B’chukotai brings the book of Leviticus to an end.
The parasha we are reading follows a list of blessings that God would bestow on the Israelites if they followed his laws and commandments. There is then an even longer and rather scary list of curses if they didn’t.
The part we read today is apparently a later addition to B’chukotai, which may have ended originally with verse chapter 26, verse 46 “these are the laws, rules and instructions that God established through Moses on Mt Sinai with the Israelite people”
Myself, Janet and Suzy might have been pleased if it had, as this parasha has been a challenge to me and to Janet and Suzy, who are leyning for the first time.
We read today about making dedications of people, animals and land towards the upkeep of the sanctuary.
Making a vow or dedication may be at a time of distress, when an appeal to God seems the only hope. We read that monetary value was assigned to people according to their age and gender. This may have been a more practical assessment than it would seem to us. Women were assigned a lower value because their relative economic worth was lower, particularly during child bearing years. In later life their contribution to the economy would be relatively higher as male efficiency declined.
A vow concerning people could be redeemed by the monetary value or practical service offered to the sanctuary and it would have been a way of supporting the sanctuary.
How often do we make a silent plea to God in the hope that a trauma may be resolved?
Or we bargain with God and make a personal vow to change, to do something to offer something if our problem will go away, a relative be cured, our situation changed.
I could ask how often that vow we make is honoured. Do we change? Do we offer something of value? Our time? Our services? Or once the crisis is over do we rationalise, accept that we have been lucky and forget our promises until the next time?
If things go badly, who do we blame? It is tempting to go for cause and effect. “I must have done something wrong” or “this is a punishment.” B’chukotai would suggest that things will go wrong if we don’t toe the line, but we see good people suffering and apparently bad people living a comfortable trouble – free life. I don’t believe there is reason, blame or explanation for most situations. Bad things happen because we do not live in a perfect world and we as humankind make mistakes.
Supporting each other in times of crisis as well as in the good times is what makes community. Finding out what support means in a crisis can change your way of thinking and create a different perception of suffering as a catalyst for change.
Much of what we read in Torah is about building, maintaining and governing a community.
Our community at Sinai is relatively strong, but it requires some building work and maintenance( and I am not referring to the bricks and mortar!). We need people prepared to make a vow of commitment however small and with the expectation that this may enrich their lives as well as the life of our community.
Let us take the words we say at the end of this Parasha to heart and act on them.
Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek “be strong, be strong and let us strengthen each other”.