This week’s parsha, Ki Tavo, opens with instructions on how to show gratitude upon entering the land of Israel, followed by a description of all the good which the Israelites can expect to receive in the land if they follow God’s instruction. This is immediately followed by the infamous aliyah of tochechah (rebuke): 53 straight verses describing the curses which will befall the Israelites if they do not stand firm in their observance.
The curses are so visceral, so brutal in their language that a custom developed of reciting them sotto voce – just loud enough to fulfill the mitzvah of reading Torah, but quietly enough not to risk calling forth the vengeance of a wrathful God.
Weeks like the past few can run us ragged. It can feel overwhelming. There’s just too much pain in the world. It would be easy for us to look at the brokenness in our society and try to shut it out – to turn down the volume – so that we can keep moving through our daily routines, diverting our attention from things which don’t impact us directly.
And yet, we know that speaking about things in hushed tones doesn’t always prevent them from happening. In fact, oftentimes, if we wish to prevent curses from befalling our communities, it is necessary to stand up and speak loudly and clearly. Our Prophets didn’t sit in their dining rooms, muttering about how they hoped everything would turn out for the best. They raised their voices to speak out against injustice in their societies.
So while we might want to view society’s curses from a safe distance, spit on the ground, and thank God it’s not us, we must not forget our responsibility to do our part, both in responding to events which have already occurred, and to give voice to the curses which could occur, if we don’t do our part to protect the vulnerable.
If you feel called to lend your voice to supporting the vulnerable, one easy action is to reach out to your elected officials. The Lehigh Valley’s Congressperson, Representative Charlie Dent, can be reached at 202-225-6411
. Give him a call, and tell him how you feel. In a representative democracy, your voice has the power to make a difference. Don’t silence yourself.