This is not an easy portion. This is not an easy week to discuss it. It seems that the curses promised in the portion are all too true. When the text promises misery to us if we fail to follow the Commandments, laws and ordinances, we may think that this is a quaint reference to a long lost civilization. Sadly, we would be mistaken, as any observer of current events would be quick to explain.
This portion is mostly about blessings and curses,with a majority of verses focused on the latter. This is a no-nonsense God that reminds us that there is only one way to act and that if we, as people and a society fail, we shall reap punishment. So, theology and history aside, do you think that just maybe the Torah is right? We are charged to treat people as they are all “in God’s image”. We are tasked to create a society of laws, of respect for the individual and yet, there is the call to insure the common good so that the good of society at large takes precedent over my own sense of entitlement.
A question that must emerge from this week’s horror in Texas and last week’s horror in Buffalo (and the tragic history of gun violence now in evidence again) is when shall we, as a society, have the courage to change? Is a “curse” of freedom the reality that we cannot control access to guns? Or, is the “blessing” of freedom the fact that we still have the ability to limit such access?
Yes, there are so many mitigating factors: mental health, politics, lobbyists, money, power! Yet, somewhere in this there remains the call from Torah: it is our society, we have the freedom to change it, if we so choose. So, once again, the choice is ours and we recall the phrase we say as we finish a book of Torah, as we do this Shabbat, Chazak, chazak, nitcha’zek: be strong and courageous. We will need that strength to change that curse to blessing.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.