Bechukotai (Diaspora): End of story

This is the last of the readings from the book of Leviticus.

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

Judaism Scribe writes a Torah scroll
Scribe writes a Torah scroll

(If you are in Israel, visit the OzTorah site for articles on B'midbar.)


One of the promises if Israel obeys God is that no sword will go through their land (Lev. 26:6).

Every Israeli dreams of this happening – no more terrorism, or incitement.

The historian Lewis Namier said, “There must be a country where Jews can live, work and amuse themselves as they please, be good, bad, great or ridiculous. If we shall become altogether humdrum and mediocre, that, too, will be our affair, but our children will have a better life – and this suffices”.

If only our neighbours would realise that they too really want to have a good life without eruptions and conflicts…

What do we say about that part of the verse that says we must follow the Divine rules?

It doesn’t say you have to change your way of life all of a sudden. Gradually accustoming yourself to more Judaism is the better way.

Once people start taking the first tentative steps it becomes more and more convincing, more and more practical, more and more attainable.


The curses of the Tochechah are quite horrendous. There are big threats and small threats. One of the apparently small ones is that even a leaf can knock you over (kol aleh niddaf; Lev. 26:36).

You have to be very fragile for such a thing to be possible, but the Torah is uttering a grave warning: if you disobey the Divine law you will lose all your physical strength and moral stamina and will have no power of resistance.

Rashi gives the verse an extra dimension. If you hear the rustling of the wind you will think a powerful army is after you and you will only want to run away.

Never mind that it’s only the wind in the leaves; you’ll be so faint-hearted and jumpy that your imagination will play tricks with you.


With this sidra we come to the end of Vayyikra, the third book of the Torah. The final words are a fitting peroration: “These are the mitzvot which the Lord commanded Moses to convey to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai” (Lev. 27:34).

It’s not that the Children of Israel were on Mount Sinai, but Sinai was the source of the commandments.

In the Talmud (Shabbat 104a) this sentence is given a solemn implication. In case you thought that the panoply of commandments was unimportant and ephemeral, you should know that they are eternal, immortal and authoritative. Just as the Ten Commandments came from Sinai so did every other mitzvah.

It’s not your task to decide what is major and what is minor. It’s not up to you to choose what part of Judaism really matters. The laws of the Torah are one integrated body of principles.