“‘Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.’” — Leviticus 26:8
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Behar-Bechukotai, from Leviticus 25:1–27:34 and the Haftorah from Jeremiah 16:19–17:14.
Once there was an old farmer who had five sons who couldn’t get along. When the aged farmer felt that his time was near, he called his sons to his deathbed and advised them to live in unity. Clearly, his words fell on deaf ears.
So, the farmer asked a servant to bring in a bundle of sticks. He asked each son to try to break the bundle, but not one of them succeeded. Then he ordered the servant to untie the bundle and set the sticks free. Now the sons could easily break all the sticks that had been in the bundle. The father urged his sons to live like the bundle of sticks – together they would be strong and unbreakable; but if they separated from each other, all would be vulnerable to harm.
The Torah portion of Bechukotai begins with a series of blessings that would come upon the children of Israel “if you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands” (Leviticus 26: 3). There would be plenty of rain, an abundance of crops, and peace. When it came to the promises about safety and security, Scripture describes it this way: “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand . . .” Few would defeat many, and this blessing came true for Israel both in biblical times and in modern times as well.
However, as the Jewish sages point out, the math in this verse doesn’t add up. If five can chase 100, then that is a ratio of 1-to-20. If that is the kind of strength that God is promising, then 100 Israelites should be able to defeat 2,000. Yet the verse promises that 100 men will chase 10,000! That’s a ratio of 1-to-100!
The sages clarify this apparent inconsistency by explaining that we cannot compare the unity of five people with the unity of 100. As the old farmer tried to teach his sons, there is strength in unity. And the greater the unity, the greater the strength.
United we stand and united we are blessed. This is why I founded the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Together, we are millions of people united together for the sake of Israel. Alone, each of us can do some good, but together as partners, we are having a major impact on God’s land and His people. Together we can bring great strength and blessings to Israel, and God will bless us in return. As He promises in Genesis: “I will bless those who bless you” (Genesis 12:3). United, we bring blessings to us all.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President