Parshat Bechukotai: Living life as the blessing of goodness (II)

“If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them…” (Leviticus 26:3)

We have referred often to the conditionality derived from the consequences of the choices we make. Conditions appear based on the result or outcome of what we do. Thus we may choose to eat an apple, not on previous conditions but on the effect that may cause in our health. Then, what is point to say “if you…”?

It is about making ourselves aware of the consequences, effects or results of our actions. In the case of the message we read in this last portion of the book of Leviticus, it is a plain and simple invitation to discern between living in the blessing of goodness and living in the curses of an egocentric approach to life, which is contrary to what goodness is all about.

This invitation will be further reiterated in the Torah, emphatically before the children of Israel’s entering the Promised Land, and also be taken into consideration in every choice we will make every moment we live.

Our Sages teach us something essential we rarely pay attention to. Goodness adds up and builds up every time someone does or creates something good for the benefit of others, either be one or many. We clearly see this with positive inventions or discoveries that almost immediately lead to greater and even more beneficial creations.

Interestingly to notice, this does not happen with evil and negative actions, which only exist to subtract or destroy goodness. In this sense we realize that evil can’t exist or sustain by itself, for it needs goodness to survive. We see it in people. An evil or despicable person can’t live or survive without the goodness that sustains life. We can’t say the same about goodness, for it exists and lives by itself for the sake of itself.

This portion of the Torah offers us the choice to live a life of, in, by, with and for goodness, and to live under the oppression and destruction of the negative traits and trends of ego’s materialistic fantasies and illusions, symbolized by the “nations”. Surely, nations have persecuted, exploited and exterminated countless Jewish communities throughout history in order to make prevail the lower principles by which they have ruled themselves.

Some of those nations evolved enough to respect Jews and others by living under dignifying laws for all their citizens, but some nations still live under egotistic and excluding dogmas that they pretend to impose on others different than them, and even fight with weapons of mass destruction to achieve their pathetic goals. These are the nations referred to in this portion, by which we are cursed to live with, if we choose to live among them.

Based on the curses that Noah placed on his son Ham, our Sages reflect on forced servitude and slavery as a choice and consequence, and not as a condition. At a first look, ironically, Ham’s descendants were slaving nations, being Egypt one of them. How come they were not destined to be slaves as Noah’s curses to Ham determined? The answer is more related to being slaves themselves to the lowest traits and trends in human consciousness, which direct them to enslave others to such depraved condition.

In this view, we can understand that our total freedom lives in the goodness we have and manifest as the result of living it as an ethical ruling principle in God’s creation. In contrast, living under an egotistic approach to life is our slavery in attachments, obsessions and addictions that destroy the goodness by which God commands us to live, and to make it prevail in His creation.

Once more the choice is ours, not as “ifs” but as reasoned, learned and informed situations that we may or may not choose to live in. We must understand that real free will depends on previous knowledge, in order for us to choose the best we can. If we don’t know enough, it is difficult and even unfair to exercise free will. And again, the choice is ours.

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 Zefat.
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