The Promise of Security

Behar Behukkotai By :  Matthew Berkowitz Former Director of Israel Programs, JTS Posted On May 1, 2013 / 5773

Parashat Behukkotai opens with a dramatic quid pro quo. Provided the Israelites follow God’s laws and teachings, great blessings will be bestowed upon the Nation. We are told that rain will come at its proper season, the earth will yield of its fruits plentifully, and the Israelites will be satiated. Additionally, Torah makes an emphatic promise about peace, declaring, “You will dwell securely in the land. I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts, and no sword will cross your land” (Lev. 26:5–6). While it would have been sufficient for Torah to declare that you “will dwell securely in the land,” it felt the need to elaborate about peace being granted and the absence of vicious beasts. How are we to understand the multiple expressions of peace in these verses?

Joseph Bekhor Shor writes,

There are humans who dwell securely in the world and simply do not give their hearts over to fear. But were they to shift even slightly and open their hearts to fear, they would be terrified. And there are those people who are insecure and fearful even though there is no need. Therefore the verse says, “you will dwell toward security,” meaning, your hearts will not live in dread and you will not live with a false sense of security since “I am placing peace in the land.” There will be no one to do harm; there will be no threatening wild beast, nor will there be a sword. (Commentary on Leviticus [translated from the Hebrew], 234)

According to Bekhor Shor, God’s promise is twofold: it is about physically dwelling in peace, and feeling secure psychologically. It is a total state of peacefulness. Yehuda Nachshoni underscores Bekhor Shor’s point in writing,

This peace is also the one we long for, in which “the wolf will live with the lamb” (Isa. 11:6) . . . Before the sin of Adam, says Ramban, there was no such thing as prey, even among animals. If the Jews live in Eretz Yisrael according to the Torah, the earth will revert to that state, and the lion will eat straw like the cow. Peace will envelop Eretz Yisrael and the surrounding countries, the entire world, and even all animals. (Nachshoni, Studies in the Weekly Parashah, 876).

Let us hope and pray that loyalty to and observance of the teachings of Torah will affect a greater harmony in the world—one in which we will be privileged to live in peace and security all the days of our lives.

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