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Shabbat Bechukotay: If I Forget You, Oh Jerusalem, Oh Israel, What Would Become of Us?

"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy." - Psalm 137


This Shabbat is triply intense. It's the one before Yom Yerushalaim, the Sabbath where we bless the proximity of the beginning of the month of Sivan, and also conclude the reading of Sefer Vaikra, with Parashat Bechukotay.


Bechukotay deals with the rewards and punishments for observing the commandments, which encompass all levels of the People, starting with its leaders. It's the tenth and final parashah of the Book of Leviticus, which primarily describes the work around the Mishkan, the spiritual center in the desert. There are 12 commandments in the parashah, but the main part is a rebuke and a warning against mistakes that will lead us to exile.

There are blessings that will come if we behave correctly, but there are also many severe curses that can become reality, depending on our own actions, and the behavior and decisions of the leaders of the People.

In the context of Bechukotay, this times we are going through, when facing challenges and fears, places us in front of a complexity of emotions. The apparent success of justice in cases of fraud is mixed with injustice in the face of a world reaction that prefers to support lies and elaborate propaganda to prevail over the truth.


From ancient times to the Holocaust, we have shown astonishing resilience. Let's remember those stories of survival and resistance. Let's always remember that we are stronger when we stand together.


A year ago, I started my drashah of this same parasha by writing:


55 years ago, we woke up to the news that our brothers in Medinat Israel were in shelters, the soldiers at the front, the enlisted reservists. The 6 Day War had begun, a war whose consequences changed the face of the Middle East and Israel's place in the concert of nations. On the 3rd day, one of the most significant events took place on the central front of the entire conflict, when General Mordechai "Mota" Gur's parachute brigade occupied the old city of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount or Esplanade of the Mosques. After the victory, the Israeli government presented proposals in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) that determined the effective unification of Jerusalem. The municipal limits were modified and its area tripled; at the same time, a law was passed allowing free access to holy places for members of all religions. Fulfilling the letter of the Declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel, in which all neighboring peoples and religions were invited to live in peace and harmony.


Here we are, just five days away from Yom Yerushalaim, in the midst of a war in Gaza, with hostages by Hamas and growing anti-Semitism. How to face all this?

We don't need divine answers to find meanings. Let's seek purpose in our actions.


How can we contribute to the well-being of others?

How can we fight against hate and ignorance?


Finding meaning in our actions strengthens us in times of fear and distress and gives us hope. We know that understanding, kindness, and empathy are evident in small gestures. An act of kindness, a word of encouragement, a comment of support and encouragement on social media, a smile, can illuminate even the darkest moments, and help us find a small portion of hope.


Israel's national anthem, as we already know, is Hatikva: The Hope.

Hope is not passivity; it's an active choice. We decide to hold on to it, even when the world seems to be falling apart. Hope doesn't guarantee results, but it allows us to keep fighting. It's the spark that ignites resistance.

We are not alone in this struggle. Solidarity, empathy, and mutual support strengthen us. Let's seek allies, friends, and people who share our vision of a fairer and more peaceful world.


Let's recognize reality as it is. We cannot deny the conflicts, the suffering, the insolent disgrace that war brings, or the hostility. The world is not always fair or compassionate. But let's also remember that we are human beings, capable of understanding, empathizing, and acting.


Just 5 days away from Yom Yerushalaim, in this globalized world we live in, adverse to our People and others too, let's remember every day that the Land of Israel remains a beacon of identity. It's our identity. It's our beacon as the Jewish People.


We need to feel strongly again that it is and will be our safe place. It is the place where the Hebrew language is spoken, where Jewish festivities come to life, and where traditions are kept alive.

Israel, Zion, Jerusalem, is today hope and challenge. The hope for a peaceful future, of coexistence, of justice, despite the conflicts and difficulties. The challenge that involves living together among different communities, political and religious tensions.


The Land of Israel is a concept deeply rooted in Jewish history, memories, and identity. In this context, it represents more than a geographical place; it's a symbol charged with meaning, connection, hope, and struggle.


In difficult times, let's remember its history, its people, and its promise of hope.

This Shabbat, let's join our voices and remember that we are not alone in this fight; and let us sing together on Tuesday night and the whole Wednesday for the prosperity and well-being of Jerusalem, and the State of Israel. Am Israel Chai!

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov, a good month to all of us!


Rabbi Gustavo Geier


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