parsha of the week: rabbi avi billet

Do we really care, or do we merit a rebuke?


One of the words that stands out in the Tochacha (Rebuke) of Parshat B’chukotai, a word which very clearly refers to bad behavior that people will exhibit towards G-d, and the consequential response G-d will display towards those people, is “keri.” Leaving out all the jokes we could make about any government official who may have a similar sounding name, we must ask what the Hebrew word in this context means.

In his Living Torah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s note on the word, which he translates as “If you are indifferent” towards Me, reads as follows: “Literally, ‘If you walk with Me with keri.’ Variously translated, ‘If you make Me a temporary concern’ (Targum Yonathan; Sifra; Rashi; Chizzkuni); ‘If you harden yourselves against Me’ (Targum; Tosafoth, Rosh HaShanah16a, s.v. Keri); ‘If you refuse to walk My way’ (Menachem, quoted in Rashi, Rashbam); ‘If you become overconfident in your dealings with Me’ (Ibn Ezra); ‘If you become rebellious against Me’ (Saadia; Ibn Janach; Septuagint); ‘If you make it a burden to walk with Me’ (Targum, according to Rashi); or, ‘If You treat My [acts] as accident’ (Arukh; Moreh Nevukhim 3:36; Radak, Sherashim). The word keri can thus denote triviality, harshness, refusal, overconfidence, rebellion, a burden, or a natural accident.”

This “comment” is pretty comprehensive, though I will add two more interpretations: The Midrash Aggadah defines keri as meaning not committed to following My ways. K’tav Ve’Hakabbalah explains the term to refer to being stubborn – intending to strike at G-d’s honor and to provoke Him — the result of which will be that “G-d will reign down punishment that strikes at you, which you will feel strongly.” The prevailing argument is that there is no comparison between one who violates a sin for reasons of pleasure and one who violates just to anger G-d.

The essence of all of these possibilities can be summarized in two words: Not caring.

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