In Essays

Parsha Behar-Bechukotai | Torah God lays down the hammer

Torah God seen here after going on a bender. Photo by thom masat on Unsplash

Explore Jewish heritage with an amateur Jew’s commentary on Parsha Behar-Bechukotai, Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34. Click here to read the previous portion, Parsha Emor.

Just when I try to give Torah credit, admitting that I can see how people derive meaning from the text and that perhaps I’d been too snarky, this Parsha comes around.

Leviticus winds down this year with a double reading featuring Torah God at His finest. You get more obscure rules, including what to do with your slaves (spoiler: setting them free isn’t mentioned), and then Torah God pulls off the kiddy gloves.

After some solid pontificating, Torah God lets you know He’s not fucking around.

“But if you do not obey Me and do not observe all these commandments, if you reject My laws and spurn My rules, so that you do not observe all My commandments and you break My covenant, I in turn will do this to you: I will wreak misery upon you…”

Holy hot shit, Torah God! And that’s just the beginning. Torah God spends several pages letting you know just how miserable He’ll make your life if you so much as stray from His commandments. It goes from promising “consumption and fever” to all kinds of smiting––increased each time “sevenfold.”

Then, Torah God goes too far. He goes after bread.

“When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven; they shall dole out your bread by weight, and though you eat, you shall not be satisfied.”

Unsatisfying bread!? You’ve broken me, Torah God! You’ve broken me!

This is brilliantly followed by: “But if, despite this, you disobey Me and remain hostile to Me, I will act against you in wrathful hostility…”

Jesus Christ, the other stuff wasn’t out of “wrathful hostility,” Torah God? He then promises, again, to up the vengeful ante “sevenfold.”

“You shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.”

Okay, now the punishments are just getting strange, Torah God. Then the strange obsession with “pleasing odors” comes up again.

“I will lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not savor your pleasing odors.”

This makes me imagine Torah God as a grumpy toddler, finally agreeing to eat his dinner––”but I won’t like it!”

I don’t really know what to make of this bizarrely threatening ending to Leviticus. At this point, I’m ready to treat it like someone who drank way past their limit at a party––ignore them, move on, and pretend nothing happened. Because that’s what Torah God sounds like at the end of Leviticus, someone who’s had a little too much to drink––and Torah God definitely comes across as an angry drunk.

Onward with Parsha Bamidbar.

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