Be-Har & Be-Hukkotai
For the week of May 20, 2006 / 22 Iyar 5766
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 25:1 - 27:34
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19 - 17:14
I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. (Vayikra / Leviticus 26:6)
Safety is a fundamental human desire. We spend a lot of time, energy, and money seeking to ensure that we and our loved ones may live with a sense of peace and security. It doesn't seem that long ago that safety was something many of us took for granted. Yet now many neighborhoods, which at one time were thought of as safe, no longer are. Everywhere we go there is a need for increased security. Whether it be the threat of terrorist attack or the increase in home invasions and reckless vandalism, life is not safe.
But safety is a Torah promise. When God, many years ago, established his covenant with the people of Israel, he promised us safety. If we would live life as God directed, we would have no reason to be afraid.
However, looking at the history of Israel or the rest of the world for that matter, one might get the impression that God has other intensions. The human story is marked by tragedy and destruction, not peace and security. The fear of danger of all kinds has driven human and technological development. From observation one might conclude that we are like sitting ducks in the shooting gallery of the universe, vulnerable against the violent aggression of malevolent forces.
Yet no matter how unsafe life might be, we don't accept our plight. Generation after generation continues to fight for peace and security. Could it be that deep down in our hearts we know that the way things are is not the way they were meant to be? Even though it appears that we are fighting a losing battle against forces greater then ourselves, we continue to hope, we continue to strive, we continue to do whatever we can to ensure peace and security for ourselves and loved ones.
The reason for our lack of peace and security is revealed through this Torah promise. By promising safety on the condition of our adherence to God's commandments, we were to learn that it was our inability to do so that was the main reason for our predicament. It was necessary to learn that the unsafe world in which we live is not the problem, but rather it is our separation from God that has resulted in this unsafe world.
The promise of safety, which we as a people failed to realize, became an ongoing theme many years after the giving of the Torah. Through the Hebrew prophets God reiterated his promise. God was determined to establish peace and security on earth. Eventually it became clear that he would do so through the person of the Messiah.
The world as we know it today is not the world of the future. The ideal society that God promised to Israel is actually the destiny of the whole creation. That society will be one in which all members are truly submitted to God and his will, having accepted our own inability to live that way, and having become qualified and equipped by the Messiah to be the people God intended us to be. That society will be a safe one for all.
In the meantime we have the opportunity in Yeshua to taste the world of the future. If we receive him and what he has done for us by faith, even in the midst of our current unsafe world, we can experience God's peace and security now, as the prophet Jeremiah says in this week's Haftarah, "O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress" (Jeremiah 16:19).
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