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    Blessings & curses – Nitzavim

    Bialik - we became a "normal" people when a thief was found in Tel Aviv

    When I decided to call this article “Blessings and Curses”, a little voice within me complained, “That’s more relevant to last week, with the Tochechah, the blessings that come from obedience and the curses that punish transgression.”

    I took no notice because there is a blessings-and-curses theme in this week’s reading too (Deut. 30:1). The sidra says, “You are all standing today before the Lord your God” (Deut. 29:9) – and so we are, standing before God, called to account for the deeds we have done, the blessings we have brought, the curses we have caused.

    As a parable let me quote the famous words of Bialik, who said that when the first ganav was found in Tel Aviv we would know we were a “normal” people.

    Thank you, Mr Bialik, we are a “normal” people. Every day’s news proves it – thieves, rapists, murderers, pedophiles, drug-dealers… you name it, we’ve got it. Oy, how “normal” we are.

    What we now need to do is to be abnormal and find a way to handle the magnitude of the problem, and while we’re at it to find a way of handling homelessness, hopelessness, alienation, unemployment, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The curses are all caused by human beings.

    Why aren’t we smart enough to bring about more blessings?

    The sidra does point the way. It says, “Return to the Lord your God, and listen to His voice” (Deut. 30:2).

    “Listen to His voice” means not to do, say or even think anything without first asking, “Is this the way to behave?” If the answer comes in the Yiddish words, Es passt nicht – “that’s not the way a person should go”, don’t say, “But that’s what everyone else is doing!”

    Despite Bialik, we have to be abnormal and courageous, and not add to society’s curses.

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