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May 11, 2014 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Bechukkotai

This coming week’s portion, the last in Leviticus, contains an assortment of blessings and curses – blessings if the Jews obey the mitzvot, curses if they do not.  This part of the portion ends with the promise that even after the Jews are exiled, God “will never completely reject them” (26:44).  According to Scharfstein, Ibn Ezra interpets this language to mean that although God will never destroy them, God will “discipline them until they change their behavior.”

I have listened to plenty of sermons (especially before I moved to NYC) asserting, in so many words, “if you are just a little bit frummer, God will stop punishing you/Israel/some other Jews somewhere.”   One reason why some rabbis still make this argument is that it is not falsifiable.  Presumably, every Jew could always be doing something better- otherwise there would be no need for Yom Kippur.  So it is never possible to counterargue “we’re perfect, so it isn’t our fault.” 

One could further argue that there is somehow a correlation between how sinful we are and how much we suffer.  But even if it was possible to quantify one’s own sin (which of course it isn’t due to the weaknesses of our own self-perception, and even if we know what a sin was and remembered every single one, because there is no way to know the weight of any given error) there is certainly no way to know how one’s fellow Jews (or any subset thereof) are doing as a group.  So this argument too is incapable of proof or disproof.

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