Sedra of the week: Behar-Bechukkotai 

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Sedra of the week: Behar-Bechukkotai 

Rabbi Naftali Schiff looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

This week we conclude the third book of the Torah, Vayikra.

Incredibly, the whole book has been read entirely under lockdown and has provided us with the opportunity for study and reflection in lieu of the public weekly reading of the Torah.

The essence of the book is the expectations Hashem has of the Jewish people now that His presence is in their midst, due to the building of the Mishkan.

The people are meant to be cognisant of this new reality, both in their divine and in their interpersonal relationships.

Beginning with lofty and esoteric ideas, Vayikra concludes with a stark reminder of the effects of our actions.

When Behar-Bechukkotai is read in shul, the tochacha, or passage of rebuke, is read quickly and quietly, almost in a whisper.

We want the events to pass us by as quickly and harmlessly as possible.

But the harsh reality is that Jewish history has been replete with pain and suffering.

The past 2,000 years of exile and persecution have seen the fulfilment of many, if not all of these awful prophecies.

The rabbis of the Talmud tell us that this exile happened because of needless hatred and continues because we have not yet managed to rectify this malady.

Perhaps these weeks and months of lockdown can give us the chance to pause and reflect on our relationships, to re-evaluate our relationships, near and far; to choose to look for the good in others, to identify people with their virtues and overlook aspects that may sometimes rub us up the wrong way.

When we finally emerge from lockdown, we can do so to a vastly improved world.

Whether we will or not is totally in our hands.

  •    Rabbi Naftali Schiff is chairman and founder of GIFT and CEO of Jewish Futures


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