Friday, August 23, 2013

Ki Tavo

The Jewish people are standing at the edge of the Promised Land.  Moses will not accompany them across the Jordan River.  He offers a farewell speech filled with warnings and admonitions.

Cursed be anyone who makes a sculptured or molten image…
Cursed be he who insults his father or mother…
Cursed be he who moves his fellow countryman’s landmark…
Cursed be he who misdirects a blind person on his way…
Cursed be he who subverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow…
…Cursed be he who will not uphold the terms of this Teaching and observe them.—And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27)

Too often we read these curses as divine punishments.  Instead Deuteronomy’s curses are not threats but the recognition that our failures and mistakes, and even terrible wrongs, lead to their own negative consequences and therefore their own curses.  Blessings and curses are in fact in our own hands.

Oftentimes when reading this list I find myself wondering, “Of course a person who leads a blind person in the wrong direction should be cursed.”  Indeed, what kind of person would do that?  The terrible action is in fact the curse. 

This weekend, my children are packing for college.  I offer them advice.  I suggest a road map.  I lecture them about drinking.  I remind them of what might befall them if they make wrong choices.  In the end their choices must be their own.  I cannot accompany them on their journeys.  Indeed I should not accompany them. 

Moses could not cross the Jordan with the people.  That is why this day is the day they become a people.  “Silence! Hear, O Israel! Today you have become the people of the Lord your God: Heed the Lord your God and observe His commandments and His laws, which I enjoin upon you this day.”  They become a people when their leader lets go and they march forward on their own.

And so listen my children, relish the journey. Learn and grow.  Mistakes and failures might befall you.  Remember, blessings are within your grasp.  The promise always remains the same: “And all these blessings shall come to you, and overtake you...” (Deuteronomy 28:2)

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