Parashat Bechukotai 5779
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
“And I walk among you, and will be your God, and you will be my people” (Vayikra 26:12).
This week we read the last Torah portion from the book of Vayikra. Some call this parashah “Tochecha Haktana,” “short warning,” in contrast to “Tochecha Hagdola,” “long warning” that appears in Parashat Ki Tavo, in the book of Devarim.
A striking aspect of this parashah is that the custom is to read the warning verses in a special way. We read them quietly, so much so that they are hardly heard. Whispered so low, what we read seems more terrible than if it were read aloud in a normal voice.
In addition, as is a very dramatic text, no one wants to have this Aliyah because people fear it. There is a custom to call “Iaale mi sheirtze,” whoever wants to have this Aliyah. Rabbi Chaim used to say, “Everyone who goes to this Aliyah harei ze meshuvach” (he or she will get many blessings), encouraging someone to have this Aliyah.
If no one rises, there is a custom to pay the shamash to do it. A third custom is