Blessings and curses abound in this week’s Torah reading, all tied to the future behavior of the Israelites entering the Promised Land. This “reward and punishment” system can be seen as the source of a host of truly negative cultural and social thoughts and actions.
We often ask: “why do bad things happen to good people” – Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote an entire book exploring this question. A teacher of mine, Rabbi Jacob Staub, once commented, “We might better ask ‘why do good things happen to me that I don’t deserve?’”
The last few weeks have been filled with troubles: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the possible deportation of hundreds of thousands of “dreamers”, the floods this year in South Asia that have displaced millions, to name but a few.
No one deserves a natural disaster. No one deserves arbitrary punishment from a country that holds power over them. No one deserves to get sick.
Jews have reinterpreted these passages for millennia clearly stating that there is no supernatural reward or punishment – our actions carry with them their own benefits and difficulties.
Let us help those we can in whatever ways that we can. Here is a link to resources to help our communities that suffered from Harvey. At TBZ we are collecting gift cards to stores like Target, Home Depot, and Walmart, so that we can send the resources to help people rebuild.
We can be the blessing that helps to alleviate the curses that come our way.