This week’s Torah portion, B’hukotai, contains the first recitation of the Tochechah, the list of the curses that will befall the Israelites when they refuse to heed God’s commandments. I feel like I am living in a modern-day Tochechah, based on current events.
The war in Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine in the flimsiest pretext. The vaunted, military prowess that the Russian army and air force was reputed to have, is seen now to be torn to tatters. Nevertheless, the Russian military targeted civilian hospitals, schools, and apartments, causing a loss of many lives. Russian soldiers have been accused of war crimes, accurately so. A Russian soldier has been convicted of war crimes in Ukraine.
The shooting in Buffalo. On May 14, 2022, 18-year-old Payton Gendron entered Tops Friendly Market in a largely Black section of east Buffalo. Gendron proceeded to kill as many Black patrons as he could, motivated by racism.
The shooting in Uvalde. Salvador Ramos entered the Robb Elementary School around 11 o’clock, after shooting his grandmother. Two hours later, Ramos was killed by policemen, after Ramos killed 19 children and two adults.
The climate. The wildfires, the tornadoes, the hurricanes, glacier melting, and extreme heat testify to global warming (or, as some prefer it, climate change). The sea level will rise, if we keep pumping carbon into the atmosphere, by 1-2 feet in 2045, and 4-6.5 feet in 2100. The Tochechah is relevant to climate change: The Tochechah says, “Then shall the land make up for its sabbath years throughout the time it is desolate,” whenever the Israelites violated the Shmitah commandment.
What can we do? Be tolerant of other ethnicities and religions. The Torah says that you shall treat your neighbor like yourself. Pay attention to the planet. You don’t need to let lie fallow every seven years, but you need to use less electricity, to use less gasoline, or use more efficient electric appliances and use more efficient cars. The Torah says we rent the land, not own it. We need to be good stewards of the planet.