Friday, June 3, 2016

Torah Thoughts on Bechukotai

This week’s Torah portion, Bechukotai (Lev. 26:3 – 27:34) is the final portion in the book of Leviticus.  The bulk of the portion consists of a list of blessings which will come if the people follow God’s laws, and a list of curses which will come if the people disregard God’s laws.  Notwithstanding the severity of the curses, at the end of the passage, we receive the reassurance that God will not reject or destroy Israel, because of the covenant (Lev. 26:43-44).
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in an essay on this Torah portion, writes that the only other nation in the world besides ancient Israel which sees its fate in terms of covenant is the United States of America.  He quotes John Schaar’s book Legitimacy and the Modern State, describing the faith of Abraham Lincoln:

We are a nation formed by a covenant, by dedication to a set of principles and by an exchange of promises to uphold and advance certain commitments among ourselves and throughout the world.  Those principles and commitments are the core of American identity, the soul of the body politic.  They make the American nation unique, and uniquely valuable, among and to the other nations. But the other side of the conception contains a warning very like the warnings spoken by the prophets to Israel: If we fail in our promises to each other, and lose the principles of the covenant, then we lose everything, for they are we. 

This coming week will bring the last of the primary elections for president of the United States, an election in which the principles of the American covenant are in peril.  I urge everyone in those states holding elections on Tuesday to vote, and until the November elections, to work to keep American principles and promises alive and well.

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