The Real Reason For God's Curses In The Bible
Parshat Bechukotai Summary
Bechukotai Torah Portion: Leviticus 26:3–27:34
Parshat Bechukotai, the final parsha in the Book of Leviticus, is, at times, quite difficult to read. It starts out nice, with a series of promises about the incredible blessings that will come our way if we diligently follow God's laws: God will make sure that we are fruitful and multiply, will help us to conquer the land, will rid the land of dangerous wild animals, will ensure that we enjoy bountiful harvests from the land and from fruit trees, and more. But then the parsha turns dark, warning that if we fail to follow God's decrees, curses will ensue: frightening things like disease, famine, military destruction, and exile from our land.
Yes, this formula is common enough in the Torah — if you listen to God, good things will happen, and if you don't, bad things will happen — but when we stop to really think about it — and we think about what this says about God — the implications are hard to face. Why would a compassionate, loving God curse His people? Rabbi Fohrman faces this question head-on in his video, "Why Would God Curse His People?"
On his way to finding an answer, he notices that the blessings in Bechukotai seem to bear an eerie resemblance to an earlier story in the Torah.... When else have we heard about being fruitful and multiplying, about conquering the land, about wild animals, about fruit trees, and more? Of course, it's the earlieststory in the Torah: the story of the creation of the world. But what could that possibly have to do with Parshat Bechukotai, and how in the world could it help us to understand why God would respond to His people's failure to follow His law with these violent, vindictive curses? Rabbi Fohrman answers that and more in his video. (And if you enjoy that study, then you must check out Rabbi Fohrman's second video on Parshat Bechukotai, where he further explores these parallels between creation and our parsha and suggests, astonishingly, that Parshat Bechukotai is charting for us nothing less than a pathway for re-entering the Garden of Eden. Watch "Walking with God" here.)
After its fascinating, albeit sometimes challenging, discussion of the blessings and curses, Parshat Bechukotai devotes time to an extremely technical law: the law of eiruchin, of determining the value of things for the purpose of pledges. It's hardly something that comes up in our everyday lives, and it's not easy to understand what it is doing in this parsha, why it should have been chosen as the conclusion of Parshat Bechukotai, the conclusion of the Book of Leviticus. Imu Shalev and David Block ask and answer that question in their video, "The Epic Conclusion To Leviticus."