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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Vayiqra: Parashat Behouqotai: Places of Worship

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

In this week's parasha, Behouqotai, we read:
"I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars." (Behouqotai 26:30)
This is one of Hashem's responses to the nation not following the laws of the Torah. Hashem states that He will return a punishment seven times more than the severity of what Bnei Yisrael had sinned. Upon first glance, when one reads the above-mentioned verse, one has in mind that Hashem is going to destroy the places of worship of Avodah Zara, because praying to Avodah Zara is against our Torah. In essence, understanding the verse in this manner, is practically seeing this punishment as a blessing. Hashem will remove the stumbling block that many are failing on, and destroy the altars of pagan worship.

However, the Rosh explains the verse differently, and keeps with the negative connotation of the pesouqim. Hashem is stating that He will destroy these places of worship, because having a place of worship, a place to turn to when times are good and when times are difficult, is a privilege. The verse is describing a punishment, not a blessing. Hashem will destroy the places that Bnei Yisrael turned to (albeit for avodah zarah but religion and spirituality all the same) for guidance. They will be left devoid of any direction in life.

This will lead to the nation being scared, alone, and ready to reaccept Hashem's Torah as the way of life. The lesson here is to realize that having a Bet Kinesset, a place we can freely gather to pray or learn Torah, is a true privilege. Baruch Hashem, our current places of worship are in sync with the Torah and Hashem's words. But if we can remind ourselves that they very existence of a place of worship is never guaranteed, we will be more humble and respectful when coming to the building on Shabbatot and holidays.
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