“‘You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years.’” — Leviticus 25:20–21
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Behar-Bechukotai, from Leviticus 25:1–27:34. Behar means “the mountain,” and Bechukotai means “My decrees.” The Haftorah is from Jeremiah 16:19–17:14.
A little boy returned home from Hebrew school and his father asked, “What did you learn today?” He answered, “The rabbi told us how Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.” “How?” asked the father. The boy said, “Moses was a strong man and he beat Pharaoh up. Then, while Pharaoh was down, Moses got all the people together and ran toward the sea. When he got there, he had the Corps of Engineers build a huge pontoon bridge. Once they got on the other side, they blew up the bridge while the Egyptians were trying to cross.”
The father was shocked. “Is that what the rabbi taught you?” The boy replied, “No. But you’d never believe the story he DID tell us!”
Obviously this story is a joke, but the spirit of it is no laughing matter. For many people, the events in the Bible are simply unbelievable. They are too incredible to be believed. Yet, as this story points out, the alternative is just as unbelievable. To explain the creation of the world, the Exodus from Egypt, the receiving of the Bible, the survival of the Israelites in the desert and their subsequent conquest of the Promised Land as anything other than the divine hand of God, is simply ridiculous. It’s like looking at a beautiful painting and suggesting that it was made by paint accidently spilling onto the canvas- instead of believing that it is the product of an artist’s hand.
For those who want to insist that the stories of the Bible are a hoax and that the book was written by a group of men, the Jewish sages over the centuries have pointed to the commandment of the Sabbath Year. Scripture teaches that we are not allowed to work the land of Israel every seven years. So what will the people eat during that year? The verses promise that on the sixth year of the cycle there will be enough crops produced to last three years.
Now, let’s say that a group of men wrote the Bible. Why in the world would they make such a crazy promise? How long would such a religion last if it were truly man-made? About six years! Because only God could ensure such a surplus would appear on year six. Surely it makes more sense to believe that the Bible was written by God!
Now, take a look at your life. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that God is right here, perfectly orchestrating everything. But look back at all the things that serendipitously happened to get you to where you are today. God has done unbelievable things in your life. Surely it makes the most sense to believe that the Master of the Universe is the guiding force in our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President