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Two Minutes of Torah: Ki Tavo - The Power to Choose

When spending time with my nieces and nephews, I've learned about the concept of making good or bad choices.  When they have an option set before them, it's clear that the good choice involves doing what their parents tell them, following the rules, or making a safe decision.  But, as young children, they also have the potential of making bad choices, doing something dangerous or disobeying the rules, and they know that for the good choices there are positive consequences and for the bad choices there are negative consequences.

For Gabby, our 17 month old, she’s not yet really at the point of understanding good and bad choices, but already she has some sense of what is right and what is wrong.  And you can see it in her face when she is being intentionally mischievous.   

In this week’s Torah portion, as the Israelites prepare to enter the land of Israel, Moses, once again reminds them of the choice that they have.  Moses says to them “If you obey Adonai your God to observe faithfully all the commandments which I adjoin upon you this day” and then goes on to list the blessings that will be before them. Blessed shall you be in the city, blessed shall you be in the country, blessed shall be the issue of your womb, the produce of your soil, and so on.

But then, Moses turns it on its head, and says, if you do not obey Adonai your God observing faithfully all of the commandments and laws which I enjoin upon you this day then these will be the curses that will come upon you, Cursed shall you be in the city, Cursed shall you be in the country, Cursed shall be in your basket and your  eating bowl,  Cursed shall be the issue of your womb and the produce of your soil.

In this way, Moses lays out blessing and curse and in the text, one can see clearly that they are opposites of one another.  Blessed in the city or cursed in the city.  Blessed in the country or cursed in the country.  It’s not hard when reading the text, to think about which one we would choose, obviously we would want the blessing.  However, throughout our history we can see how often it seems to be the curse which has come our way, rather than the blessing.

But what is striking to me at this point in our Torah, as we get towards the end of Torah and the end of the Book of Devarim, is the fact that we, as a people, have the power to choose.  In many ways, we have made that step into adulthood, into a moment where we can take responsibility for our actions.  We can choose between blessing and curse.  This would not have been possible as a slave people preparing to leave Egypt.  This is only possible for us as free people preparing to enter our own Promised Land.  

Whatever we might think about the blessings and curse set before us, what is significant in this week's Torah Portion, is the fact that we, now, have a choice.  We have reached that point in our people’s history where we can choose.  We have the power to choose the blessing or the curse.  And in many ways this is the important thing in terms of how far we have really come.  

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Rabbi Danny
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