The topic of the important place accorded to the Land, which we examined in Parashat B’har with its varied ramifications, continues in Parashat B’chu’kotai ("In My Statutes"), as seen in 26:3-13. Keeping YHVH's statutes is destined to be reflected in the natural conditions of the
. The correlation
will be seen in the abundance of rain (and therefore of crops), the removal of
dangerous carnivores, demographic expansion, abundance and prosperity. The
other benefits resulting from faithfulness to YHVH and His Word will be peaceful
conditions prevailing in the Land and its surroundings, the ability to defeat
the enemy, and primarily the fulfillment of His promise to instate His Mishkan
in the midst of His people, and to always walk among them (ref. 26:11, 12).
In 26:5 we read, “…and your threshing shall reach [or overtake] the vintage, and the vintage shall reach [or overtake] the sowing time; and you shall eat your bread to satisfaction, and live in your land securely.” This is especially pertinent in light of Parashat B’har’s sh’mita-year promise: “Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years” (Lev. 25:21 italics added). In a prophecy pertaining to a latter day, the Prophet Amos echoes this “overtaking”: "The plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who draws along seed" (9:13). Moreover, we are also reminded of 25:22 (in the previous Parasha: “and [you] shall eat of the old crop… until the coming in of its crop; you shall eat of the old"), by 26:10: "And you shall eat very old provision, and clear away the old because of the new." In other words, not only will there be a long and lasting overabundance which will remain fresh and usable for the entire time period, but even before it is fully consumed there will be a fresh crop!
Having examined in Parashat B’har one of the words for "interest" - “marbit” (whose root is r.v/b.a), we will now take a look at another word that shares the same root - “r’vava” (which we also encountered in Parashat Cha’yey Sarah in Gen. 24:60). In 26:8 we read, "…and one hundred of you shall pursue ten thousand (“r’vava”)…" (emphasis added).
These promises are sealed with the familiar: "I am YHVH your Elohim, who has brought you out of the land of the Egyptians, from being their slaves.” It then continues: “And I will break the bars of your yoke, and I will make you walk upright" (26:13). "Walking upright" is “ko'memi'yoot,” of the root k.o.m (kof, vav, mem), meaning to “rise or get up." In Parashot Va'ye'tze (Gen. 28:10-32:2) and Vayishlach (Gen. 32:3-Ch. 36) we noticed the significance of Ya'acov's "rising up," as well as that of the special "place" - ma'kom (of the same root) - where he experienced some of his ‘rising.’ Here the sons of this Patriarch are promised "an upright walk," providing they do so in Elohim's chosen paths. Additionally, in 26:37 we encounter the word “t’kuma,” translated "power to stand" (“you shall have no power to stand before your enemies”), with its more modern usage being "resurrection" and "recovery."
But if Yisrael chooses to “..despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break [invalidate] My covenant” (26:15 italics added), a long list of punitive measures follow. “Abhor” here is “tig’al” (root g.a.l gimmel, ayin, lamed), being the first time this word is mentioned (26:11). Some may recognize the similarity of this verb to “ga’al” – redeem (gimmel, alef, lamed), a minor change in spelling and sound (ayin versus alef), and yet a world of difference! Making void the covenant signifies removing one’s self from under the protective umbrella of redemption, rendering it no longer operational. Further in verse 18 we read: “if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.” The chastisement of “seven times over” is also mentioned in verses 21, 24 and 28. As part of YHVH’s covenant with His people, provision for national atonement for sin was made available by the high priest sprinkling seven times the blood of a goat on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (ref. Lev. 16:14). Hence, nullifying of the covenant would result in a similarly seven-fold outcome.
Thus YHVH will not "make them walk uprightly" (as we saw above), but instead will inflict upon them a series of blows. Moreover, He will also "walk contrary" to them (ref. 26:24).The expression "walking contrary" is used nowhere else except in this chapter, where it appears… seven times! The word used for "contrary" – keri - probably stems from the root k.r.h (kof, resh, hey), meaning "to happen." Rashi comments on this: “Our rabbis said: ‘This word signifies irregularity, by chance, something that happens only occasionally. Thus [meaning], 'if you will follow the commandments irregularly…’ Menahem explains it as an expression for refraining… ‘refrain (hoker) your foot from your neighbor's house’ (Prov. 25:17), or of a refraining (va'yikar) spirit…."1. “Keri,” therefore, may refer to an avoidance of performing YHVH’s Word, along with a casual and nonchalant attitude which was also condemned by Yeshua in Revelation 3:15,16, where we read: "I wish you were cold or hot… So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot I will spew you out of my mouth" (italics added), leading us to the curse of eventually being spewed out of the Land (26:32 – 39, and also Lev. 20:22). Thus the “contrary walk” incurs a “seven-fold chastisement.”
