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Ki Tavo

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21 Elul 5772 / September 7-8, 2012


Dan Horwitz photo

In this week's portion, Ki Tavo, Moses continues his speech to the Israelites by highlighting a pretty horrific list of curses that the Israelites will be subject to if they don’t follow the proper path (read: the Torah’s laws) once they enter the Promised Land. Juxtaposed with the curses are a number of blessings that they will receive if they do remain true to the Torah’s teachings. As we’ll find later on in the Prophets and Writings sections of the Bible, (*SPOILER ALERT*) the Israelites don’t do a particularly great job of adhering to the Torah’s laws, despite Moses’s warning, and pretty frequently end up worshipping idols and being punished for their actions.

What is it to be blessed? What is it to be cursed?

What power do words really have?

Words have a unique ability to express warmth, love and compassion. So too, do they have the ability to spew hate, encourage divisiveness, and to make others feel less than human. Our ability to speak provides us with an unbelievable amount of power, and as we’re only human, we have all used words for bad, when the opportunity existed to use them for good.

We’re now well into the month of Elul: the month of the Hebrew calendar that immediately precedes the High Holidays (and the Jewish new year), and traditionally, a month full of introspection, given its lead up to Yom Kippur where we stand together as a community accounting for our personal and collective shortcomings as human beings. From last Yom Kippur until now, we have all used words in hurtful ways – essentially turning our words into weapons with which we curse others. And now, with the High Holidays nearly upon us, it’s time to reflect on such situations, to apologize wholeheartedly to those whom we’ve hurt and to resolve to take steps to better ourselves as human beings.

We do not exist in order to be stagnant beings. Rather, we exist in order to continually strive to improve… to constantly work at becoming better people.

We have the power to be the ones offering up blessings and curses, and we have the ability to ourselves be blessings or curses unto the world.

Be a blessing.

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