Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

When we form romantic relationships — provided we approach them with our eyes open — it is almost a certainty that we are going to screw up at some point. A time will come, when somehow, in some way, we will disappoint or hurt our partner, our spouse, the love of our life.

What will the fallout be? Do we know? Is there anyway to anticipate the consequences, the damage to that precious bond?

Perhaps at some level, if we really thought about it, and with a healthy dollop of prescience, we could catch a glimpse down the road. We could see our future selves doing something selfish or insensitive, or acting out in some way, and we might reasonably predict how our actions might impact our relationship.

But such a vision, such prior knowledge, would be fleeting, and only theoretical, and perhaps not enough to truly affect our future behavior. After all, if we clearly saw the fallout in advance, we’d never behave wrongly in the first place, right?

Preternatural knowledge — real knowledge — of future consequences would be the ultimate panacea for our unfortunate lapses of judgment. If we could only just see!

In this week’s ParshahBehar-Bechukotai — G-d lays it all out in advance. He has already told us what His laws are. We know what He wants. Now He tells us the consequences. Both the good and the bad.

And He paints a fairly vivid picture. If we keep G-d’s commandments, and hold His faith, “I will grant peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten [you]; I will remove wild beasts from the Land, and no army will pass through your land; you will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you.”[1]

On the other hand, if we stray, “I will order upon you shock, consumption, fever, and diseases that cause hopeless longing and depression. You will sow your seed in vain, and your enemies will eat it . . .  I will incite the wild beasts of the field against you, and they will bereave you, utterly destroy your livestock and diminish you, and your roads will become desolate.”[2]

He tells us in advance, and in such striking detail! And He’s G-d, so we know it’s not an empty threat; He can do exactly what He says He will do.

Perhaps more importantly, from a relationship perspective, one can detect the hurt behind the virulence of G-d’s threats and warnings; the calamities that He will visit upon us “if you despise My statutes and reject My ordinances, not performing any of My commandments, thereby breaking My covenant.”[3] Covenant-breaking. Heart-breaking.

And yet —

Even with the advance warning, and G-d carefully spelling out the consequences of our breaking faith with Him, was it sufficient?

The Talmud makes clear that all of these threatened punishments actually came to pass.[4]

Clearly then, simply having advance knowledge of the consequences is not sufficient to halt us in the moment, when our better judgment suddenly flees us, and our awareness of the hurt that our actions will undoubtedly cause recedes into a fog of insignificance.

No, mere knowledge is insufficient. In order to avoid destructive lapses of judgment, we must also fortify ourselves and our lives with healthy borders and boundaries, and a lifestyle that includes productive habits and attitudes. These are the things that anchor our better judgment into place.

Then, when temptation knocks, we are able to look through the keyhole, identify it as one who is not our friend, send it packing — making the choices on which relationships thrive.

Shabbat shalom.

[1] Leviticus, 26:6-7.

[2] Leviticus, 26:16, 22.

[3] Leviticus, 26:15.

[4] See, e.g., Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 87b; Sanhedrin 63b.