First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/behukotai-self-punishment/
Netziv Leviticus: Behukotai
“A human being fashions his consequences as surely as he fashions his goods or his dwelling. Nothing that he says, thinks or does is without consequences.” -Norman Cousins
The Torah is as harsh with its punishments as it is generous with its rewards. Some people, while happy to receive rewards for good acts, believe it unjust for us to be punished for going against the directives of God.
The Netziv on Leviticus 26:3 explains that God’s list of punishments shouldn’t be seen as capricious intervention on His part against those who ignore Him. Rather it is a list of warnings, much like a doctor’s health warning, that if a person chooses to follow an unhealthy path, then the inevitable consequence is the pain and suffering that will ensue.
The “punishments” then are not necessarily some special response on God’s part, but rather it is the natural result of the actions we take. God is merely warning us to avoid such paths in order to be spared from the resultant outcome.
So for our own selfish interest and self-preservation, there may be some wisdom in following God’s directives.
To the good Rabbis of Buenos Aires for such a warm welcome.