“Any tithe of cattle or of the flock, any that passes under the staff, the tenth one shall be holy to Hashem. He shall not distinguish between good and bad and he shall not substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then it and the substitute shall be holy, it may not be redeemed.” (Leviticus 27:32-33)
The ending of the book of Leviticus seems a bit anti-climactic. Chapter 26 was a forceful and frightening warning of the dire consequences that the people of Israel would face if they went astray from following the ways of God. The final passage of the book teaches that if an animal is sanctified as an offering, it cannot be exchanged for another animal. If such an exchange is attempted – both animals remain sanctified.
Rabbi Dr. Michael Bernstein suggests that this law is not out of place here and actually serves as a fitting illustration of the consolation that comes at the end of the chapter foretelling the fate of those who violate God’s covenant. There, God reassures us, “But despite all this, while they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them – for I am Hashem their God.” (26:44)
Just like the law teaching that an animal sanctified cannot be exchanged for another, God reassures us that since He has invested us with holiness by choosing us to be His people – whether good or bad, we can’t be exchanged for another and lose our holiness.
The prophet Ezekiel teaches that not only will Hashem not abandon us when we stray from Him and are sent into exile – He will accompany us into our exile and rest His presence in the miniature sanctuaries we establish there (11:16).
Out of His great love for us, God is with us in our suffering, “I am with him in time of trouble” (Psalm 91:15).
According to Rashi, one of the great symbols of this was when God first appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus chapter 3). Rashi takes this vision as a symbol of God being with His people even as they go through painful burning torment. The bush is only able to survive because Hashem sustains it through the fire. Similarly, He will support and sustain Israel through our tribulations.