Bechukotai: Fathers and Mothers

The word that repeats many times in our parashah is “I will give” (וְנָתַתִּי), which can also mean “I will make.” Parashat Bechukotai contains both blessings and curses. In the blessings, we find this word 3 times: “I will grant your rains in their season…. I will grant peace in the land…. And, I will make My abode in your midst” (וְנָתַתִּי גִשְׁמֵיכֶם בְּעִתָּם… וְנָתַתִּי שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץ… וְנָתַתִּי מִשְׁכָּנִי בְּתוֹכְכֶם). The three instances of this word correspond to the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are mentioned later in the parashah, “And I will remember My covenant with Jacob and also My covenant with Isaac and also My covenant with Abraham, I will remember.” This correspondence is beautifully reinforced by the fact that in the Book of Genesis—also known as the Book of the Upright (ספר הישר) after the patriarchs who were upright—this same word also appears exactly 3 times.

Amazingly, the first instance is in the verse, “I will give you and your offspring to come the land you sojourn in, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding and I will be their God”[1] (וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֵת אֶרֶץ מְגֻרֶיךָ אֵת כָּל אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לַאֲחֻזַּת עוֹלָם וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵא-לֹהִים), a verse that God says to Abraham. The second is in the verse, “…I will give your heirs all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your heirs”[2] (וְנָתַתִּי לְזַרְעֲךָ אֵת כׇּל הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וְהִתְבָּרְכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ), which God said to Isaac. And the third instance is in the verse, “and I will give this land to your offspring to come for an everlasting possession”[3] (וְנָתַתִּי אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֲחֻזַּת עוֹלָם), which God spoke to Jacob.

The next part of our parashah continues with the curses. In it, this word, “I will give” (וְנָתַתִּי) appears 4 times, “And I will set My face against you… And I will give your skies to be as iron… And I will make your carcasses…And I will give your cities to desolation” (וְנָתַתִּי פָנַי בָּכֶם…. וְנָתַתִּי אֶת שְׁמֵיכֶם כַּבַּרְזֶל…. וְנָתַתִּי אֶת פִּגְרֵיכֶם…. וְנָתַתִּי אֶת עָרֵיכֶם חׇרְבָּה). Just as the three patriarchs are alluded to in the blessings, so the four matriarchs are alluded to in the curses. Why? Because the matriarchs, more than the patriarchs, have the power to transform curses into blessings!

In truth, curses are not what they seem. The root of the curses is in Divine light that is so lofty and beyond our comprehension that we do not have the vessels to contain, let alone integrate it. For this reason, like a light that blinds us in the middle of the night, it manifests to our senses as a curse. The role of the mother principle in Kabbalah (imma) is to guide and motivate the creation of rectified vessels that can ultimately contain this lofty and abundant light. By doing so, the mother principle “sweetens the judgments at their source.”

With this background in mind, we can understand the first verse of our parashah in a new way. It reads, “If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments”[4] (אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֺתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם). The verse begins with the word “if” (אִם), which when vocalized differently reads, “mother” (אֵם), suggesting that the mother principle is telling us that following God’s laws and commandments is the way to construct spiritual vessels that can contain the infinite effluence described in the first part of our parashah, preventing it from spilling over, for lack of vessels, resulting in it appearing to us as the curses described in the second part.

[1]. Genesis 17:8.

[2]. Ibid. 26:4.

[3]. Ibid. 48:4.

[4]. Leviticus 26:3.

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