Weekly Torah Commentary – Bechukotai May 20, 2011

Many religions place their basis of faith in far away promises, i.e.. “Have faith in our religion and you will get Heaven.”

While Judaism believes in an Afterlife, a World to Come, the Torah makes no promises that are “far away.” It makes definitive statements of consequences. This week’s portion says, “If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them; then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. Your threshing will last until the vintage, and the vintage will last until the sowing; you will eat your bread to satiety and you will dwell securely in your land. I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you … I will make you fruitful and increase you…”

This portion also contains the Tochachah, words of admonition, “If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments…” There are seven series of seven punishments each. Understand that God does not punish for punishment’s sake; He wants to get our attention so that we will introspect, recognize our errors and correct our ways. God does not wish to destroy us and will never annul His covenant with us. This is the Almighty’s guarantee to the Jewish people: ” … I will not grow so disgusted with them nor so tired of them that I would destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am the Lord their God.” (Deut. 26:44-45) He wants to prevent us from becoming so assimilated that we disappear as a nation. I highly recommend reading Leviticus 26:14 – 45.

Consequences follow every decision we make – both individually and corporately.  Nations suffer because of decisions made by their leaders that are contrary to godly principles and values.  Children suffer for the improper decisions of their parents, and so on.  As adults, we suffer the consequences of decisions that are out of line with Hashem’s clear will as stated in His Torah.  And tragically, because none of us is an island unto ourselves, our decisions also affect those around us whether we intend that or not.

And when the decisions we have already made, cause dissension or strife between us and others, let the following ten principles guide you in discussion:

Begin with something positive to create a friendly atmosphere.

Appreciate the human being you are talking with. S/he is not the enemy.

Respect your opponent’s desire to do the right thing. When possible, give positive feedback.

Earnestly seek peace. If your opponent makes offensive mistakes, don’t retaliate, rather help him/her recover.

Be open-minded. If your opponent makes a good objection, admit to it (and enjoy your new clarity).

Don’t interrupt when others are speaking.  Listen respectifully. Treat others as you would like to be treated. In the long term, you will save time.

Don’t provoke your opponent by hitting his/her hot buttons.

Stay focused on the point of discussion. Don’t destroy the conversation with emotional outbursts.

Lead by example. Don’t demand your opponent to keep these rules.  You teach them by example.

End by summarizing what you have in common and be willing to compromise where possible for the sake of peace.

In Tune with Torah this week = As we face day to day decisions, let us be mindful of how each decision will affect those around us and have their best interests at heart, not just your own.

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