“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments and do them, I will give your rain in due season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.”

Thus opens this week’s reading, Bechukotai (“in My statutes”), which goes on to enumerate the earthly blessings that will result when the people of Israel follow G‑d’s commandments:

Your threshing shall reach to the vintage, and the vintage shall reach to the sowing time; and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell secure in your land.

I will give peace in the land; and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. I will remove evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword pass through your land.

You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight . . .

For I will turn My face to you. I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and establish My covenant with you . . .

I will place My dwelling amongst you; and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you; I will be your G‑d, and you shall be My people.

I am the L‑rd your G‑d who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from being their slaves; I have broken the bars of your yoke, and made you walk upright.

The Rebuke

Then comes the tochachah (“rebuke” or “punishment”)—a harshly detailed prediction of what will befall the people of Israel when they turn away from G‑d:

But if you will not hearken to Me, and will not do all these commands; if you shall despise My statutes, if your soul shall abhor my laws, so that you will not do all My commandments, and break My covenant,

I also will do this to you; I will appoint over you terror, consumption and fever, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart . . .

I will set My face against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies; they that hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you . . .

I will make your skies like iron, and your earth like brass. Your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield her produce, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruit . . .

And so it goes—more than thirty verses filled with every catastrophe imaginable, predicting every calamity destined to befall our people in the course of our history because we “walk casually” with G‑d:

I shall cast your carcasses upon the carcasses of your idols. . . . I shall lay desolate your holy places . . .

And you I shall scatter amongst the nations . . . your land shall be desolate, your cities in ruins. . . . Those who remain of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands . . .

And yet,

I will remember My covenant with Jacob. Also My covenant with Isaac, also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land . . .

Despite all, the people of Israel shall forever remain G‑d’s people:

Even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away; nor will I ever abhor them, to destroy them and to break My covenant with them; for I am the L‑rd their G‑d.

Values and Appraisals

The second part of Bechukotai legislates the laws of erachin (“values” or “appraisals”)—the manner by which to calculate the values of different types of pledges made to G‑d.

If a person is pledged (i.e., a person declares “I pledge my value to G‑d” or “I pledge this person’s value”), the Torah sets a fixed sum, based on the age and sex of the pledged person and ranging from 3 to 50 shekels, which is seen to represent that pledged person’s monetary “value.” This amount is given to the treasury of the Holy Temple by the one who made the pledge.

If a kosher, unblemished animal is pledged to G‑d, it is brought as an offering in the Holy Temple. “He shall not exchange it nor substitute another for it, be it a good for a bad, or a bad for a good; and if he shall at all exchange beast for beast, then it and its substitute shall both be holy.”

Other objects (such as a nonkosher animal or a house) are given to the Temple treasury to be sold, or else they are redeemed by their pledger for their assessed market value plus 20%.

A pledged field goes to the Temple treasury until the Jubilee year (see above), at which time it goes to the kohen (priest). A person wishing to redeem his pledged field is assessed not according to the field’s market value, but by the Torah’s own criteria: 50 shekel per beit chomer (an area equivalent to slightly less than four acres). This amount is to be deducted in accordance with how many years remain until the Jubilee year (e.g., if only 20 years remain until the Jubilee, than the value per beit chomer is 20 shekels). The 20% addition also applies.

“These are the commandments,” our Parshah concludes and closes the book of Leviticus, “which G‑d commanded to Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.”