Behukotai (At The MOUNTAIN)
Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34
“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase… I will give peace in the land.” (Leviticus 26:3-6). So begins a critical chapter in the Bible, one that sets forth clearly G-d’s expectations from His people and the rewards and punishments that follow obedience or disobedience respectively. Amazingly, all of the rewards and punishments are connected with the Land of Israel. If we follow G-d’s word, He will reward us with peace and prosperity in our land. If we disobey Him, we will be exiled and spread among enemy nations.
But G-d concludes this chapter with a fabulous statement, a promise that the Jewish people took with them into exile, time and time again. “Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God” (Verse 44).
For centuries, anti-Semitism was fueled by a belief that G-d had abandoned His people, that the promises that had been listed specifically in the Bible for the Jewish people were no longer relevant. Medieval Christian theologies were based on this premise. But it is the clear statement in verse 44 that belies this idea, for G-d explicitly states that, despite exile and deserved punishment, G-d will never break His covenant with us.
Interestingly, G-d anticipated this phenomenon and addressed it through His prophets: “But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, these are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land. But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name . . And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36:20-23)
The people of Israel have sinned and they have been exiled in punishment. But the very exile of the People of G-d causes a desecration of His name, for the nations remark, disparagingly, if these are the people of the LORD, then why have they been removed from their land? The apparent abandonment by G-d of His people causes the nations to doubt the very promise, to question the veracity of G-d’s word – a profound desecration of His name. Therefore, G-d assures us that He will return us to our land, if only to vindicate this desecration. And in vindicating this desecration, the nations will understand that G-d, indeed, has never broken His covenant with us.
With the establishment of the State of Israel and, later on, with the stunning victory in 1967 and the return to the biblical areas of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, many in the nations began to reject the doctrines that formed the basis of anti-Semitism and realized that G-d had not abandoned His people. Indeed, with the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, G-d’s name is being sanctified, daily.
Shabbat Shalom From Samaria,
Sondra Baras Director, Israel Office