Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27”34), the last Torah portion of the book of Leviticus, begins with the promise that those who follow God’s ways will be blessed. And then goes into detail about the blessings that they will receive: I will grant rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit . . . . You shall eat your bread and be satisfied . . .I will grant peace in the land. You shall lie down and no one shall terrify you.(26:4-6)
Rabbinic commentary is clear that these are three separate blessings, even if each comes one right after the other. The Sifra, midrash on the book of Leviticus, explains that the reason we are told that we will eat and be satisfied immediately after being told that we will have an abundance of food is to teach us a lesson that abundance doesn’t equal satisfaction. It is only after the overabundance that we realize that although our instinct is to always want more, to always strive for more, we should realize that the blessings that we already have in our lives are enough.
But then the midrash continues: it doesn’t matter what we have, and it doesn’t matter if we are satisfied with what we have, if we don’t have peace, if we don’t feel safe in this world and we don’t feel like we are protected.
The Robb Elementary School shooting in Ulvade, Texas, this past Tuesday, caused the death of 21 lives – 19 of them children under 10 years old. Our Torah portion does suggest that we will only achieve peace when we rid our world and ourselves of weapons of murder. As we read this week’s portion, we declare that the blessings in our lives don’t matter, that being happy with what we have doesn’t matter, as long as we don’t have peace in our lives, as long as children are killed by guns every day in our country.
We can wear orange. We can put up ribbons. We can post lawn signs that say #Enough. But that really isn’t enough. And we can be thankful for all the blessings we have in our lives. And believe that they are enough. But they aren’t. Because it won’t be enough until we stop bury children.
Let me be clear – I do support responsible gun ownership. Growing up in Texas and other southern states, I went to shooting ranges with my friends. I was never into hunting, but I can appreciate and respect the value of it. As American citizens, we each have the right to protect ourselves and our loved ones, but outside of the military and law enforcement, I do not understand the need for citizens to own assault weapons outside of a shooting range or a time of war. Thus, as many have declared, It won’t be enough until our elected officials stop participating in idol worship – avodah zarah, until they stop worshipping AR-15s like they are idols. It won’t be enough until our elected leaders are beholden to voters, to their constituents, instead of the gun lobby. And it won’t be enough until we work together to pass laws to reduce gun violence.
This weekend, we take the time to remember. “This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home. This is not Veterans Day, it’s not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom.” –Tamra Bolton, in Parade essay. May the prophecy of Isaiah become reality as we turn our swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks, as we plant flowers in our gun barrels. Because we cannot truly be satisfied, until we can build a world where we are all safe. May it be so. May it happen speedily in our day. And may we do the holy work, the necessary work, to make it happen.