Vayikra 26:3-27:34 [Hebcal] [על-התורה] ויקרא כו ג-כז לד
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu 16:19-17:14 (Sefardi and Ashkenazi) | Yechezkel 34:1-27 (Teimani) | When read with Behar, the haftarah for Bechukotai is read
| הפטרה: ירמיהו טז יט-יז יד (ספרדים ואשכנזים) | יחזקאל לד א-כז (תימנים ) כשנקרא ביחד עם בחקתי הפטרת בחקתי נקראת | [על-התורה]
- Curses (Tochecha)
- An Ancient Covenant (Brit Rishonim)
- On Vows (Nedarim)
- Consecrations and Tithes
- Haftarah Summary: ה’ עזי ומעוזי
Bechukotai opens with an apposition of blessings and curses, the latter known as Tochecha, “admonition” or “rebuke.” Such a section of Tochecha also occurs in Sefer Devarim, in Parashat Ki Tavo.1 The next section of the parsha deals with vows (nedarim), consecrations, and tithes.
This passage begins, “If you follow (telekhu, the same root as halacha) my laws (chukotai) and keep (tishmeru) my commandments (mitzvotai), and do them” (אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם), and continues to list positive outcomes: the rains will fall in the right seasons, there will be an abundance of crops, there will be peace and enemies will be routed, the people will multiply and increase, and, crucially, G-d will be among Yisrael (וְנָתַתִּי מִשְׁכָּנִי בְּתוֹכְכֶם).
On the other hand, if Bnei Yisrael fail to keep the commandments, a series of vividly described calamities will befall the nation: disease, losing battles, the land will not bear food, all human labor will be futile (וְתַם לָרִיק כֹּחֲכֶם), the earth will be devastated, wild animals will wreak havoc, even when there is food to eat, it will not satisfy, there will be abject need, cities will lay in ruin and the people scattered in exile. As well from the literal description of these awful events, the language is notably heart-rending, with an emphasis not only on privations but on the terror and suffering they entail.
An Ancient Covenant (Brit Rishonim)
However, after the long list of wrenching curses, the Mikra returns to a note of consolation. Then, G-d will remember the covenant He made with Yaakov, Yitzchak, and Avraham, and will remember the Land (וְזָכַרְתִּי אֶת בְּרִיתִי יַעֲקוֹב וְאַף אֶת בְּרִיתִי יִצְחָק וְאַף אֶת בְּרִיתִי אַבְרָהָם אֶזְכֹּר וְהָאָרֶץ אֶזְכֹּר). In 26:45, this is referred to as Brit Rishonim, the covenant with the ancients (בְּרִית רִאשֹׁנִים).
On Vows (Nedarim)
The next section opens with a discussion of vows (nedarim – נדרים, sing. neder – נֶדֶר) made in equivalent of the value of a person.2 A male from 20 to 60 years of age is valued at the equivalent of 50 silver shekels according to the sanctuary weight; a female, 30. Between the ages of 5 and 20 years, the value of a male is 20 shekel and a female, 10; between the ages of 1 month and 5 years, 5 shekel for a male and 3 for a female. For ages 60 and over, the value is 15 shekel for a male and 10 for a female. A kohen is empowered to assess whether one is able to financially fulfill such a vow.3
An animal can also be vowed, in which case it cannot be exchanged or substituted. Non-kosher animals (unfit for korbanot, sacrifices) may be brought for a value assessment by a kohen, and the animal can then be redeemed with an addition of 1/5 of its assessed value.
A house can also be vowed, and its value too is assessed by a kohen. Land can be vowed and is asssessed according to how much seed it requires, as well as in reference to the years left until the next Yovel (Jubilee) year. The land can be redeemed with an addition of 1/5 of its assessed value, unless it is sold, in which case it is no longer redeemable. In that case, in the Yovel year, it becomes the holding of the kohen. One who vows to consecrate purchased land (not a part of one’s original landholding) pays its value relative to the upcoming Yovel year, as computed by a kohen; it reverts to its original owner in the Yovel year.
Consecrations and Tithes
The bechor (firstborn) of an animal cannot be consecrated. It may be sold, and if it is a non-kosher animal, 1/5 of its value must be added to the sale price.
A person, animal, or land that is under cherem (ban or proscription, אַךְ כָּל חֵרֶם אֲשֶׁר יַחֲרִם) cannot be ransomed.
All tithes belong to G-d, but can be redeemed with the addition of 1/5 of their value. Every tenth one of a herd or flock is to be tithed, and cannot be substituted.
Haftarah Summary: ה’ עזי ומעוזי
The theme of the haftarah, from Yirmeyahu, addresses the Tochechah section of the parashah and mentioned both the suffering of exile and the sins of Yisrael and the eternally available redemption. It includes the powerful image of the faithful as a tree rooted in an underground stream, which draws sustenance regardless of the heat, ever bearing fruit (הָיָ֞ה כְּעֵ֣ץ ׀ שָׁת֣וּל עַל־מַ֗יִם וְעַל־יוּבַל֙ יְשַׁלַּ֣ח שָֽׁרָשָׁ֔יו וְלֹ֤א ירא [יִרְאֶה֙] כִּֽי־יָבֹ֣א חֹ֔ם וְהָיָ֥ה עָלֵ֖הוּ רַֽעֲנָ֑ן וּבִשְׁנַ֤ת בַּצֹּ֙רֶת֙ לֹ֣א יִדְאָ֔ג וְלֹ֥א יָמִ֖ישׁ מֵעֲשׂ֥וֹת פֶּֽרִי).
Image: “Abbotsbury Lambs (15)” by Dorset Photographic is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
- The Tochecha section of Devarim refers to the one in Ki Tavo, although there is a similar passage in Nitzavim, as well. See Megillah 31b on the distinction between the Tochecha in Vayikra and in Devarim.
- This is the major subject of Masechet Arachin.
- This is known to Chazal as neder arachin; there is also a related, but distinct, neder damim, on which, see Arachin.