An Apparent Non-Sequitur: A Torah Thought for Parashat Bechukotai
By Rabbi Mordechai Rabinovitch
After the frightening description of the horrors that the Jewish people will suffer in exile (Vayikra 26:14-43), the Torah gives some consolation with the promise that despite everything, Hashem will not forsake us entirely (Vayikra 26:44-45).
Strangely, in what looks like a non sequitur, the Torah then goes on to present laws relating to dedicating things to the Temple (Vayikra 27:1-33). A special vow that the Torah introduces here seems especially peculiar – it is based on a person’s age. The Torah assigns a monetary “age-value” to every Jew, varying according to age and gender, and this is then used as a mechanism to donate to the Temple. So, if you want to donate 5 silver shekels to the Temple, you find a child from one month to five years old and vow to contribute his age-value (ערך); if you want to donate 15 silver shekels, you find someone over 60, and vow to contribute his age-value, and so on.
How does this section follow from the preceding one?
A Holocaust survivor once told me that in the camps, they did not believe that they would ever see a Jewish child again. Yet today, we not only have a thriving Jewish state, we have in the immortal words of the prophet Zecharyah (8:4-5), elderly men and women alongside youngsters of all ages playing in the streets.
But it was not all that long ago that today’s reality seemed not just unrealistic, it seemed impossible. A mere 70 years ago, the Jewish people was decimated, desperate and seemingly hopeless…
This then is maybe what the Torah is telling us here: There will come a time when a person who sees a Jew will be moved to donate to the building of the Temple. Unimaginable horrors will afflict the people of Israel. Yet, even in the depths of this hell, Hashem will not forsake us and will not permit the annihilation of the Jewish people. And thereafter the situation will change dramatically. An ingathering of the exiles will start to take shape, as the bones of the Jewish nation come together again in their ancient homeland and come to life. And thereupon every single Jew – a baby, a youngster, a teenager, an adult, an elderly person – constitutes living testimony that the G-d of Israel did not, and will not forsake His people. And a person who recognizes this will be moved to make a contribution to the building of the Holy Temple, the palace of the Living G-d of Israel in Jerusalem, may it be speedily rebuilt in our days!