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Swallowing the Bitter Pill of Rebuke

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“I will remember in their favor the covenant with the elders, whom I freed from the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God: I, the Lord” (Vayikra 26, 45).

Though I usually look forward to hearing the parsha read in shul on Shabbat morning, there are two weeks a year when I find myself squirming uncomfortably in my seat: Ki Tavo in Devarim, and Bechukotai, this week’s parsha. These two parshas share the common theme of tochacha, or rebuke, and the images of horror and loss that the text paints are nothing short of terrifying.

Maybe the most devastating part of reading them today is not the fear of them coming to fruition, but the realization that we have not been spared even one of them over our long history. It’s a sobering and heart-breaking thought, and difficult to accept.

Why must the rebuke be so harsh, and the punishments so drastic? If God loves us and wants to dwell amongst us, then why are these threats so severe?

Even if we admit that we’re unable to fully understand God’s ways and the severity of punishments listed, is there an opening to start to address this question?

The parsha begins with promises made by G-d, first the blessings if we keep the laws, followed by the curses. The blessings promise incredible physical abundance and security from Israel’s enemies, and........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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