Bechukotai – Shlishi


By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Crops will be so plentiful that they’ll ultimately have to throw away what’s left from the previous harvest to make room for more. G-d will cause His Presence to dwell among the Jews and they will enjoy a unique relationship.

But what if the Jews don’t keep the laws G-d has given them? That scenario is less promising. In that event, He will strike them with fear and dread, depressing them and making life appear bleak. They will plant but enemy forces will take their crops. They will be easily defeated and will run even when no one is chasing them.

If they don’t shape up after this, G-d will turn up the heat. He will make the sky like iron and the ground like brass (a condition not conducive to agriculture). They will work in vain, but the land simply won’t yield crops.

If this still doesn’t motivate the Jews to repent, G-d will turn up the pressure greater still. Wild animals will attack children and animals, decimating the population and making the roads deserted.

If the Jews still don’t correct their behavior, the next level of punishment is invading armies and plague, making the Jews an easy target. Food will be so scarce that ten women could bake in a single oven and there will barely be enough food to sustain anyone.

It’s hard to believe that things could get any worse, but if the Jews don’t repent after this, the next level will be so intense that they’ll be driven to cannibalism to survive. G-d will destroy the altars dedicated to idols and leave the corpses of their worshipers in the rubble.

By that point, G-d will simply have no use for the Jews. He will let their cities be ruined and He won’t accept their sacrifices. The land will be so devastated that other nations will be amazed. The Jews will be scattered in other lands and the land of Israel will rest, making up for Sabbatical years that were not observed.

The Jews will be so downtrodden in exile that even the sound of a rustling leaf could put them to flight. They will trip over one another in their attempts to escape from a pursuer that just isn’t there.

Most of the Jews will be lost in the lands of their exile, but some will endure. They will finally grasp that turning their backs on G-d led to all their troubles and they will return to Him. When they do, He will forgive them. He will then recall His covenant with the Forefathers and He will remember the land.

No matter how much the Jews provoke Him, G-d says that He will never become so disgusted that He would destroy them completely. No matter what happens, He is Israel’s G-d and they are His people.

The preceding section is called the Tochacha (“the rebuke”) and it is the first of two. (The second appears in parshas Ki Savo, Deut. Chapter 28.) It’s interesting to see the way these prophecies were fulfilled, in Books like II Kings, Jeremiah and, most notably, Eicha (Lamentations). These forecasts are so counter to human experience that no person could credibly have made them. And yet they happened, exactly as foretold: the Jews were exiled, many of them lost among the nations, while the remnant survived, returned to G-d and, ultimately, to the land of Israel!

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