Behukkotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34)

This week, we come to the end of Leviticus.  [Stop cheering.  A lot of bad stuff happens in Numbers.  In fact, one might look at the annual reading of Leviticus as a means of delaying our reading about the disasters in Numbers.]

First, we read the blessings (26:3-13) that the Israelites will experience if they are obedient: rain in its proper time, agricultural and personal fertility, no war, and a good covenantal relationship with the Lord.  What follows is a 30-verse section known as the “minor tochachah,” (warning, reproof, “minor” because the major one is in Deuteronomy 28), detailed warnings of the consequences of disobedience.  One might conclude that the warnings weigh more heavily, since there are so many more of them than blessings, but one would be wrong.  Everyone already knows what fertility, peace, and being on good terms with the Lord are like, so there is no need for a lot of descriptive detail.  The warnings, however, do not concern mundane happenings, so more detail is warranted.  Also, the vividness is meant to put the fear of God into them, literally.

The tochachah doesn’t concern occasional missteps, but rather a total and continuing rejection of the Law (26:14-16): “But if you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments; if you consider My decrees loathsome, and if your being rejects My ordinances, so as not to perform all My commandments, so that you annul My covenant – then I will do the same to you…”  These verses are interpreted as including seven sins; I see 6, and the rabbis include an implicit denial of God’s existence as number 7.  There follow five distinct series of seven punishments (26:16-17, 18-20, 21-22, 23-26, and 27-43), each series worse than the last, until the land itself becomes desolate, making up for all its missed sabbaticals.  The good news is that the people can stop it at any point by repenting and obeying the laws. 

The end of Leviticus concerns valuations of noncash donations toward the upkeep of the Tabernacle (later, the Temple).  Someone could pledge the monetary value of something or someone for the Tabernacle.  The value of, say, a house or a field or an animal would be assigned by the Kohen (priest).  The monetary value of a person was determined by sex and age, basically what that person could fetch on the slave market.  This ranged from 3 shekels for a girl aged one month to 5 years up to 50 shekels for a 20-60-year-old man. 

Next week, back to the story.

Shabbat shalom,


Product Warnings:

  • “Do not use if you cannot see clearly to read the information in the information booklet.” — In the information booklet.
  • “Do not place this product into any electronic equipment.” — On the case of a chocolate CD in a gift basket.
  • “Do not drive with sunshield in place.” — On a cardboard sunshield that keeps the sun off the dashboard.
  • “Caution: This is not a safety protective device.” — On a plastic toy helmet used as a container for popcorn.
  • “Eating rocks may lead to broken teeth.” — On a novelty rock garden set called “Popcorn Rock.”
  • “Caution: Shoots rubber bands.” — On a product called “Rubber Band Shooter.”
  • “Please keep out of children.” — On a butcher knife.
  • “Not suitable for children aged 36 months or less.” — On a birthday card for a 1 year old.
  • “Do not recharge, put in backwards, or use.” — On a battery.
  • “Do not look into laser with remaining eye.” — On a laser pointer.
  • “Warning: Do not climb inside this bag and zip it up. Doing so will cause injury and death.” — A label inside a protective bag (for fragile objects), which measures 15cm by 15cm by 12cm (6” by 6” by 4.8”).
  • “Twist top off with hands. Throw top away. Do not put top in mouth.” — On the label of a bottled drink.
  • “Fragile. Do not drop.” — Posted on a Boeing 757.
  • “May be harmful if swallowed.” — On a shipment of hammers.
  • “Do not eat.” — On a slip of paper in a stereo box, referring to the styrofoam packing.


  • “Safe for use around pets.” — On a box of Arm & Hammer Cat Litter.

A few years ago, I referred to Tippling Through the Torah, a blog in which amateur Chicago bartender Andrea Frazier creates a drink for each week’s Torah portion.  She started this in October 2015 on a dare from her rabbi.  Here’s her concoction for Behukkotai (no, I haven’t tried it yet):

JUNE 1, 2016 ~ BARKEEP5776 (excerpts)

Oh, Leviticus, how we’ll miss you.

Just follow a whole bunch of crazy rules, HaShem promises us, and you’ll have produce (26:4), peace and a land free of terrifying things (26:6), your enemies will fall by the sword (26:7-8), and a good deal of holy nookie besides (26:9). Is it me, or did G-d pretty much outline a world happily awash in alcohol here?

Recipe: The Desolation of the Land (Lev 26:32): Frankly, I think everyone’s going to be astonished by this drink, and not just your enemies…

Shake together 2 shots of tequila and about an eighth of a medium avocado. Strain into a glass and add the juice from approximately one-quarter of a grapefruit (we’re pretty sure our grapefruit was a little weak; you might be able to use less). Stir in two pickled garlic scape heads, halved*; sprinkle with cumin, and garnish with a slide of avocado. Revel in the earthiness of this concoction. Sure, you’ll still be desolate and have no rest (26:35), but the covenant will be remembered eventually (26:45)

Chazak chazak v’nitchazek! *

*Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened! According to the Stone edition of the Chumash. Chanted at the end of each book of the Torah. IGP


tph warning


Human Obedience Training

tph obedience


Quotes about Worth

I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth. Sonia Sotomayor

If it’s a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny. Steven Wright

Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family. Virginia Satir

True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice. Ben Jonson

Poor is the man who does not know his own intrinsic worth and tends to measure everything by relative value. A man of financial wealth who values himself by his financial net worth is poorer than a poor man who values himself by his intrinsic self worth. Sydney Madwed


Blessings by IGP

May you enjoy your work, or at least not abhor it.

May you be able to retire, and may you retire if and when you choose to.

May you have the health insurance you need.

May your debts be paid off before your money runs out.

May you discover you really love doing something, before you’re too old to do it.

May your children not be crippled by student loans.

May your family be as close as you need them to be.

May you feel understood.

May you be able to love.

May you feel loved.

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