The concept of crime and punishment is an age old one. Can society survive on the honor system or there should be a system where violators are punished and suffer the consequences of their actions? The philosophy behind such a system is that there should be justice in society and forewarning to individuals so law and order can be maintained in society and in the world. Otherwise the famous “law of the Jungle“ will prevail.
This week we read a double perasha of Behar and Behukotay. In Perashat Behar we see the true humanity of our religion. In a world where human life had little or no value, Hashem outlines the most humane and fair system of life. It is like a parent constantly reminding his or her child to do the right thing; to share, to be considerate of other people’s feelings, to look out for those less fortunate. It is a description of a principled person, who understands his or her responsibility toward society and humanity in general and that actions have consequences.
In Perashat Behukotay we see Hashem’s reaction to a nation that does not adhere to these precepts and values. The Tokheha – rebuke is chilling and daunting indeed. Again like a parent reacting to his irreverent child, Hashem uses frightening words and possible punishments for those who do not obey his very humane laws. Hashem’s approach in the Tokhekha is not unlike a parent who may threaten his child with severe punishment, and in actuality might carry them out, most likely after a lengthy time of tolerance. As the prophet says that Hashem is quite merciful and forbearing; He is not interested in the punishments and retribution of the transgressor but in the remorse and rehabilitation of such person. He understands our shortcomings and only wants our success.
This is the question we must ask ourselves every day, what does the giving of the Torah have to do with our lives? It may be easy to forget and shirk the missvot but we must always come back to Har Sinai and remember Hashem’s connection to us all and the importance of observing the missvot.