Ariel Ben Avraham

Parshat Bechukotai: choosing love as our identity

“If you walk in My statutes (…)” (Leviticus 26:3)

Our sages say in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 5a) that we have to understand that the word if is not meant to be taken as conditional but as a plea from God.

In the context of “in My statutes” (bechukotai) they represent what makes us God’s image and likeness, also part of Him. Here we understand this as God’s love. This is what unites us to Him as our common bond with Him, and it is our choice to exercise this sacred identity.

These statutes are God’s ways and attributes we can be fully aware of when we elevate our consciousness to that primordial principle. The effects for being and doing His ways and attributes are His blessings.

“And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” (26:3)

Rashi understands this verse as a divine promise for the future in Messianic times, saying that then “every species of trees will bear edible fruit”. The question is when this promise is fulfilled.

Everything seems to be conditional in this material world except for the divine essence that created it and sustains it. We can see it clearly in nature: the air, the rain, the sun and the earth don’t impose conditions for us in order to benefit from them. This is how God’s love works, hence we have to follow His ways. The rest is conditional in this world, and it is us who impose the conditions, usually pursuing personal interest or individual convenience rather than the collective well being, including us.

In a deeper sense this verse means that when we are and manifest love as our true essence and identity in every aspect of consciousness, our thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts will bear its fruits as goodness in everything they manifest.

We already said that love is the cause and the effect, and this is the inner meaning of the verse. Therefore the only condition, the phrase “if you do it” implies that it’s up to us to return to our true essence and identity, and not up to God. When we make the choice we allow the divine promise to be fulfilled here and now, then God’s redeeming love will manifest with all might and power with His blessings (26:4-13).

“And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be My people.” (26:11)

The portion immediately states the conditional effects of choosing ego’s agenda and rejecting love as our true identity (26:14-41, 43). Though these consequences are detailed as negative actions apparently “imposed” to us by our Creator for not following His commandments, they are the obvious results of separating ourselves from His ways. The Torah makes this clear.

“(…) and they shall be paid the punishment of their iniquity (…)” (26:43)

Transgressions are our choice, not God’s. Interestingly in verse 42, although among the “curses”, the following is not one of them.”Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My Covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the land.”
And continues…”And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God.”

This again clearly shows that God’s love never has and will never be separated from us because He created us and sustains us, in spite of our choice to separate from Him. Love is our bond with God as our covenant, just because He is our Creator.

The rest of the portion, which is the final chapter of the book of Leviticus, ends with details that represent our full and complete commitment to God, His ways and attributes in how we relate to Him and our fellow man.

This chapter mentions in a symbolic way that we can’t change our intention and willingness to do what is sacred, what is right and proper when we offer our sacrifices, our offerings to become the means to fulfill God’s ways and attributes.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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