Study to Learn – Learn to Do!

In Jewish thought, the purpose for studying is not the acquisition of knowledge. We study to learn and we learn to do.

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Behar-Bechukotai

Regular Shabbat Readings

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* Note: On Jewish holidays, special readings often interrupt the regular cycle.

  • Behar-Bechukotai (בהר/בחקותי | On the mountain/In my statutes)
  • Torah: Leviticus 25:1-27:34
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
  • Gospel: Luke 13:1-33/John 10:22-42/Luke 14:1-15:32

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 25:1 | The Sabbatical Year
    • Leviticus 25:8 | The Year of Jubilee
    • Leviticus 26:1 | Rewards for Obedience
    • Leviticus 26:14 | Penalties for Disobedience
    • Leviticus 27:1 | Votive Offerings
  • Prophets
    • Jer 16:14 | God Will Restore Israel
    • Jer 17:1 | Judah's Sin and Punishment
    • Jer 17:14 | Jeremiah Prays for Vindication
    • Jer 17:19 | Hallow the Sabbath Day

Portion Summary

Behar

The thirty-second reading from the Torah and second-to-last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Behar (בהר), which means "On the Mountain." The name comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which could be literally translated to read, "The LORD then spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai" (Leviticus 25:1). This portion from the Torah introduces the laws of the sabbatical years, the jubilee and laws concerning redemption. In most years, synagogues read Behar together with the following portion, Bechukotai.

Bechukotai

The last reading from the book of Leviticus is called Bechukotai (בחקותי), which means "In My Statutes." The name comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words "If you walk in My statutes ..." (Leviticus 26:3). This last reading from Leviticus promises blessings and rewards for Israel if they will keep the Torah, but punishment and curses if they break the commandments of the Torah. The last chapter discusses laws pertaining to vows, valuations and tithes. In most years, synagogues read Bechukotai together with the preceding portion, Behar.


The Torah portion begins by saying, "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out ... " (Leviticus 26:3). Isn't that a bit redundant? What is the difference between (1) walking in the statutes, (2) keeping the commandments and (3) carrying them out?

In his classic commentaries on the Torah, Rashi wondered about this too and proposed a solution. He suggested that "walking in the statutes" refers to intensive study of the Torah. "Keeping the commandments" refers to learning how the commandments of Torah are properly kept. "Carrying them out" refers to actually doing what the commandments say to do. In other words, we should study Torah for the purpose of learning it, and we should learn it for the purpose of doing it.

This approach to Torah may seem obvious. It isn't. Sometimes we study the Bible simply for the sake of learning the Scriptures, but we never get around to doing what the Bible tells us to do. We often hear the Word of God and learn its message but fail to put it into practice. This is especially true in regard to the laws of Torah.

In some Christian schools of thought, the laws of Torah are believed to have spiritual meanings instead of literal meanings. That suggests that the laws of Torah were never meant to be kept; they were only meant to be understood as spiritual lessons. Early church writings spoke about the spiritual meanings of the Torah's commandments while discouraging people from actually practicing the Torah. That kind of thinking resulted from the influence of philosophical thought in the early church. In the philosophical worldview, the acquisition of knowledge is a worthy goal in and of itself.

In Jewish thought, the purpose for studying is more than simply the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge and learning are regarded only as means for better serving God. Therefore, in Jewish thought, we study to learn and we learn to do.

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