Voices of WRJ - B'har - B'chukotai

May 7, 2021Deb Radin, Temple Beth Am Los Altos Hills, CA

“And the land shall not be sold irreversibly, for Mine is the land, for you are sojourning settlers with Me.” [Lev. 25:23]

The Book of Leviticus concludes with Parashah B'har-B’chukotai. The blessings and curses that come to the Israelite people if they follow, or depart from, God’s mitzvot, are delineated in its verses. This double portion offers much to consider, but I am focusing now on one word, imadi (translated as “with Me”). Imadi is an unusual expression in the Torah, and as such, carries a unique import. Immi and itti are the two most common ways to say “with me.” Imadi, in contrast, only rarely occurs. Imadi means more than just “with me,” it means “stand with me.”

The portion also describes the requirements for “sabbatical moments.” As Rabbi Saxe suggests, at regular intervals — every seven days, every seven years, every seventh seven years — we are to perform a dress rehearsal for the Messianic Age, living the ideal in the here-and-now. These Shabbatot — for the economy, the land, and for ourselves — serve as the perfect amuse-bouche, whetting our appetites for what could be and reminding us why we need to continue the work to merge our two realities.

We do not attain these moments when animals and people rest, the land is left to heal, and possessions are returned to previous owners passively. Instead, collective action is required. There is an intentional theme of “totality” in Parashah B'har-B’chukotai. The entire Jewish people is blessed through mitzvot, and the entire Jewish people is cursed when we leave the covenant, and we are commanded to not only stand with God but also stand with each other.

Perhaps one of the most recognized uses of imadi is in the Psalms:

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me (imadi).” [Psalm 23:4]

As an active participant in my congregation’s new Chevra Chadisha program, this verse is certainly familiar. In this volunteer role, I act as a shomeret, or guard, over a recently deceased body. Playing this vital role in the post-death process helps maintain the tradition that the body is never alone at any time before burial. We stand as a team - never alone, and our commitment allows the mourning family to be with each other and to make the necessary arrangements, safely knowing that someone is watching over their loved one until the funeral. Even through the last year of the pandemic, our group has found ways to comfort the grieving families, loved ones, and community, and connect in spirit with the soul of the recently departed. In the dark pre-dawn moments when I pray, there are times when I feel my energy connect with those of the other Chevra Chadisha members. Though not in the same room, we stand together and our collective power brings healing not only to the recently deceased but to our community and to the world.

In Rambam’s Laws of Repentance, he writes: “If someone performs one mitzvah, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and brings deliverance and salvation to himself and others.” (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:4) In other words, according to Rambam, there is cosmic and universal significance to one Jew doing one mitzvah. He says that each of us must view the world as completely balanced and that one more Jew doing one more mitzvah can actually “tip the scales” toward universal redemption. So, though we may act alone, we do so together, and for each other. Imadi - Though we may be frightened, sad, or lonely, when we say to each other the word imadi, we are expressing our mutual commitment: we stand with each other, in strength, faith, and optimism for our collective future.

Stronger Together, indeed.

 

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