Shabbat Behar-Behukotai

Candles Friday May 4th, 7:34pm
Havdalah May 5th, 8:30pm

Rosh Hodesh Sivan Friday 10th May

The last chapters of the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) seem to have no common thread. Behukotai is dominated by the ‘Toheha,’ the frightening warning to the Israelites about what disasters would befall them if they strayed from the path of the Torah. It is harsh, brutal and sadly accurately predicts what did in fact happen. We have always been a “Stiff necked people” and our individuality has been both a strength and weakness. Yet as the Torah says, we have always returned from the brink of extinction.

And then after chapters of crushing condemnation comes the seemingly irrelevant piece about valuations. One could symbolically dedicate oneself to the Temple as an act of religious charity, and the amount one had to pay to release oneself from this commitment was laid out in the Torah. What’s the connection?

I suggest it is a message for us as parents and teachers. We need to set standards and demand discipline. How else can we pass on any positive values? But this comes across as harsh and even sometimes cruel. If you tell a child to stop gorging on chocolates, it will consider you to be cruel by its standards. You know what’s best for its diet and health. But it still thinks you’re being harsh.

We need to be the parents who rebuke and warn our children of the consequences of over indulgence. But at the same time we need to appreciate their good points, how valuable they are. They are after all the children of God as well as ours.

It is these two aspects of education that the Torah is teaching us. We must be firm and strict but it should be balanced with love and appreciation of the importance of each person, regardless of his or her strengths and weaknesses. God values them even if they disobey him and so must we.