The list of curses (26:14-46) is somewhat parallel to the list of the blessings, albeit much longer. It is divided up into several progressive categories: diseases, defeat, drought, carnivorous animals, and a combination of wars, plagues and famines, which will cause parents to consume their own children's flesh. Finally, after the destruction of the idols and pagan images, there will be a dispersion of the People of Yisrael among the Gentile nations. Under these conditions, and once the Land has been emptied of its inhabitants, its Shabbats will be repaid (as the Israelites did not keep the Sabbatical years that we read about in the last Parasha). These Shabbats will "appease" the land, with the word used here being “tirtzeh” (of the root “ratzon” - “will or acceptance”). Thus, the land "will be appeased" (v. 34, 35) and “accept” its inhabitants. Accordingly, the "year of acceptance" (Is. 61:2) is “sh'nat ratzon.” The same word for “acceptance” appeared in Parashat Emor, where we read in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:11 about the Omer: "And he [the priest] shall wave the sheaf before YHVH, to be accepted [lirtzon'chem] for you…" (italics added). As we saw above, negligence to observe the Shmita on the seventh year, is what makes the figure ”seven” stand out, relative to sin and the penalties subsequently incurred. The usage of seven here reminds us of some of the commands which the Israelites will be transgressing, commands that are related to the figure seven, such as the seventh day of the week, the seventh year of rest, and the seven years multiplied by seven leading to the Jubilee, the 50th year of release of all debts and property.
The last part of Parashat B’chu’kotai deals with laws concerning vows of dedications to YHVH (27:2-29), while the final verses pertain to tithes. Verse 2 introduces the subject of the vows by not merely stating “if a man/person takes a vow…” (literal translation), but curiously qualifies the vow by the verb “yaflee”, rooted in “pele” - y.p/f.a (yod, pey/fey, alef), which means “wonder, wonderful,” such as in “Wonderful Counselor” (Is.9:6). This verb renders these vows as very special. The verse continues to say (regarding those who were to be subject of the vows) “souls according to your evaluation to YHVH.” In other words, these are vows concerning the dedication of souls to YHVH whose ‘worth’ the person taking the vow is to determine. In so doing he has to be aware of the awesomeness of his responsibility, hence the unusual usage of the verb “yaflee” above. The “evaluation” (erech, ayin, resh, chaf) of souls continues all the way through verse 8, having been defined at the very beginning by the usage of “pele,” which denotes the enormity of the task.
As mentioned, verses 32-33 deal with tithes: “And all the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, all that passes under the rod, a tenth shall be holy to YHVH. He shall not search whether it is good or bad; neither shall he change it…” (italics added). Y’chezkel (Ezekiel) 20:37-38 echoes the terms we encounter here, applying them to YHVH’s sheep and to the land of their inheritance: “And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. And I will purge out from among you the rebels and those who sin against Me. I will bring them out from the land where they reside, and they shall not enter into the
” (italics added).
In the above Vayikra (Leviticus) text, we encountered, “He shall not search
(also meaning “to inspect”)” – “lo ye’vaker” (v.
33). Y’chezkel 34:12 reiterates this phrase (as if in dialog with the present
text), though this time with a positive intent, and so we read: “For so says
Adonai YHVH: Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out – uvikarteem, as the seeking out – kevakarat – of the shepherd of his flock in
the day that he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out – a’vaker - My sheep and will deliver them
out of all places where they have been scattered …” (literal translation,
italics added). land of
The final verse, which is similar to the opening verse of Parashat B’har (referring to Mount Sinai) seals off the Parasha, and indeed the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) with the words: "These are the statutes which YHVH made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses" (v. 34 italics added).
 New Studies in Vayikra, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner
Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed
Some of the word meanings were gleaned from:
The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown, Hendrickson Publishers,
1979. Peabody, Mass.
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980