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| Published: May 16, 2022
This week’s reading, Bechukotai, contains a vivid description of the rewards for observing G‑d‘s commandments and the series of punishments that will befall us if we choose to disregard them. The Torah then discusses different types of gifts given to the Temple, and the animal tithe.
First Aliyah: We are promised incredible blessing if we diligently study Torah and observe the mitzvot. The blessings include plentiful food — “You will be threshing wheat until the grape-harvest, and the grape-harvest will keep you busy until the sowing season!” — timely rain, and security.
Second Aliyah: More blessings: Peace in the land, the elimination of wild animals from the land, and incredible military success — “Five of you will chase away a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase away ten thousand!”
Third Aliyah: And even more blessings: An overabundance of crops and G‑d‘s presence will be revealed in our midst. This section then describes the severe, terrifying punishments which will be the Jews’ lot if they reject G‑d’s mitzvot. The punishments include disease, famine, enemy occupation of the land, exile, and desolation of the land. The non-observance of the Sabbatical year is singled out as the reason for the desolation of the land. The aliyah concludes with G‑d’s promise never to utterly forsake us even when we are exiled in the lands of our enemies.
Fourth Aliyah: This section discusses various endowments pledged to the Temple coffers. A person can pledge the worth of an individual, in which case the Torah prescribes how much the person must pay — depending on the gender and age of the individual who is being “assessed.” An animal which is pledged to the Temple must be offered on the altar if it is fit for sacrifice — otherwise it must be “redeemed” for its value. If the owner chooses to redeem it, he must add one fifth of its value to the redemption price. The same rule applies to a house which is pledged to the Temple.
Fifth Aliyah: This section discusses the endowment of land to the temple. If it is land which was part of the family lot (given to his ancestors when Israel was divided amongst the Tribes), then the redemption price is a fixed amount, depending on its harvest yield. If the owner chooses not to redeem it, it may be redeemed by any other individual. In this event, or if the land remains un-redeemed, the land becomes the property of the priests during the next Jubilee year.
Sixth Aliyah: Land which was purchased and then consecrated by the buyer can also be redeemed, but it reverts to its original owner when the Jubilee arrives. All firstborn livestock are sacrificed in the Temple, and their flesh is consumed by the priests. A person also has the option of dedicating and consecrating any of his belongings specifically for the use of the priests.
Seventh Aliyah: The “Second Tithe,” which must be consumed by its owners in Jerusalem, is briefly mentioned — as well as the rules for redeeming this tithe if it is too burdensome to transport to Jerusalem. Also discussed is the animal tithe — every tenth animal is offered as a sacrifice, and the meat consumed by its owners. With this we conclude the Book of Leviticus.