Parshat Bechukotai: Following God’s ways

The fact that this portion starts with the conditional if makes us reflect about who is putting conditions in our relation with the Creator.

“If you follow My statutes (bechukotai), and observe My commandments, and perform them” (Leviticus 26:3)

Semantically we can conclude that God conditions His love to us but in reality we, with the free will He gave us, are who act under the conditions of doing what is right or not.

If we fully assimilate that God’s love for His creation is truly unconditional because He lets us choose the conditions, then we can understand that He gives us the choice to either follow our material individualistic desires or His ways and attributes.

Love is the choice for being as abundant as His rains, the produce of His land, the fruit of His tree; and these also are our threshing, our vintage, and our food to eat to satiety. Love is our security and our peace in God’s love, because love is our land in which nothing frightens us.

Our Creator gives us the strength to remove the wild beasts, the enemies and their swords before us, because our covenant with Him increases us and makes us fruitful, as it is written in this portion (26:4-9).

Love renews and revives our lives when we let God dwell in our midst, because when we embrace Him and walk with Him, He never rejects us (26:10-11).

“I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.” (26:12)

God’s love liberates us from the slavery of lower thoughts, emotions, passions, desires and instincts, and negative traits and trends.

“(…) and I broke the pegs of your yoke and led you upright.” (26:13)

God’s love is the sole nurturer, and sustains all His creation. We must realize this truth since the very moment when we were born. In this awareness we must realize that we exist for the sake of love. Hence love is the choice we must be compelled to make every moment of our lives, instead of ego’s illusion that being self-centered is the drive that gives sense to life in the material world.

God’s love pervades and transcends all creation, in contrast to the ephemeral nature of human illusions. Ego’s illusions deny the ways and attributes of love and, when we choose them as the idols they are, we become the victims of their outcome. The words of the Torah regarding this choice are loud and clear, not as a curse but as a direct result of the choices we make.

It sounds that God’s love is “against” us when we do not choose His ways, but let’s be aware that our choices have consequences. We don’t have to label them necessarily as love’s “punishments”, but as the direct result of our actions.

We certainly know that love does not punish because transgressions contain their own punishment. The moment we abandon love, anything different than love await us (26:14-43). Therefore we can’t blame it on God’s love because is unconditional as He is.

“(…) despite all this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them nor will I reject them to annihilate them; thereby breaking My covenant that is with them, because I am the Lord their God.” (26:44)

Yes, because God is our creator and sustenance.

After these divine warnings of the consequences of separating our lives from God’s love, there are more commandments to make us aware that our peace and plenitude in the material reality depend on our total commitment to our oneness with Him, as our offering to Him.

“However, anything that a man devotes to the Lord from any of his property whether a person, an animal, or part of his inherited field shall not be sold, nor shall it be redeemed, [because] all devoted things are holy of hollies to the Lord.” (27:28)

In this sense, every personal trait, quality, talent and acquired knowledge as an individual possession must be devoted to God’s ways and attributes, and not sold o given to anything different simply because they are gifts from the Creator and therefore sacred to Him.

Love, as a material manifestation of God’s love, is our true essence and identity, and when we choose love all fantasies disappear, as the prophet reminds us in the haftarah that accompanies this parshah.

“O Lord, who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the Earth to say, ‘Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods?” (Jeremiah 16:19-20)

God’s love is our power and strength because love is our life, and love tells ego’s fantasies and illusions (the “nations”) the lies and emptiness they are, in contrast to the truth that love is.

We create our own fantasies and we who turn them into gods, and it is only up to us to return to love’s ways to free us again from them.

“Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My name is the Lord.” (16:21)

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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