The haftarah for Bekhukotai (which is also read when Behar and Bekhukhotai are combined) is from Jeremiah and contains strong prophetic warnings against those who fail to be faithful to G"d. Jeremiah the prophet points out that G"d knows what is in our hearts. The implication is that outer piety with inner sin will eventually be outed and met with appropriate justice from G"d.
Oh, there are times when I do wish that were always so. Yet theodicy raises its ugly head. The wicked seem to get away with so much, and the pious are often cut down before their time. I wish I had so much faith in G"d as to be certain that those who cheat or hurt others eventually get what's coming to them.
Yet, rather than simply wallow in despair, I can choose another approach. I can speak out against those who are harmful to us. My efforts may or may not be efficacious, but I will have the satisfaction of knowing I at least tried to do something. G"d may not mete out the justice I feel is warranted, but then who am I to make such judgments?
As a species, as a society, as a culture, we do try. We have legal systems and courts and ways of helping to curb the appetites of those who would prey on others. Sometimes those systems work, and sometimes they don't. We must be ever vigilant to insure that the basic principles given to us in the Torah are followed - that there be proper witnesses, that transgressors be warned in advance to not transgress, that the punishment fit the crime, and so on. If we do not, we simply become vigilantes.
OK, so I can't count on G"d, and can't even count on human-made systems for true justice at all times. What do I do? Should I stop protesting wrongs? Then I would be as guilty as those who commit them. And so I will speak out.
I will speak out as Jeremiah did, to criticize those who amass wealth unjustly. "Like a partridge hatching what she did not lay, So is the one who amasses wealth by unjust means." (Jer. 17:11, JPS)
Unlike Jeremiah, I don't have the faith and courage to go on to say "In the middle of life it will leave him, and in the end he will be proved a fool" because I cannot be certain this will be the case. Still, I cannot be silent. There are too many partridges about stealing children from the nests of others.
Yet then I wonder. I wonder about myself and my own fate. For it is a lack of faith in G"d, a lack of faith that justice will be meted out. Will I suffer the fate Jeremiah predicts? Will I be put to shame, will I be doomed?
And so, ever doubting, I humbly cry out the words of Jeremiah:
"Heal me, O L"rd, and let me be healed. Save me, and let me be saved. For You are my prayer." (Jer. 17:14, JPS, except JPS renders the last line "For You are my glory." I like prayer better.)
©2007 by Adrian A. Durlester
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