He Who Lives by the Sword……will Die by the Sword
Iyar 22 5780
This double portion Behar (At the Mountain) – Bechukotai (My Ordinances) is short but full of meat. The Creator called the people of Israel His “avadim – עֲבָדִים”, servants or in the singular, “eved – עֶבֶד” which might connote low class but if we look at it in today’s terms it would be as if the Creator is the CEO of His universe and we “serve” Him, as His “employees”. A good CEO runs his company with wisdom and kindness and the employees work well for him however not all with the same position or level of dedication.
In Behar, the Creator emphasized the importance of the Shabbat, for the people to rest on the seventh day, the Shmittah, the land’s year of rest as well as the cycle of life, the Yovel, Jubilee, in the 50th year. These depict regeneration. We needed to learn to be humane and responsible for the poor, the foreigner, and even animals. This is followed by eleven blessings and thirty-three curses or warnings, tokhechah תוּכֵחָה; there are three times as many curses as blessings since He wants us to know that there are consequences for disobeying His Word. Let us not complain about our situations if we are not being faithful to the Creator. He is not waiting to make our lives miserable but as a loving Father, He warns us because He wants the best for us.
Leviticus 26 is prophetic and has been fulfilled time and again throughout the history of Israel. Today Israel is experiencing difficult times once again because the people are away from the Creator. In my opinion, the religious people are to blame because they oppress the secular people with so many restrictions that they are driving them away from Him. He gave us free will so that we can think for ourselves and when we have a relationship with the Creator, we can see our areas of failure and can go directly to Him to deal with them.
The warnings of the Creator begin with idolatry which is more subtle today than before but exists at every level. Adultery and idolatry go hand in hand; they are anything that replaces the truth with something false, whatever the area that we are involved in. We may think that we have God but the only thing we have is ourselves and our pride. Those who think that they are right while the others are wrong are full of pride. The closer we are to God, the humbler we become because we are forced to come face to face with who we are. The tokhechah, the warnings are for us to see how far we are from Him. We are our best judges, but we need to ask God to search our hearts to show us where we need to turn back to Him. (Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts; 24 And see if there be any way in me that is hurtful, and lead me in the everlasting way).
The book of Vayikra, which is especially about holiness, ends with these warnings because He wants us to know that He has chosen us despite who we are so that we can return to Him and be in a relationship with Him. He is the employer of the company called Israel and we are to be an example to the rest of humanity, a light to the nations. That is why He demands more from us since we are His employees and we represent Him. Our behavior is a reflection of the Creator and His message. Is modern Israel an example to the other nations today?
The Creator told us that we would be expelled from the land of Israel because of our behavior and we have only just returned. The message today is not a literal one; although the people of Israel are back in the land, they are exiles, foreigners because they are trying to be like the other nations, rather than being who the Creator called them to be. How many Jews today do not want to be Jews, including native-born Israelis? If we are not happy with who we are and want to be someone else, we are living a lie. We all have a calling but if we refuse that responsibility, our life is just a performance. Today many are confused about their identity; stripped of their position within the people of Israel. When we do not fit, it is as if we are living in the wilderness.
The prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others, repeated the message in Lev. 26:42, that the Creator will always be faithful to Israel even when they are not faithful to Him. If we return, confess, do teshuva, He will receive us with open arms. Israel was never formed by those who were native-born Israelites. Abraham, Sarah, their servants and family, his son Isaac and his wife Rivkah, Jacob and his four wives and their families and servants…none of them were Israelites. They were all goyim, from the nations, and yet they formed the future Israel. They were all called by the Creator to observe the Shabbat and to keep idolatry away because it exchanges the nature of the Creator for something false.
Most religions have created their own gods even though they say they follow the true God. In this 21st century, we are saturated with their versions of the true God; instead, we need to humble ourselves before Him and admit how limited we are. We have become fascinated with forms and traditions, forgetting what it means to simply live with him. How do we apply His teachings? By caring less about the externals and more about what we are on the inside. When they circumcised their hearts, it means that they exposed their hearts, their intentions to the Creator. At the end of the year, the CEO of the company evaluates the work of the employees. At the end of the spiritual year, at Yom Kippur, the Creator evaluates the heart, the Kavanah, the intentions of His “avadim”. Our great Rabbi Yeshua said that “we are not judged by what we put into our mouth but by what comes out of our heart.”
The Creator wants us to be faithful to Him, to be ourselves but what happens to us when we do not cleanse ourselves from within when we hold things against another person? We become sick physically, mentally and emotionally. When we forgive, we free ourselves. There is nothing in this life that should take precedence over the Bore Olam, not an idea, a superstition, a person, a religion, for our God is a jealous God. He wants all of us for Himself, not just part of us.