BECHUKOTAI

The Thirty-third Sedra
21-27 Iyar 5782

FROM THE TORAH

Leviticus 26:3-27:34

Sedra Bechukotai closes the Book of Leviticus by contrasting the collective outcome of obedience to divine commandments with failure to observe them.  The rewards and consequences are variously agricultural, zoological, climactic, and military.  The sanctions for disobedience, known as tochachot (rebukes), are especially dramatic.  This section concludes with the option of repentance.  There follows a comprehensive treatment of voluntary offerings and of tithes, both reflecting a breadth of approaches that are built in to their valuation and management.

Reward, Punishment and Repentance

REWARDS FOR COMPLIANCE
26:3-13

If you walk according to My statutes (Bechukotai) and keep My commandments, I will provide your rains in their season, the earth will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will provide its fruit.  Your threshing will overtake your vintage, and your vintage will overtake your sowing.  You will have abundant food, and you will dwell securely in your Land.  I will provide peace in the Land, and you will lie down to sleep without fear.  I will remove wild beasts from the Land, and the sword will not pass through your Land.  When you pursue your enemies, they will fall before you by the sword: five of you shall pursue a hundred of them, and a hundred of you shall pursue ten thousand of them.

In short, I will favor you, making you fruitful and abundant.  I shall establish My covenant with you.  You shall eat the old, long stored, and then clear it out for the new.  I shall establish my dwelling in your midst and not abhor you.  Being in your midst, I shall be your God and you shall be My people, I the Eternal, your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt from being their slaves; I have broken the bars of your yoke, allowing you to walk upright.

STERN SANCTIONS
26:14-38

But if you do not heed Me and show your disdain for My commandments by not doing them, thus violating My covenant, then I will bring upon you misery, disease, and wasting afflictions; whatever you sow your enemies will eat.  I will turn My favor away from you: you will be defeated by your enemies and seek to flee even when none pursues you.

If, after all of that, you still do not heed Me, then I shall increase your punishment to seven times your sins.  I shall break down your arrogance, make your skies like iron and your ground like copper.  Your strength shall be in vain, your land will produce nothing, and its trees will produce no fruit.

If you continue to oppose Me and choose not to obey Me, then I shall continue your punishment of seven times your sins and release against you wild beasts who will make you childless, cut off your animals, decimate you, and desolate your highways.

If you are not chastened for Me by those punishments and you persist in going against Me, then I will go against you and strike you seven times your sins.  I will bring upon you the avenging sword for the sake of My covenant, and when you are gathered into your cities, I shall send pestilence in your midst, and you will be delivered into the hand of your enemy.  Your bread will be limited to the baking by ten women in a single oven; when you receive your ration, it will not be satisfying.

But if that is not enough for you to heed Me and you continue to go against Me, then I shall go against you with an angry rejection and discipline you seven times your sins.  You will resort to eating the flesh of your children.  I shall destroy your cultic places and cut down your cultic pillars and pile your corpses on top of the carcasses of your idols, out of disgust with you.

I shall make ruins of your cities and desolations of your sanctuaries, never more breathing in your pleasant aroma.  I shall so desolate the Land that your enemies who settle upon it shall be desolated by it.  I shall scatter you among the nations and draw the sword against you.  Then the Land will benefit from many days of rest in its desolation, and in your absence in the land of your enemies, making up for the Sabbaths it did not observe when you dwelled upon it.

I will bring a weakness of heart upon those who are left among you in the land of their enemies so that “the sound of a driven leaf puts them to flight” (Leviticus 26:36), and their flight from the imagined sword ends in their falling over each other.  You shall not be able to stand before your enemies.  You will be lost among the nations, and the land of your enemies will consume you.

REPENTANCE
26:39-46

But those of you who survive there, rotting with regret of their iniquity and the iniquities of their fathers, shall confess them for all of their violations against Me and all of their rebelliousness, for which I brought them into the land of their enemies.  Their uncircumcised heart duly humbled and accepting of their guilt, I remember My covenant with Jacob, My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham, I remember the Land (Leviticus 26:42).  I shall not reject them or despise them to annul My covenant with them, as I am the Eternal, their God.  I shall remember for their benefit My covenant with the founders, whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, in view of all the nations, to be their God, I the Eternal.

These, then, are the statutes and the ordinances and the instructions which the Eternal promulgated between Him and the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai in the hand of Moses.

