Where the Wild Things Are: BeHar-Behukotai 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do we best co-exist with the animal kingdom? How do we balance our desire to live comfortably with the need to treat other creatures kindly?

In ancient Israel — as with the rest of the ancient world — animal control was a regular concern:

The Pitch: “I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts, and no sword shall cross your land.” – Leviticus 26:6

Swing #1: “Throughout the ages, human beings have acted with poor ecological sense whenever they have come into direct competition with wild animals. In the struggle for survival, they have always taken the attitude ‘animal or human being!’ And despite deep cultural and religious differences, they have as a rule believed that their annihilation of animal competitors is even sanctioned by God.” – Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Leviticus: A Commentary

Swing #2: “In the hyperbolic language of the passage, predators, like invading enemies, will entirely vanish. As in the Prophets, hyperbole points the way to later messianic constructions of an end-time in history.” – Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses: A Translation and Commentary

Swing #3: “This is also the meaning of ‘I will grant peace in the land’ — for the sparks ascend from the earthiness to make peace, this being the primary rectification of the creation, as explained above. Therefore, one must speak only holy words and no others, in order to elevate the aforementioned sparks and rectify all the worlds.” – Likutei Moharan

Late-Inning Questions: What do you think “peace in the land” would look like? Do you think it’s possible that it will ever be achieved? What can we do to make “peace in the land” a reality?

On-Deck at TBT: I’m excited to start a monthly learners’ service which focuses on specific aspects of the Shabbat morning service. These learners’ services, which will take place initially on Zoom, will be concurrent with the first hour of our Saturday morning services. The first will take place Saturday, May 15th, and will be accessed through this link.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of co-existing with the animal kingdom, it’s been 20 years since a bird collided with a Randy Johnson pitch during a Spring Training game, causing the bird to explode. Just think: this happened before the advent of Twitter. It’s too bad we couldn’t have tweeted about the bird’s untimely demise when it happened.

Shabbat Shalom!