Shabbat Shalom! – Behar-Bechukotai

Image: One of the mountains traditionally thought to be Mt. Sinai, this one in present-day Egypt. Photo by tamerlan/wikimedia.

What a mouthful! This week’s double portion has a long tongue-twisting name. Behar means “on the mountain” and it refers to Mount Sinai, where God spoke these words to Moses.

Bechukotai means “by my decrees” – chook¬†is the Hebrew word for a commandment that does not have a logical explanation, it’s simply a commandment. For instance, while people have tried to come up with justifications for the laws of kashrut, in actual fact the only reason the Bible gives for keeping kosher is that God commanded it. The laws of kashrut are chookim (plural of chook.)

These two portions contain around 36 commandments, both mishpatim (laws with logical explanations) and chookim (laws without explanations.) They also close out the book of Leviticus.¬†Thus we leave the Book of regulations for the Levites and next week we’ll be back in Numbers, or Bemidbar – in the wilderness!

Here are some divrei Torah from teachers around the internet this week:

Natural Miracles by Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Patriarchy and Priesthood Join Forces to Undervalue Women’s Work by Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

Reduced to Poverty by Rabbi Nina J Mizrahi

Giving Charity is Not Easy Business by Rabbi Marc Katz

God, Too, is Lonely by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Shabbat shalom!


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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

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