B’chukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34) The Curse of Freedom?

This is not an easy portion. This is not an easy week to discuss it. It seems that the curses promised in the portion are all too true. When the text promises misery to us if we fail to follow the Commandments, laws and ordinances, we may think that this is a quaint reference to a long lost civilization. Sadly,  we would be mistaken, as any observer of current events would be quick to explain.

This portion is mostly about blessings and curses,with a majority of verses focused on the latter. This is a no-nonsense God that reminds us that there is only one way to act and that if we, as people and a society fail, we shall reap punishment. So, theology and history aside, do you think that just maybe the Torah is right? We are charged to treat people as they are all “in God’s image”. We are tasked to create a society of laws, of respect for the individual and yet, there is the call to insure the common good so that the good of society at large takes precedent over my own sense of entitlement.

A question that must emerge from this week’s horror in Texas and last week’s horror in Buffalo (and the tragic history of gun violence now in evidence again) is when shall we, as a society, have the courage to change? Is a “curse” of freedom the reality that we cannot control access to guns? Or, is the “blessing” of freedom the fact that we still have the ability to limit such access?

Yes, there are so many mitigating factors: mental health, politics, lobbyists, money, power! Yet, somewhere in this there remains the call from Torah: it is our society, we have the freedom to change it, if we so choose. So, once again, the choice is ours and we recall the phrase we say as we finish a book of Torah, as we do this Shabbat, Chazak, chazak, nitcha’zek: be strong and courageous. We will need that strength to change that curse to blessing.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Richard F Address


  1. After reading your Texas school shooting article, the Curse of Freedom, I wonder why these events so often happen under the eye of G-d? Your insight would be appreciated.

    Ecclesiastes 3:3

    A time for slaying and a time for healing

    Isaiah 45:7

    I form light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil— I the LORD do all these things.

  2. What is a “problem” for so many of us is a desirable solution for many…perhaps at this point in time even more than us. I have no answer except that we may have to stop viewing the others as “problems”. It is their world view. Not something to likely be solved by elections. Is there any common ground? Can we just agree to leave each other alone without requiring they think or do as we do? I don’t know.

What are your thoughts?

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