Linking the Generations - B'har - B'chukotai (Leviticus 25:1-26:2 / 26:3-27:34)
B'har - B'chukotai / On Mount [Sinai] - My Laws
Leviticus 25:1-26:2 / 26:3-27:34
The Eternal One spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: "Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the Eternal."
If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit.
On Gifts, Obligations, and the Actions We Need to Take for Each:
In different parts of the Jewish world this week, we read either B’chukotai or a combined B’har-B’chokotai Parashah. In each we are still being commanded about various holidays and observances – and about the census and the tribes that will be counted.
One construct that seemed appropriate for this week was the opening of B’chokotai which told of the rewards the Israelites would receive if the followed God’s laws.
When speaking about this passage with students, I asked them if they thought it was that simple. I asked if you simply did X or Y and your crops would grow or you would have the happy life being promised.
I didn’t ask the questions to see if they believed that God wasn’t being forthright. I asked them if they thought any work was required on their part. To a student, they agreed that work was required. But then I asked them how they knew what to do?
After a moment of silence, I asked them what they thought they needed to do to live a good life. Many responded with ways to be healthy and to be kind to others. I ran with the health part – and even alluded to a human development class the 5th graders were about to have the next day. I asked them what it meant to live a healthy lifestyle and what they actually had to DO to BE healthy. Many told me of diets, keeping hydrated, going to the doctor if they don’t feel well. Then I asked them if Jewish law said anything about what foods to eat. Gradually, eyebrows raised and a significant group shouted "Oh, keeping Kosher!” I replied with a resounding yes and expanded on what Kashrut could mean for all of us.
But then I focused on the idea that laws of Kashrut were both about humanitarian treatment of animals and our own health. God, or the Torah, knew something about health. And so if God says – follow my commandments and you will be rewarded, it is not about a magic wand being waved and a pot of gold appearing. If you follow these laws – laws that were meant to guide you and help you – you will gain the benefit. The law is somewhat of an obligation or a burden. But it is also a gift. It is a guiding set of principles to help us lead a better life. That IS the reward.
We also discussed the general idea of taking care of one’s own health and looking out for the health of others (telling a friend they need to go to a Dr.) and began to talk more about the values our Mitzvot teach. I asked – if they were all followed – would this create a pretty awesome world. More accurately, I put that premise to the students and asked the question. What would the world be like if all these values were adhered to – Lashon Harah – no gossip – Gimilut Hassadim – loving kindness – these were examples. There was a short silence until one student exclaimed – "Whoah! That would be a pretty awesome world.” And that I said, would be the awesome reward.
Additional Torah Study Resources:
ReformJudaism.org Torah Study / Leading a Family Torah Discussion