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!


Shabbat Shalom! – Bechukotai

It’s hard to believe: we’re at the beginning of June, and the end of the book of Leviticus.

When we hear the end of a book of Torah chanted in synagogue, the reader chants the last verse and then follows it: “Hazak, hazak, v’nitkhazek!” [Be strong, be strong, let us be strengthened!]

Jewish tradition calls attention to the many tensions and balances in human life.

We are individuals (“Be strong!”)

and we are members of a community (“Let us be strengthened!”)

We are responsible for ourselves (“Be strong!”)

and responsible for each other (“Let us be strengthened!”)

We are people of action (“Be strong!”)

and people who are continual, lifelong learners (“Let us be strengthened!”)

Tonight we shall begin another book of Torah (“Be strong!”)

but today we enjoy the fact that we have again read Leviticus. (“Let us be strengthened!”)


Divrei Torah on Parashat Bechukotai:

A Shabbat for the Earth – Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

B’chukotai with Rabbi Ellie – Rabbi Eleanor Steinman (VIDEO)

Rebukes Remind Us That We Must Work Together – Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

We Live in God’s Neighborhood – Rabbi Mark Borovitz (VIDEO)

On Civilization, Culture & True Wisdom – Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Torah, Consequences, and the Akiba Clause – Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan

A Sense of Direction – Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks