by: Mark Kirschbaum on May 16th, 2012 | Comments Off
Here we are, at the close of the book of Vayikra, “Leviticus”, the Book of Holiness, concerned primarily with what was intended to be the highest service, that of the Temple, the sacrifices, and the priesthood. However, as the Bet Yaakov points out, this Torah portion does not begin as do most of the others, with a speech act to Moshe, that is, with the usual “And God spoke to Moshe”. Here, the segment begins with Im behklotai tailaichu, “if only you would walk in My ways and keep My commandments and make them happen”.
This “if only” is read by the Bet Yaakov as describing not a command, but a prayer on God’s part. It is not a command that is needed after the presentation of so much holiness, for a command can not actualize holiness; what is needed to make holiness happen is a personal prayer.
This perasha, then, is God’s prayer, in which he prays, if only all people would listen to these words and embark upon the road to holiness. In this perasha God begs us to lead meaningful lives, with the blessings described later in this section serving as inducement, accompanied by curses as warning.
So what are these blessings offered for living a life of spiritual piety? Oddly, very naturalistic rewards – that the rain will fall, the earth will give forth produce, etc. Very natural, seemingly coarse physical rewards. Does that not seem a bit of a let-down, an anti-climax? After all, we have just concluded an entire book narrating a Temple service seemingly concerned with achieving an other-worldly, transcendent holiness. How then to reconcile these seemingly very material rewards for spiritual achievement?