Our Torah portion describes a public ceremony that was to be carried out as soon as the Israelites crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land. In the city of Shechem (the modern city of Nablus) there are two mountains that slope down into a crossroads. The ceremony was to take place on those two mountains. From Mount Gerizim, slightly to the north, six of the tribes were to pronounce a series of blessings. From Mount Ebal, slightly to the south, six were to pronounce a series of curses. The message of the blessings and curses was simple: follow God’s laws, and you will be blessed; transgress them, and you will be cursed. Long life, well-being, abundance, and peace were the blessings; drought, starvation, war and death were the curses. Pretty straight-forward, within the mindset of the ancient world.
It is fortuitous that these concluding chapters of the Torah fall within our yearly reading cycle just as we are preparing ourselves for the Days of Awe – the Season of Repentance. We understand that in large measure we are all vulnerable against the forces of nature. Nevertheless, again, and yet again, we are reminded that within the realm of our own behavior, we have a choice over the decisions and actions that are within our control. As we enter this holy season, we are charged with the responsibility to reassess our behavior during the past year, and focus ourselves on doing better in the next one.
This year in particular we are in the midst of extraordinarily consequential deliberations regarding the choices we will make in our upcoming national election. Yes, some of us may actually view one candidate or another as a blessing or a curse. But the blessing that we actually DO possess in the United States is at least the ability to make our voice heard, and that is in the voting booth. This is one area that IS within our control. It is not only a blessing of democracy, in my view, it is our sacred responsibility as Americans.
Please. . . If you are registered, please make sure to get out on Tuesday, November 8, and vote. If there is any question about registration, please read this and send it to everyone you know.
This is one blessing or curse that is squarely within our own control.