- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On August 10, 2018
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection on our way toward Shabbat.
Our Torah portion begins with the words:
See, I have set before you blessing and curse… (Deut 11:26)
This instruction is like an overture that presents a musical phrase or theme that will be repeated chapters later in a more grand elaborated style.
See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity…I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. (Deut 30: 15, 19)
Weeks after reading these words, we will hear the exact same words from Deuteronomy 30, but this time they will be filled with the awe of Yom Kippur. Which way will we go? Which path will we choose? Where does our moral and spiritual compass point?
Whatever we decide has a monumental impact on our lives and the way we see ourselves and the world. Our task, our work for the upcoming High Holy Days is laid out before us:
Blessing OR curse? Blessing AND curse? The Hebrew does not differentiate.
Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in the yellow wood…” Taking the one “less traveled” makes “all the difference” for him. But, what about for us? The Hasidic master, S’fat Emet quoted the Midrash[i] which told of an elder standing at the crossroads and declared, ‘This path begins with thorns and ends up being straight and the other starts level and ends up with thorns.’ Blessing and curse are not an either/or proposition. They are, in fact, always present. Our tradition teaches that every person is born with a divine point of light within that contains essential goodness. Arthur Green, in his commentary to S’fat Emet wrote, “…we find the way to seek out the light in our various traditions. Persons and societies can shut out that light and commit unspeakable violations against their own humanity and that of others.” I would add that light can also pierce the darkness through blessing.
Every path, every journey, every choice branches out in at least two directions. The potential for blessing and curse are both present. So, what makes the difference? Abraham Joshua Heschel’s words point us in a direction:
Shakespeare’s Hamlet said: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” But that is no problem. We all want to be. The real problem, biblically speaking, is how to be and how not to be; that is our challenge, and it is what makes the difference between the human and the animal.[ii]
As we move into Shabbat and the Days of Awe in just a few more weeks, blessing, curse, prosperity, adversity, life and even death line the path before us. How shall we proceed? How shall we move forward? Just asking the question and challenging ourselves with possible responses, perhaps, that is what makes all the difference.
OUTSIDE is where we will be tonight! Join us under the canopy of the sky for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m.! Live stream HERE. Torah study begins at 9:00 a.m. with a short service followed by a lively discussion.
I look forward to your thoughts and reflections. Send them to me HERE.
Due to paving on Longwood Avenue this Saturday, August 11th between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., we ask anyone arriving before 8:00 a.m. to please enter the MASCO garage by traveling from Riverway to Nessel Way. You can enter the MASCO garage from the rear entrance on Nessel Way. Our security will be outside to assist you. After 8:00 a.m. regular access will be restored. Please call the temple at 617-566-3960 if you have any questions, thank you.