Whom Can We Trust?

Whom Can We Trust?

Mati Kirschenbaum

This week’s Parasha Bechukotai concludes the so called “Holiness Code” – i.e. chapters 17-26 from the Book of Leviticus which describe the ritual and moral prohibitions aimed at making the people of Israel a nation aspiring to holiness. The beginning of our Parasha coincides with the summary of the Code in which we find the description of the blessings and curses which are to befell the Israelites if they will – or will not – keep the Eternal’s commandments after entering the Land of Israel. The reward shall be prosperity and peace, whereas the punishment will entail the devastation of the land of Israel, the exile of the Israelites, fear, hunger and humiliation suffered in a foreign land. However, the punishment will not last forever – the Eternal shall not forsake the remnant of His people and eventually He will remember the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

A reference to the covenant with God can also be found in the Haftarah to our Parasha – that is in chapter 16 and 17 of Jeremiah’s prophecy. In the Haftarah we find the following statement:

אָרוּר הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בָּאָדָם

Cursed is he who trusts in man (Jr 17:5.)

Here is how Jeremiah describes such a person:

He shall be like a bush in the desert, which does not sense the coming of good: It is set in the scorched places of the wilderness, in a barren land without inhabitant (Jr 17:6.)

So where can we find hope? Jeremiah lets us know without a shadow of doubt, as he states:

בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר, אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּיהוָה; וְהָיָה יְהוָה, מִבְטַחוֹ

Blessed is he who trusts in the Eternal, whose trust is the Eternal alone (Jr 17:7.)

This Sunday we are going to elect the Polish representatives to the European Parliament. Many of us feel that we are voting for the lesser evil. We do not feel that we can trust our politicians. And we don’t have to: Jeremiah teaches us that in fact we can truly trust only the Eternal. But this doesn’t mean that, full of mistrust, we should abstain from voting. On the contrary, we must vote, keeping in mind the subsequent words of Jeremiah:

עָקֹב הַלֵּב מִכֹּל, וְאָנֻשׁ הוּא; מִי, יֵדָעֶנּוּ. אֲנִי יְהוָה חֹקֵר לֵב, בֹּחֵן כְּלָיוֹת:  וְלָתֵת לְאִישׁ כִּדְרָכָו, כִּפְרִי מַעֲלָלָיו.

Most devious is the heart (the source of human intellect); It is perverse — who can fathom it? I the Eternal, probe the heart, search the mind (one’s character) — to repay every man according to his ways, with the proper fruit of his deeds (Jr 17:9-10.)

Jeremiah teaches us that politicians make mistakes which stem from their human, imperfect nature. Ultimately it will be the Eternal who shall judge their mistakes and hold them accountable for them. But for now we must believe that by trusting the Eternal and His teachings we will be able to choose the best politicians that our society is capable of electing. May you all cast a well-thought-out vote on Sunday. And for now – may you have a peaceful Shabbat! Shabbat Shalom!

Translated from Polish by: Marzena Szymańska-Błotnicka

Mati Kirschenbaum

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