For Every Material Punishment, A Spiritual One, Too

Read enough of the Hebrew Bible and you could come to the conclusion that the two are intertwined, or even interdependent.



From The Approach to Mount Sinai, by David Roberts, 1839. Wikimedia.
From The Approach to Mount Sinai, by David Roberts, 1839. Wikimedia.
Atar Hadari
Observation
June 3 2016
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


This week’s reading of B’ḥukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34) catalogues the benefits and liabilities that the Almighty lays out before the Jewish people in connection with their covenant at Mount Sinai. The curious thing about the list at first glance is that the carrot occupies so many fewer verses (eleven) than the stick (31). You might get the impression that the rewards for obeying the commandments are dwarfed by the punishments for disobeying them. But even more striking is the mixture in each category of frankly physical and materialistic elements with spiritual ones. As we’ll see, the inescapable conclusion is that the two are intertwined, and indeed interdependent.

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More about: Hebrew Bible, Mount Sinai, The Monthly Portion