Friday, May 31, 2019 /26 Iyar, 5779
Parashat B’hukotai Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Commonly, we name our biblical patriarchs in their natural order – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Thus, how odd! This week, we find a rare (only time in the Torah) anomaly – the order is reversed. Note the rendering in this week’s portion, “Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob; I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” (Lev. 26:42)
What is the meaning of this reversal? Interestingly, our sages over the millennia have asked the same question, and they have proffered many possible rationales, though none of them appear definitive. Suggested is that each successive patriarch is mentioned to compensate for deficiencies in the preceding one, or that it reflected issues in their deaths, or other possibilities. However, in truth, there is no explanation for this variance.
Thus, it is up to us to us to derive our own potential explanations. This was the same result which the sages realized when they pondered the question, and for which they extended their creativity.
What could it mean to us?
Possibly, this could encourage us to reconsider the natural order of affairs, and of rankings? Do we always elevate the eldest sibling, or one gender over another, or visit the elephants in the zoo before seeking out the tree lizards? Might we be encouraged to look at the seemingly lesser as a potentially higher?
Or, possibly, could this remind us that sometimes, randomness is vital – that order, itself, may be overrated? Sometimes, we attempt to overlay meaning and order where randomness prevails. Often, this is attempted to explain a tragic death, or why a tornado stuck here, instead of there? Perhaps, recognizing and allowing the random is wiser?
Or, could this teach us that we must look deeper to see the true merits of another person, place or idea? Maybe we automatically assumed that Abraham was most worthy, simply because he was first. Yet other factors might change such rankings, and similarly, when we look deeper at whatever we are evaluating, we might find thoroughly different values.
Or, could this mean… Go ahead – give it your thoughts, too!
Rabbi Doug Kohn