, and our members… The legal system is not free of elements that need improvement or change (like any other governmental authority). However, the discussion regarding the authority and status of the Supreme Court must be undertaken with great care, in order to achieve broad consensus in both the public and political arenas, and must ensure the ability of the Supreme Court to both protect individual rights, and prevent abuse of government power.”

Therefore the IMPJ board further resolved “to join the public protest against such legislative measures that would harm the strength and independence of Israel’s legal and justice system. We stand firmly opposed to such legislative measures that do not comply with the strictest standards of integrity in our governmental system.” It is imperative to stress the point that the IMPJ does not act and shall not act with any kind of partisan affiliation and therefore shall not encourage any kind of activity of any sort with a particular political party. “However, the Movement will not refrain from participation in a protest and/or advocacy activities in which political parties participate alongside organizations and civil society movements. The IMPJ will present its positions and engage in respectful dialogue with representatives of all political parties, both from the coalition and the opposition.” The Israeli Movement has of course strength in specific areas and therefore it shall “focus on activities that reflect the added value and the unique benefit of Reform Judaism: first and foremost the expressing of a pluralistic Jewish voice, the building of cooperation in the arena of Jewish renewal and social change, and the integration of Diaspora Jewry in an effort to ensure the democratic strength of Israel. This will be implemented utilizing the Israel Religious Action Center’s professional experience and capacity will in close cooperation with our communities and congregations throughout Israel, and in dialogue with our overseas partners.” This will be done striving for broad cooperation “with organizations and civil society movements within and outside the pluralistic arena of Jewish renewal”. We stand strong protecting Democracy in the name of Judaism.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 24 May 2019, 20 Iyar, 5779

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