Dedication and Redemption

VOTIVE VALUATIONS
Persons
27:1-8

The Eternal charged Moses to provide certain rules for the Children of Israel regarding vows.  If one promises to the Eternal the value of his life, the valuation shall be as follows: for a male between the ages of 20 and 60 years, 50 shekels of silver by the sacral weight, for a female 30 shekels; from 5 to 20 years old, for a male 20 shekels and for a female 10 shekels; from a month to 5 years old, for a male 5 shekels of silver and for a female 3 shekels of silver; from 60 years and upward, for a male 15 shekels and for a female 10 shekels.  If one cannot afford the nominal valuation, then the Kohen shall set a value that conforms to what the vower can afford.

Animals
27:9-13

If he offers an animal to the Eternal, it shall be holy.  It cannot be exchanged for another or replaced by another, whether for greater or lesser value.  If, nonetheless, another animal is substituted, then the original animal and its substitute are both holy.  If the animal is unclean, of the type that would not be eligible to be offered to the Eternal, then the Kohen shall assess its value, whether high or low; the Kohen’s assessment shall stand.  If he redeems it, he adds one-fifth to its assessed value.

Houses
27:14-15

If one should dedicate his house to the Eternal, the Kohen shall assess its value, whether high or low; the Kohen’s assessment shall stand.  If he redeems it, he adds one-fifth of the assessed silver value to the assessed value, and it shall be his.

Ancestral Holdings
27:16-21

If one should dedicate some of his land holding to the Eternal, its nominal valuation shall be in accordance with its sowing amount: 50 shekels of silver for a chomer of barley seed.  This would be the rate of valuation if he sanctifies his land from the Jubilee year.  If he dedicates his land after the Jubilee year, the nominal value would be reduced in accordance with the number of years that remain until the next Jubilee.  If the dedicator then redeems the land, he adds one-fifth of the silver value to its assessed value and it stands as his.  If he does not redeem the land and it is sold to someone else, it may no longer be redeemed.  When the land is released at the Jubilee, it is holy to the Eternal, like confiscated land; it goes to the Kohen.

Purchased Lands
27:22-25

If one should dedicate to the Eternal land that he purchased, not land of his ancestral holding, the Kohen shall calculate the proportion of the valuation up to the Jubilee year, and he shall pay the net valuation as a sacred donation to the Eternal.  In the Jubilee year the land shall return to the person from whom he purchased it, who held it as an original allotment of the Land.  All of your valuations shall be by the sacral shekel, which is the equivalent of 20 gerahs.

FIRST-BORN ANIMALS
27:26-27

No one can dedicate a First-born Animal (Bechor), whether ox or sheep, as it is already, by its birth as first-born, the Eternal’s.  If it is of an unclean animal, it may be redeemed for its assessed value plus one-fifth; if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold for its assessed value.

CONFISCATED PROPERTY
27:28-29

Anything that is Confiscated for the Eternal (Cherem), whether man or beast or holding of land, may not be sold and may not be redeemed.  Confiscated property is most holy, for the Eternal.  No human being who has been thus proscribed can be redeemed; he must be put to death.

TITHES
27:30-33

Every Tithe (tenth) of the Land (Ma’sar Ha-aretz), whether from seed of the earth or from fruit of the tree, is the Eternal’s, holy to the Eternal.  If a man would redeem any part of his Tithe, he must add one-fifth to its value.

As to any Tithe of Herd or Flock (Ma’sar Bakar va-Tson), every tenth that passes under the staff shall be holy to the Eternal.  No judgment may be made between good or bad, and there may be no substitution of one animal for another.  If there is an attempt to make such a substitution, then both the original animal and the proposed substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

SUMMARY
27:34

These, then, are the commandments which the Eternal commanded Moses for the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai.

Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shabbat Bechukotai
Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

Source of Retribution and Vindication

O Eternal,
my Stronghold, my Refuge,
in the time of danger,
You shall be the destination of the nations
from the ends of the earth,
when they come to realize
that they have inherited
lies from their fathers,
that the gods that they worshipped
are in fact no gods!

Yet Judah’s sin is virtually indelible,
engraved upon the tablet of their heart,
upon the horns of their idolatrous altars.
How persistently they recall
their idols so prominent!

I shall allow all of that which you treasure
to be released as spoil to your enemies,
and you yourself
I shall hand over to them as their servants
in a land that you know not.

For you have angered Me
in the manner of a fire
that burns forever.

