When something bad happens, is your first instinct to blame someone (yourself, someone else, God) rather than be upset with the unfortunate situation? My six-year-old processes with intense rage, even kicking my shins to make sure all around know his emotions. He struggles to verbalize that he’s upset with the situation and lets everyone know it couldn’t be his fault. This is an extreme example but something I think we are all guilty of. Stuff happens and thinking we will have perfection always is just not going to be. We get down on ourselves and others because we set a bar for excellence. We want everything to be great when you come to Temple, and for the average temple goers is just that, great. But there is anxiety and tumult bubbling just under the surface that those running whatever you might be participating in are feeling. 

This week’s parsha, B’chukotai, lays out the choice the Israelites must make between blessing and curse. If they choose to follow the laws God presents them with, they will be blessed with prosperity and peace. If they choose not to, they will be met with personal and collective tragedy. Something we see throughout Torah is this concept for God’s blessing of the Jewish people is conditional and dependent on how they behave. This is the literal covenant between God and the Jewish people. Modern midrashim interprets the connection between our actions and God’s actions less literally. 

“When will the people be able to live securely? When there is enough food for everyone, so that no one is driven to crime or violence for lack of food. Ultimately, then, the question of whether our society will be blessed with peace or cursed with violence depends on how we share our resources” (Etz Hayim, 747-748). 

Another interpretation is that the blessings and curses of B’chukotai are spoken in the third person plural, perhaps indicating that the responsibility for morality is collective, as are the consequences; “When most members of a community follow God’s ways, the community as a whole will prosper even if some innocent individuals suffer illness or injustice” (Etz Hayim, 747). 

Though we cannot control the actions of others, we collectively have the ability to make a change. There are forces in this world that make it seem like there are just curses around us. When tragedy strikes, it’s how we respond that defines us. During my second week on the job here at Jeremiah, Super Strom Sandy hit the East coast of the U.S. Without hesitation, the community gathered to fill a semi-truck with much-needed supplies. I still recall the image of our foyer overflowing with blankets, coats, and cleaning supplies. Our world may have been cursed at that moment, but the power of godliness was all around us. We used adversity to create blessings. May we always strive to find the little blessings in life to repair our world.