Parashat B’chukotai: Once upon a time there was a king

the-artist-0Once upon a time there was a king who had a wonderful and very large palace. The palace was decorated so beautifully that it took people’s breath away when they entered. There was, however, one very long and wide hall that was empty, for the king couldn’t decide what to do with it.

The king decided to hold a contest and looked at the works of all the artists in the realm. He chose two artists to compete for a huge prize and gave each of them one of the long walls of the hallway to use as a “canvas.” He gave them one year to complete their side and promised unlimited resources. The artist who had the right side immediately went to work planning, and in about a month he started work with dozens of assistants.

On the 365th day in the morning, he finished his work and it was magnificent. Anyone who looked at it felt like they were transported to the Garden of Eden. The artist who had been assigned the left side began on day one by pulling up a chair and staring at the wall. He did the same on the second and third days and, in fact, he simply sat in that chair and stared for 364 days! He did not do anything at all until the other artist finished his work on the morning of the last day. Finally, at the end of the day, the king greeted the two artists outside the hall in great expectation. He looked first at the right side of the hall and was speechless. He couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. He had never seen anything like it. He then turned to the other wall and saw that it was an exact replica of the first one. Every shape and colour was there exactly as it was on the other side.  There was just one difference – he, himself, stood in the midst of the garden wearing exactly what he was wearing at that moment. He gasped! He went closer to that wall and saw that the second artist hadn’t painted or created anything on it. He had simply lined the wall with mirrors – floor to ceiling!

I hope you agree that this is an interesting story, but what does it have to do with our Torah portion that contains a series of blessings and curses? In our parashah we are being told that the Land will be fruitful if we obey God’s commandments, but following this picture of prosperity and tranquillity, we read, “But if you do not obey Me …, I in turn will do this to you….” (26:14-16.) After raising us up and inspiring us, why does the text need to bring us down with fear? Immediately after I heard the story the first time, I understood our difficult issue in a new light. It occurred to me that the blessings and the curses are like the work of the two artists. Perhaps the blessings are the original artwork and the curses are the mirror image. And, perhaps it is human nature that we need a mirror image, the reverse of the original, to see ourselves in a place of beauty and blessing. The curses, thus, may provide the mirror that lets us know what we might have, if we truly focus on the blessings of holiness.

Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Adrian M Schell

(Source: Rabbi Robert Tornberg.)

Torah Reading for Shabbat B’chukotai

Leviticus 26:3-27:34
(Reading Lev 27:09-34; P p.870; H p.548)

Parashat B’chukotai is the final Torah portion of Leviticus. It is divided into two sections; the first contains a series of blessings and curses, and the second appears to be somewhat of an afterthought containing supplementary laws about vows, gifts, and dues that seem to have been left out previously.

Haftarah Jeremiah 16:19-17:14 (P 880 H 551)

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