Cursed is the man
who trusts in Man
and depends upon flesh
instead of the Eternal.
He shall not see when good comes
as he shall inhabit
the most parched of places.

Blessed is the man
who trusts in the Eternal,
whose confidence shall be
as a tree planted by the waters,
whose roots are amply nourished,
notwithstanding the heat,
to make its leaves verdant,
immune to drought,
and its fruit abundant.

The heart deceitful and weak
is the object of My examination:
to recompense man justly
for his behavior and his achievements.
To identify one who appropriates
that which is not his
and ultimately to deprive him
of his ill-gotten gain.

O Throne of Glory,
exalted from the beginning,
our sacred Presence,
Hope of Israel,
those who forsake You
shall be recorded for shame!
O Source of living waters,
the Eternal,
heal me so that I may be healed,
save me so that I may be saved,
as You are my Adoration!

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Leviticus Rabbah 35:2
A Conditional Relationship

If you walk according to My statutes
and keep My commandments,
(then) I will provide your rains in their season,
the earth will yield its produce…”
(Leviticus 26:3 ff.)

This is the converse of the conditional relationship that Jacob proposed to God at Beth El (cf. Genesis 28:10ff.): “If God will be with me and protect me on this journey…and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear, and I return safely to my father’s house, then the Eternal shall be my God” (Genesis 28:20-21).  How did God respond to Jacob?  “I will be with you, and I will protect you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this Land, as I shall not forsake you…” (Genesis 28:15).  But where did God agree to provide Jacob with “food to eat and clothes to wear?” Rabbi Assi holds that God assured Jacob also on sustenance (parnasah), for Rabbi Assi interpreted the words, “I shall not forsake you” (Genesis 28:15), to refer to sustenance, based upon the verse, “I have been young, now I am old, and I have not seen a righteous person forsaken and his offspring searching for food” (Psalms 37:25)!

But Jacob did refer later in his life to the conditional relationship that God put forth in our Sedra, “If you walk according to My statutes…, (then) I will provide your rains…,” when, on his deathbed, he assembled his sons and said, “Listen, O sons of Jacob; listen to Israel, your father” (Genesis 49:2).  Why did he repeat “listen?”  He referred to ancient wisdom (cf. Proverbs 8:22 ff.), which said, “And now, O children, listen to me, and happy are those who keep my ways…happy is the one who listens to me…” (Proverbs 8:32,34).  Jacob was relating wisdom’s words to them as follows: “And now, O children, listen to Me (says the Eternal), happy am I when they keep My ways…and…happy will be the one who hearkens to Me!”  If you walk according to My ways, then happy shall I be with you and thereby shall you be made happy by Me!

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Mirkin Commentary:  Consider how else the verse, “I have not seen a righteous person forsaken and his offspring searching for food,” could be understood?  Interpret: “I have not seen a righteous person forsaken while his offspring are searching for food”— Although Jacob’s offspring had gone down to Egypt in search of food, Jacob was not forsaken of his faith in the Holy One, blessed be He, as he says: “May God Almighty show you mercy before the man (Joseph) that he release your other brother to you along with Benjamin…” (Genesis 43:14)!

Leviticus Rabbah 35:3
The Law is Above the King

“If you walk according to My statutes
and keep My commandments…”
(Leviticus 26:3)

Rabbi Elazar cited the Greek maxim, “The king is above the law.”  It is the general practice that when a human king issues an edict, he may observe it himself if he so chooses, or he may intend only for others to observe it.  The Holy One, blessed be He, however, is different.

Consider, for example, His edict in Sedra Kedoshim: “Rise before the hoary head, showing respect for the aged” (Leviticus 19:32).  How could one even expect the physical possibility of His observing His own law?  Yet we see that He did before Abraham: “The Eternal appeared to him…as he was sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day…he saw that three ‘men’ were standing over him” (Genesis 18:1-2)!

So did God begin Sedra Bechukotai: “If you walk according to My statutes and keep My commandments…” (Leviticus 26:3), the statutes and commandments that I, Myself, observe, such as rising before the hoary head, showing respect for the aged!

Talmud Taanit 22a-22b
Risk of Interpretation

“I will provide peace in the Land,
and you will lie down to sleep without fear.
I will remove wild beasts from the Land,
and the sword will not pass through your Land.”
(Leviticus 26:6)

MISHNAH (3:5)

For these dangers we fast and sound the shofar as an alarm in every place:…for wild beasts and for the sword we fast and sound the shofar because these dangers can spread throughout the Land.

