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Parsha Nugget Bechukosai – Leviticus 26:3-27:34

I can’t stand punishing my daughter. My heart breaks when I have to ground her or restrict her from playing video games. I know there has to be consequences when she does something wrong. Especially after several warnings. If not, when she’s an adult she’s likely to suffer far worse. Sometimes she acts surprised when I hold her responsible for misbehavior. But my disciplinary system is sound. It comes from this week’s parsha, Bechukosai:

If you will follow My decrees… But if you will not listen to Me… (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:3 and 26:14)

How to Recognize the Warnings Before Trouble Strikes

This Sabbath’s parsha is the final one in Leviticus. It gives the blessings and the curses the Israelites will suffer depending on whether they follow G-d’s decrees and commandments. The rest of the parsha deals with gifts to the Temple and how they are redeemed. It ends with the procedure for redeeming houses and fields, and tithing.

The Process for Redirecting Behavior

Put this week’s and last week’s parsha together. You’ll see G-d’s procedure for correcting the Israelites’ conduct. First, G-d tells Moses to speak to the Children of Israel and explain a commandment. Then the Almighty describes the blessings for obeying His will. Last, He details the punishments for failing to fulfill his laws and decrees. These three steps will help someone change his behavior:

  1. Make expectations clear.
  2. Give an incentive for complying.
  3. Explain the consequences for noncompliance.

The same pattern works for adults and children. When incentives don’t work behavior gets redirected through unpleasant repercussions. We call them punishments. But in reality they’re warnings. G-d doesn’t want to punish His children. It’s too negative and can damage the relationship. So He created a notification system mirrored on the stages of admonitions in the parsha.

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G-d’s Warnings Start Subtly

When you do something wrong, the Almighty starts out with a subtle notification. I call it the heavenly tap on the shoulder. Often it’s mistaken for being a minor annoyance. Like when someone touches you on the shoulder and you’re busy. You brush it off.

Having not paid attention, G-d’s next warning is stronger. He gives you time to reflect on what’s happening in your life. You’ll have a chance to figure out a change of behavior is in order. If you ignore this warning too the next one is more urgent. Eventually, real trouble must come into your life to get you to pay attention.

On occasion something negative may happen in your life seemingly without explanation. Know that G-d isn’t punishing you. He wants you to take time to reflect. Make an accounting of your relationships. Examine your business dealings. Review your conduct. Maybe you’re doing nothing wrong. But are you doing everything right? Are you making greatest use of your G-d given abilities?

By making positive changes early you can avoid real trouble.

What do you do when faced with life’s challenges? Please comment below.

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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