In Defense of Jerusalem’s Holiness 

Rabbi Reuven Mann

This week’s Parsha, Bechukotai introduces a new element into the Covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people. There are two sides to this religious coin. If we faithfully observe the commandments, great benefits await us; we will thrive and experience a state of tranquility and peace.

But, if we seek to abandon Hashem, nullify the Covenant and live as an ordinary nation, we will not succeed. The Torah very graphically spells out the defeats and degradations to which we will be subjected. The punishments will be distributed in stages to provide a chance to do Teshuva. But if we fail to act correctly, then, like Pharoh King of Egypt, we will court a catastrophic disaster.

The Torah is not talking about a situation of mere failure to fulfill certain Mitzvot. Rather, the language depicts a state of hostility against G-d’s Revelation: “If you reject My statutes and if your soul despises My laws, by not fulfilling all of My commandments, and you break my Covenant” (VaYikra 26:15).

It seems to me that in many ways the attitude of some Jews towards Torah and Judaism is an extremely disparaging one. This can be seen for example in the Gay Pride parade which takes place in Jerusalem every year. I’m not talking about the intention of its planners because I don’t read minds, but in effect it constitutes a total desecration of Torah values and ideals.

It’s one thing for gays and lesbians to claim that no one has a right to interfere in their private lifestyle and coerce them to adopt conventional morality. What they do is a matter between them and G-d; just as for everything we do, we will have to answer to Hashem. But one’s sexuality, whether gay or heterosexual, is a matter that ought to be kept private.

Therefore, my policy as a Rabbi always is, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” I welcome each and every male and female without any interest in their particular sexual orientation. My goal is to elevate everyone through study of Torah and performance of good deeds. I teach that everyone must be treated with respect regardless of race, color, sexual orientation or any other feature which gives some people the arrogance to behave with deep insensitivity.

But we must all have great respect and reverence for the Torah. Even, if we have “special conditions” which make observance of certain commandments extremely trying. Just because we may not be in full compliance with Torah requirements, doesn’t mean that we are enemies of Judaism. It is rare to find someone who keeps all the Mitzvot and never violates (because of ignorance, duress or extenuating circumstances) a single one of them.

But this type of non-compliance does not render the person an opponent of Torah. This person recognizes that the Torah is from Hashem and therefore eternally binding; but at the same time acknowledges that it is his or her shortcomings that cause them to sin and that they will do whatever they can to rectify that situation and engage in heartfelt Teshuva.

But what is the mentality of those who don their gay regalia and take to the streets of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem); and with music and dance celebrate a lifestyle that is clearly an abomination to Torah values? Yerushalayim, is home to the Temple Mount which contains the Holy Temple which is the most sacred place in Judaism.

When one visits there, it is regarded as though he is in “the presence of G-d.” I would imagine that when one finds himself in that situation, he desires to be on his best behavior. So why do people want to brazenly flaunt a lifestyle which is absolutely contrary to the sacred norms of the Torah, and do this in the place which Hashem has chosen to be his “dwelling place” among Klal Yisrael?

And what about the matter of respect? Members of the alternate lifestyle movement demand that we respect their right to make their own choices and give them the freedom to live their lives. But what about reciprocity: don’t they have an obligation to respect our right to maintain Yerushalayim as our holy city, which their public demonstrations desecrate. It causes us great pain to witness Hashem’s Laws being trampled upon, in the city He has designated for His Holy House.

But, as we read Bechukotai, there is cause to worry whether we are in serious violation of the terms of the Covenant. We have been in that place before and still suffer the consequences of our lengthy dispossession and exile.

In recent years, we experienced the beneficence of Hashem, allowing us to return to Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) and establish a formidable democratic state there. However, the Jewish country is surrounded by extreme enemies who daily seek her destruction. The military and security forces of Israel are among the very best in the world. But all that is not enough to procure the conditions of peace and calmness that we long for. That will come about as a divine blessing when we return to Torah and implement its program, which will make us a “Mamlechet Kohanim VeGoy Kadosh” (Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation). May this happen speedily and in our time.

Shabbat Shalom.

Dear Friends,

My newest book, Eternally Yours: G-d’s Greatest Gift To Mankind on VaYikra was recently published, and is now available at:

I hope that my essays will enhance your reading and study of the Book of VaYikra and would greatly appreciate a brief review on

—Rabbi Reuven Mann

Note: Israel and the Diaspora are currently not reading the same Parsha. Israel is one Parsha ahead and will remain ahead until Parshat Devarim when we will all resume to read the same Torah portion.