GEMARA

Our Rabbis taught: Since the “sword” that is not of peace seems obvious as a reason for fasting and alarm, the “sword” in our Mishnah must refer to even the “sword” that is of peace.  Similarly did King Josiah interpret the divine promise, “…and the sword will not pass through your Land” (Leviticus 26:6b) to refer even to the “sword” that is of peace since the Eternal had already promised at the beginning of the verse, “I will provide peace in the Land…” (ibid. 6a) referring to the cessation of the sword of war!

What was the occasion of King Josiah’s interpretation?  When Necho king of Egypt went through the Land to war against Carchemish on the Euphrates, Josiah went out against him—even  though Pharaoh Necho sent word to him, “I am not coming against you, O king of Judah, but against the House with which I am at war” (II Chronicles 35:21; cf. II Kings 23:29)!  He added, “God [Elohim] is with me” (ibid.)!  What did he mean by “God [Elohim]?”  Said Rav Judah said Rav: He meant, “Idols [elohim] are with me,” so Josiah thought: Since Necho trusts in idols, I can triumph over him!  But Necho slew Josiah at Megiddo (II Kings 23:29 and II Chronicles 35:22-24).

Rabbi Samuel bar Nachmani said that Rabbi Yonatan explained why Josiah was punished with fatal defeat: He relied solely upon his interpretation of, “…and the sword (that is of peace, i.e. Necho) will not pass through your Land” (Leviticus 26:6b), without consulting with Jeremiah, who would have advised him that Josiah’s generation did not appear worthy in God’s eyes and therefore he did not enjoy the protection of the divine promise.

As Josiah lay dying, Jeremiah saw that his lips were moving.  Thinking that, in his pain, Heaven forfend, he was saying something inappropriate, he bent down to him and heard him justifying God’s decree against himself: “The Eternal is just, as I rebelled against His word; hear, all peoples, and behold my pain…” (Lamentations 1:18)!  The Prophet was then heard to say, “Our very breath, anointed of the Eternal, captured in their pits, of whom we say: May we live among the nations under his protection” (ibid. 4:20), interpreting this difficult apparent reference to Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (cf. II Kings 25:1ff. and Jeremiah 52:1ff.), as referring instead to the righteous Josiah (cf. II Kings 22:2; 23:25), who was at the end of his time duly lamented by the Prophet himself (II Chronicles 35:25)!

Leviticus Rabbah 36:2
Constant Covenant

“I remember My covenant with Jacob…”
(Leviticus 26:42)

This is what is meant:

“Transport a vine out of Egypt,
drive out nations and plant it,
clear a place before it:
its roots are established,
and it fills the Land!”
(Psalms 80:9-10)

Just as we refrain from planting a vine in a place full of big rocks, but we check under it first and then plant it, so it is with Israel: “Drive out nations and then plant it!”

Just as with a vine, the more you clear out the better, so with Israel you clear away every foreign king, “Clear a place before it,” and then: “Its roots are established, and it fills the Land!”

“The Children of Israel shall encamp,
each person by his flag,
under the banners of their fathers’ houses…”
(Numbers 2:2a)

Just as the vines are not planted irregularly but in neat rows, so did Israel encamp in the wilderness in orderly rows marked off by their flags.

“The hills are covered with the vine’s shade,
and the mighty cedars, with its boughs.”
(Psalms 80:11)

Just as the vine is the lowliest of all the trees and in the end rules over them, so does Israel appear to be low in this world yet in the future it will inherit from one end of the earth to the other.

Just as the vine puts forth a twig which then succeeds in conquering many trees, so does a single righteous person emerge from Israel and rule over the world from one end to another:

“Joseph was the ruler over the land…”
(Genesis 42:6)

“The Eternal was with Joshua,
and his fame was in all of the land.”
(Joshua 6:27)

“David’s name went out in all lands,
and the Eternal put fear of him
over all of the nations.”
(I Chronicles 14:17)

“Solomon was ruler over all of the kingdoms
from the river of the land of the Philistines
to the border of Egypt;
they presented him with gifts
and served Solomon
all the days of his life.”
(I Kings 5:1)

“Mordechai was great in the royal palace,
and his fame extended throughout all of the countries,
as the man Mordechai was growing more powerful!”
(Esther 9:4)

Just as the leaves of the vine offer protective covering for the clusters of grapes, so with Israel the merchants cover the expenses of the Torah scholars.

