Behar-Bechukotai - Weekly Torah Portion


Once again we find ourselves reading two portions of the Torah on the same Shabbat. The reading of these two portions also concludes our reading of the book of Leviticus; next week we shall be reading from the book which is one before last, the book of Numbers. We are reading in the Torah and Haftarah at the end of the most unusual one and a half years that included three elections that have not yielded a clear victory to any side and prevented the forming of a government. Before we knew it we were surprised that after many statements and endless promises all has changed. A government was to take office yesterday and now maybe on Sunday, and we can only view this all with much amazement.

Otto von Bismark, a nineteenth century German politicians, and who was instrumental in Germany’s unification said that “Politics is the art if the possible”, and further noted that one should “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” We surely had much of this in the past few weeks. It was presented to us which much cynicism while serving clear and less clear self-interests. It included the nomination of more and less suitable persons to a variety of public positions. And there are so many of them that these are by far not signaling a state of crisis.

Reading from the Torah portion of this week we are warned, “So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.” In Hebrew the word wrong would be better translated to deceive and this is a complicated issue. It is necessary to understand when deception takes place. Certainly not every politician that does not make good on an elections promise is wronging or deceiving us. Sometimes it is simply necessary to compromise and achieve that which is possible. The problem begins when our mind is deceived by what we are promised. A promise not to do one thing, to actually do another, and then go back and do which was promised not to be done. Even that can sometimes be explainable as circumstance may have changed, leaving us with no other choice. For example, a promise to reduce taxes just to be confronted with a financial crisis that requires a tax hike. This could not have been predicted and requires a change of stand on the issue. However, these are not like the cases were the promise is knowingly broken when the circumstance do allow other solutions.

It this week Haftarah the prophet declares, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.’” He continues to say, “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 the end he will be a fool.” We are unequivocally warned from these situations. Supporting a person without understanding what that person actually stands for. We should be pursing those who take the path of justice and that which is right. Nevertheless there is hope, and the prophet speaks of a person who walks these just and right path as one who will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.”

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for good health to all.

Reuven Marko, 15 May 2020, 22 Iyar, 5780

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