This week’s reading, Bechukotai, is also the Shabbat on which we bless the coming month of Sivan.
There is a contrast here, as Bechukotai contains one of two Torah readings detailing the terrible times that will come upon the Israelite people if they behave callously and rebelliously before God.
Addressing us in the first person, God cuts a deal. If we abide by his commandments, the rains will fall on time and our produce will arrive safely. There will be peace in the land, and our enemies will flee.
The reverse is also true. If the Israelites annul and repudiate their covenant, there will be several stages of decline.
Not only do plague and enemies threaten to overcome us, but nature refuses to cooperate with working the land.
The next stage is pestilence, the third is war and starvation, the fourth a holocaust scenario where starved parents eat the bodies of their children, and then exile.
Then, the land will begin to recover and people will engage in repentance, even as the sound of a fluttering leaf will strike fear in a ghettoed population.
After confessing their sins, God will recall the His promise and return His people.
The final section details how individual Israelites can donate to the holy sanctuary a value representative of either their own capacity to work, the value of an animal or of a piece of land.
Perhaps this reflects today’s need to ensure spiritual and educational leaders are supported by the people and not interest groups, so our children can look forward to a more moral world.
Rabbi Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to HM Armed Forces