Just as there are larger and smaller clusters of grapes on the vine but the larger may seem smaller compared to others, so in Israel whoever labors in Torah and is greater in Torah than his fellow will actually seem humbler than his fellow.

Just as the vine is subject to three different possible blessings, depending on whether the grape is used when it is half-ripe, ripe, or made into wine, so do Israel receive the threefold (priestly) benediction every day (cf. Numbers 6:22-27).

Just as the fruit of the vine may be grapes or may be raisins, so there are in Israel Bible scholars, Mishnah scholars, Talmud scholars, and Aggadah scholars.

Just as the vine may produce wine or it may produce vinegar, each requiring a different blessing, so also is Israel required to say a blessing for the good and to say a blessing for the bad.

Just as one who enjoys good wine is cheered therefrom but one who does not will lose his teeth, so does one benefit or suffer depending on whether he joins with Israel or joins forces against them.

Just as the grapes of the vine are at first stamped upon underfoot but then ascend to the table of kings, thus is Israel despised in this world, as is written: “I have become a laughingstock to all peoples, the object of their rap all day long” (Lamentations 3:14).  But in the future: “The Eternal your God will place you high above all the nations of the world” (Deuteronomy 28:1)! and “Kings shall be your caregivers, and their queens your nurses” (Isaiah 49:23)!

Just as the vine leans upon dry wood yet the vine itself is moist, so it is with Israel: They lean upon the merit of their fathers even though their fathers are asleep, and that is what is written: “I remember My covenant with Jacob…” (Leviticus 26:42)!

Yerushalmi Challah 1:5
Mitzvah Resting on Transgression

“These are the commandments
which the Eternal commanded Moses
for the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai.”
(Leviticus 27:34)

Why does the Torah reiterate these words (cf. Leviticus 26:46)?

It is taught in a baraitha: It is forbidden to recite the benediction for eating matzah (at the Seder of Pesach) over a stolen matzah.

Rabbi Hoshaya taught that this prohibition is reflected in the verse, “A wicked person boasts of his own lusts and in being greedy [botseah] curses [bayraych] and condemns the Eternal” (Psalms 10:3), the last half of which (ibid. 3b) he interprets: “…and (the wicked person, viz. the thief) breaks [botseah] the matzah and blesses [bayraych] it (to eat it), thereby condemning the Eternal!”

Said Rabbi Yona: That which you are teaching applies when he has not formally acquired the matzah which he stole.

But then, the question must be asked, suppose the original owner has given up possession whereby the erstwhile thief is then the new owner (owing the matzah’s value)?

Rabbi Yona said: That which is acquired through transgression (e.g. theft) cannot be used to fulfill a mitzvah!

Rabbi Yosi said: A transgression does not impair the benediction to be recited over a mitzvah!

Rabbi Hila interpreted the reiteration of the verse, “These are the commandments…” (Leviticus 27:34): “These are the commandments” if you do them in accordance with laws that apply to them; otherwise they are not commandments (such as when the object of commandment comes into your possession by means of a transgression)!

Yalkut Shimoni Jeremiah 296

What is my strength?

“O Eternal,
my Stronghold, my Refuge…”
(Jeremiah 16:19)

“My Stronghold” is simply “my Strength,”
but this is how he means it:

“The Eternal is my Strength and my Shield:
by trusting in Him, I am helped!”
(Psalms 28:7)

He could also mean:
While He helps and supports all the inhabitants of the earth,
He helps and supports me the most!

Yet another possible meaning:

“My strength” as He has given me the Torah,
as was said,
“The Eternal gives ‘strength’ to His people!”
(Psalms 29:11)

and as was also said,
“The Eternal will give ‘strength’ to His king,”
(I Samuel 2:10)
and
“‘strength’ for the king who loves justice!”
(Psalms 99:4)

Or:

“My stronghold” simply means “kingship,”
as was said,
“The king rejoices in Your strength” (Psalms 21:2),
which we interpret:
“The king rejoices in Your grant of kingship!”

