We live in the time of the blessing and the curse. The blessing is the wonderful land of Israel in which we are blessed to dwell as a gift from God. To walk its length and breadth is to encounter beauty and goodness, a true blessing in this veil of tears. The desert has truly been made to bloom, the cities come alive. Silicon Valley and the Yeshivot of Eastern Europe both send their best scholars to this place. Praised is God, the source of blessing.
And yet, the curse is also read out to us from the cedars of Lebanon. Every day we read of violence and devastation. We read of a ceasefire barely holding that even the most optimistic observers see as only a pause for all sides to take stock and see how they can achieve their objectives in the future. It is hard to imagine the U.N. and the Lebanese Army disarming Hezbollah. Limited military actions continue, including Hezbollah’s thankfully failed efforts to launch missiles into Israel and Israeli action against Hezbollah positions. This is the curse, the curse of God who makes light and dark, creates harmony and also evil.
Moses says to the people, “See this day I place before you blessing and curse.” The blessings are read out from Mount Gerizim and the curses from Mount Eval. It is a commandment to read out the blessings and the curses, as Rashbam is careful to point out. We might prefer to ignore the curses, or not say them at all. No, says the Torah, you must confront the bad as well as the good. You have to read the whole of it.
It is a time of blessing and a time of curse. A time of blessing when we begin to see the possibility of peace in the Middle East. Jordan is becoming a true friend of Israel. Even Saudi Arabia was horrified in the first few days by Hezbollah’s acts of war against Israel. It is a time of blessing too because peace with Israel will bring such great benefits to the Arab world.
All the problems of illiteracy and poverty that plague the Middle East are a curse but a curse that Israeli development and resources could begin to address. Peace with Israel will never solve all the internal problems facing Arab society but it would be a first step. This is the world of blessing – a world on the brink of peace.
It is a time of curse. When a withdrawal from Lebanon creates only rockets rained down on Haifa and Tzfat. When a withdrawal from Gaza seemingly leaves only chaos in its midst. On the brink of additional withdrawals we are met overwhelmingly by violence and terror, kidnappings and gunfire. This is the curse read out to us daily by friends, by family, by the New York Times and the Associated Press, calling out to us from their mountains of curses. This many Israelis killed. These Lebanese civilians tragically cut down. And on and on.
The curses and blessings are read out on our way into the Promised Land. It is easy to give up hope when hear the curses, but easy to become hubristic when we hear only the blessings. This day we find placed before us a blessing and a curse. It is our job to find the means to choose blessing.
May God soon and speedily grant peace to Israel and all her neighbors.
Rabbi David Booth