The Deuteronomist, whether a person or a school of thought, added some fire and brimstone into this last parasha of Leviticus. A departure from normal priestly concerns, we are given a glimpse — in Technicolor detail — of what might happen should the Israelites turn aside from God’s ways. Designed, perhaps, to keep adherents on the straight and narrow, Bechukotai is striking in its wrath. One verse stood out as different, though, and I want to call it to your attention.
Offered in the context of bad things that will happen if we fail to obey God’s commands, we read “Throughout the time that it (the land) is desolate, it shall observe the rest that it did not observe in your sabbath years while you were dwelling upon it.” Dismissing for a moment the fear tactic of a vengeful conception of God laying waste to human cities, in this text we seem to read what is otherwise a natural consequence. Nature is a powerful force that strives to self-renew. From the grass popping up amidst cracks in the driveway capable of eventually tearing apart the concrete to the constant work necessary to remove undesired species when we over-rely on monoculture, we must respect that force in our lives. If we don’t recognize and prioritize the needs of the earth on which we live, we will all suffer the consequences.
– Rabbi Aaron Meyer