By Joy Scott, Am Haskalah Congregant The translation of this week’s Torah Parsha (CHAYEI SARAH) is ‘The Life of Sarah’. Ironically, only the first two lines of the Parsha pertain...
By Joy Scott, Congregant
Poised to enter the ‘Promised Land’, in Parsha (KI TAVO), Moses describes exactly what will transpire when the Children of Israel reach their destination: “When you come to the land, which the Lord, your God, gives you as an inheritance, you will possess it and settle it” (1).
The people are then told to take the first fruit of all of the land; bring it to the Kohen, who will take the basket to lay it before the altar of God. Once completed, the Children of Israel are to recite the history of the Israelites, from slavery in Egypt, to the point where they now stand.
Moses then instructs them, on the day that they cross the Jordan, to set up huge stones, on which each word of the Torah will be clearly written. Once the Torah is erected, the Levites will pronounce twelve violations to the Torah; to which each individual will say ‘Amen’. Then, the Children of Israel hear blessings, which will be realized if all of God’s commandments are fulfilled and observed.
Each of these blessings ensure that God will protect the people against their enemies; provide surplus in the ‘fruit of the womb; in the fruit of their livestock; and, in the fruit of their soil. Moses tells the people: “The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he swore to you, if you observe His commandments, and walk in His ways” (2).
What ensues after the blessings, are considered the most terrifying passages in the Torah. Essentially, each of the next ninety-six lines consists of warnings of the abominable fate, which will overtake the Jewish people, if they neglect or abandon their covenant with God. These horrifying curses are often spoken in hushed tones (3).
They include the following statements: “The Lord will scatter you among the nations, from one end of the earth to the other….there, God will give you an anxious mind and a despairing heart; you will be stricken with consumption; burning fevers; unquenchable thirsts; insanity; blindness; and, bewilderment” (4).
These curses appear to be both prophetic and supernatural. Jews have experienced exiles, expulsions, massacres, and many other forms of torture, from numerous countries, over the last 2,000 years…..culminating with the unspeakable Holocaust in the 20th century.
When we talk of such things, we should do so with fear and trembling; for these are among the deepest mysteries of our faith.
Nevertheless, the Jewish people have always been capable of seeing suffering, as a call from God to return to the covenant. Choosing and sanctifying life cannot be defeated…..because, it can never lose hope.
(1) DEUTERONOMY (26:1)
(2) DEUTERONOMY (28:9)
(3) Montreal Torah Center (Jewish TV)