Bechukotai: What, How and Whom Do We Value?

A terebinth of Mamre.
A terebinth of Mamre.

The Book of Leviticus closes with a recitation of blessings and curses. In a classic formula of Biblical language we read that we will be blessed IF we follow the commandments and cursed if we do not. Chapter 26 is one of the most stark readings that we have. Chapter 27 turns out attention back to a series of laws that begin with a statement of valuation of people as it relates to donations tot he Temple.

There exists in this sction an outline of what is expected of people, regarding categories of people upon which the “valuation”is based. It is a strange section that parses out people according to gender, and age. This is a portion that presents, as many in Leviticus do, challenges to bar and bat mitzvah youngsters who are charged with creating their “D’var Torah”. But what of our age group? What could this somewhat obscure passage say to us?

As I began to think about this it occured to me that what we “value” does change as we age. What we “vow” to do changes as we evolve and seem to place different values on different things. It is not unusual to see Boomers now reflect upon their lives and see greater value in relationships that material things. I think this has everything to do with the issue of time. You see, as we get older and become more aware of time’s finite span on us, I think we understand that having time with people and things that mean something to us takes precedence over just about anything else. Friends, family, children and grandchildren; those times come to valued so much more. After all, we are realizing that the “time” we have is so much more precious. We can acquire more things, we we cannot acquire more time.

So, we come to a stage when our values begin to be re-thought. Once again, a message from our tradition is that people and relationships are what is of greatest value in our own life. It is through them that we create meaning, have value and, to be truthful, come to value our own time and self. And that sense of self worth and self value is priceless

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Richard F Address

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