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Parashat B’chukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34)

“I will place my sanctuary among you; and My Spirit will not reject you.” (Leviticus 26:11)

Parashat B’chukotai is the last parasha, or portion, in the book of Leviticus. It lists the blessings the Israelites will receive for following God’s commandments—and a list of curses for not following. Hidden within this exposition of reward and punishment morality is a powerful message about the nature of community.

B’chukotai predicts following the Torah will allow the Israelites to reign supreme in the land: “Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.” (Lev. 26:8) The math is off, though. If five can defeat a hundred, a hundred should defeat two thousand. Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) sees this as an observation on the ability of a community to be more than just the sum of its parts. Communities act as multipliers, amplifying the power of individuals. So, if five alone can accomplish something, a hundred together can accomplish much more than twenty times as much.

Communities are funny things. They’re strong, yet fragile. They are symbiotic, drawing strength from individuals while providing strength to those same individuals. They are resistant to change, yet often are the stimulus for change. They can be megaphones, broadcasting messages to the larger world and listening for a response. Or they can be echo chambers, merely creating the illusion of conversation. Who is your community talking with?

B’chukotai is the final parasha in Leviticus. It is customary (in the Ashkenazic, or European tradition) to stand up and say, “Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek,” (Be strong, be strong, and let us summon up our strength.) at the end of the reading.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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