These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

בחקתי, behukkotai

Posted on May 17, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

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in parshat behukkotai, God makes us an offer we can’t forget.  on one hand, if we follow all of His Laws and observe all of His commandments, all will be right in the world.  abounding peace, a land free of enemies, produce to our hearts’ content.  however, if we spurn Him, if we disobey His commandments, He promises a land of desolation and a life of misery and despair.  among the list of tragedies that will befall our people, including the gruesome “you shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters” (vayikra 26:29), one in particular struck a chord within me.

God threatens, “ונסתם ואין רודף אתכם, you shall flee though none pursues” (vayikra 26:17).  a bit later, again God emphasises, “fleeing as through from the sword, they shall fall though none pursues.  with no one pursuing, they shall stumble over one another as before the sword” (vayikra 26:36-37).

thankfully, some of the other foreboding threats in this parsha have not materialized.  the sky is not like iron, nor the earth like copper.  yet, i do see this element of needless flight in our modern society.  in our desire for more, born from the same unsatiable appetite spoken of in this parsha, we are constantly chasing, pursuing, running toward something, yet unsure to what it is we are running.

we pursue blindly
never satisfied:  here, now,
asleep to the world.

i am reminded of one of my favorite passages from “the little prince” by antoine de saint exupery.


Good morning,” said the little prince.

“Good morning,” said the railway switchman.

“What do you do here?” the little prince asked.

“I sort out travelers, in bundles of a thousand,” said the switchman. “I send off the trains that carry them: now to the right, now to the left.”

And a brilliantly lighted express train shook the switchman’s cabin as it rushed by with a roar like thunder.

“They are in a great hurry,” said the little prince. “What are they looking for?”

“Not even the locomotive engineer knows that,” said the switchman.

And a second brilliantly lighted express thundered by, in the opposite direction.

“Are they coming back already?” demanded the little prince.

“These are not the same ones,” said the switchman. “It is an exchange.”

“Were they not satisfied where they were?” asked the little prince.

“No one is ever satisfied where he is,” said the switchman.

And they heard the roaring thunder of a third brilliantly lighted express.

“Are they pursuing the first travelers?” demanded the little prince.

“They are pursuing nothing at all,” said the switchman. “They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning. Only the children are flattening their noses against the windowpanes.”

“Only the children know what they are looking for,” said the little prince. “They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry . . .”

“They are lucky,” the switchman said.

may we find happiness where we are, without running too far,