Doubtful Love

“The sin of Judah is inscribed with an iron pen…on the tablet of their heart…;
as they consider their children, so do they, their idolatrous altars!”
(Jeremiah 17:1-2)

Said Rabbi Judah said Rav: Israel knew full well that there was no truth in the worship of idols, but they engaged in it only to allow themselves licentious behavior in public.  To that opinion Rav Mesharshia objected with the prophet’s words, “As they considered their children, so did they, their idolatrous altars,” as Rabbi Eliezer explained: They were as attached to their altars as a man loves his child!  But this objection can be resolved with the understanding that their emotional attachment to idolatry developed only after they became accustomed to their practice of idolatry, but when they first began, they did not yet believe in the truth of idolatry.

“Cursed is the man
who trusts in Man
and depends upon flesh
instead of the Eternal.
He shall not see when good comes
as he shall inhabit
the most parched of places
.”
(Jeremiah 17:6)

The Blessings of Abraham

“Blessed is the man
who trusts in the Eternal,
whose confidence shall be
as a tree planted by the waters,
whose roots are amply nourished,
notwithstanding the heat,
to make its leaves verdant,
immune to drought,
and its fruit abundant.”
(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

The Prophet speaks here of Abraham, not “planted” but “transplanted by the waters” (ibid. 8), as he was uprooted from the worship of idols and then adjoined to the Holy One, blessed be He, and “waters” must refer to the Holy One, blessed be He, as the Prophet inveighed, “They have forsaken Me, the Source of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13)!

By a stream [al yuval] He sends forth His roots [yeshalach sharashav]…”
(Jeremiah 17:8)

For those who are destined to be sent [al yuval] to Gehenna, He changes their destination and sends forth His roots [yeshalach sharashav] to bring them near to fear of Him, as is described in the Torah: “Abraham and Sarah preserved souls in Charan” (Genesis 12:5).

“…not seeing when heat comes…”
(Jeremiah 17:8)

Abraham “would not see” visitors “because the heat would come” (ibid.): When he was recovering from his circumcision, the Holy One, blessed be He, made the day especially hot so that travelers would not come out as usual.  Why?  To spare Abraham from rising and showing his typical hospitality, while he was still in pain, as was said, “Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent as the day grew hot” (Genesis 18:1)!

“…to make his leaves verdant…”
(Jeremiah 17:8)

Abraham’s leaf was verdant” (ibid.): Even the “leaves” that fell away from him were “verdant,” referring to Ishmael, about whom God promised Abraham, “I shall make a nation of the son of the maidservant” (Genesis 21:13)!

“…and in a year of drought
he will not worry…”
(Jeremiah 17:8)

“In a year of drought Abraham would not need to worry” (ibid.): Even though “there was a famine in the land” (Genesis 12:10), which impelled Abram to go down to Egypt, “Abram fared well there because of Sarai” (Genesis 12:16)!

“…and will not cease
producing fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17:8)

Abraham would not stop producing fruit” (ibid.): In his old age he begat children, as was said, “Then again Abraham took a wife, whose name was Keturah, and she bore to him…” (Genesis 25:1)!

The Discerner

“The heart deceitful and weak
is the object of My examination…”
(Jeremiah 17:9-10)

Literally:

“I, the Eternal, search the heart, examine the kidneys…” (ibid. 10)

Why does He mention the heart and the kidneys over the other bodily organs?

Because the eyes and the ears follow after the heart, as do the other organs of the body, and since even the kidneys (seat of conscience) advise in accordance with the heart, the heart has the final say.

Thus did David advise his son:

“And you, O Solomon my son,
know the God of your father…
for He searches all of the hearts…
(I Chronicles 28:9)

“All of the hearts [plural]” of a man: The two hearts of a person are the impulse for good and the impulse for evil, and God knows both of them.  It may be likened to an architect who designs a structure containing countless spaces, passages and chambers.  The time arrives for him to collect what the inhabitants owe him, but the debtors hide from him in the various rooms and spaces, expecting to elude their creditor.  “Fools!” he cries out to them, “Why are you trying to hide?  Don’t you realize it is I who built this mansion?  It is I who built its various spaces, passages and chambers, where you are trying to hide from me!”  Thus said the prophet:

“Woe unto those who dig deeply from the Eternal,
seeking to hide their schemes
and hatch their plans in the dark!
They would think:
Who sees us?  Who knows us?
It is quite the opposite:
Shall the potter be thought of as the clay?
That what is made should say of its maker: he did not make me?
Or that the impulse for evil [yetzer] should say of its Creator [Yotzer]:
He cannot discern!”
(Isaiah 29:15-16)

SHABBAT SHALOM!

Copyright © 2022 Eric H. Hoffman