At the beginning of our parsha, Moshe presents the people with two choices:
“Look, today I offer you two choices: A blessing and a curse. A blessing – if you follow the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day; and a curse, if you do not follow the commandments of God” (Deuteronomy, 11, 26-28) וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה
This opening statement raises several questions for me:
Is it a choice between two options? Is it a threat, or is it a condition?
And why do we even need the curse? Could it not have been just a blessing? Moses goes on to give the people a puzzling instruction:
And it will come to pass, when the Lord your God brings you to the Holy Land which you will inherit — and gives you a blessing on Mount Gerizim, and the curse, on Mount Eival (Deuteronomy, 11, 29-30).
Upon arrival in the land, they are supposed to perform a certain ceremony/ritual on two mountains, Mount Grizzim and Mount Eival that physically symbolize the blessing and the curse.
In the parsha that will come later, Deuteronomy 27, 11, Moses even describes the details of the ceremony and instructs them to physically stand on the mountains, half of the tribes on the Mount of Blessing – Gerizim and the other half on the Mount of Curse – Eival, in front of the Levites.
In my mind, this ceremony seems like the first psychodrama ever staged.
The motto of the psychodrama, according to Jacob Levy Moreno, the founder of the method, is: “Don’t tell me – show me.”
Moreno realized that the physical activation of the whole body, and not just of speech, has a strong and powerful effect for the protagonist who investigates his story in action. It wires it viscerally to the body and creates new wiring in the brain.
And apparently Moses understood this too.
If I were now facilitating this psychodrama I would concretize “the blessing” and “the curse”, and explore what “they” think / feel about human beings, what they aspire to, what their relationship is, who and what they serve?
I would ask one of the participants to take the role of “blessing” and unto the role of “curse” and give a soliloquy.
(Would you like to try it? It is possible to do it in writing: In your non-dominant hand write a sentence written from the role of the blessing and answer it in the role of yourself in your dominant hand. Repeat this in the role of the curse)
Moses also understood that life is complex. There is no denial that God has a constructive aspect and destructive aspect, that the tree of knowledge is “good and evil”, and we, who were created in His image, face choices in our lives and are required to face the “shadow” within us and redeem it to the light (consciousness), not to deny it.
What Moses is trying to convey to the people in his will is how to go through the journey of life and avoid as much as possible stumbling into the pits of the curse.
Moshe suggests some actions that will attract the energy of blessing such as:
Concentrate the place of sacrificing — getting closer to God — to one place that God chooses (concentrating all the energies together, strengthening the sense of togetherness, the common denominator, and focusing on the common goal)
Avoid idolatry (worship of our own doings)
To watch what we put in our mouths opens us to holiness or, on the other hand, seals us from holiness (the kosher laws, which forbid eating blood, because the blood is the soul, and the soul must not be eaten with the flesh.
Remember — we were once slaves, so we set the slaves free every 7 years (the laws of Sh’mitah) and at the same time respect the will of a slave who feels he is not yet ready for freedom.
Help the poor (because giving is receiving, practice abundance)
Dedicate the firstborn to God (give back to the source of abundance and remember the Exodus, our ultimate freedom as a people)
And celebrate the three pilgrimages: Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot, which are also rituals that wrap the memory of the story and the meaning of the sacrifices to the body. (Give back to the source of creation and the source of abundance)
And I want to raise another question:
Moses addresses the people in a singular form (see) and continues the same sentence in the plural form (before ‘you’ in plural).
Look ( ראהin Hebrew, singular), I give you ( לכם plural) today, a blessing and a curse:
What is the meaning of this grammatical error?
Perhaps there is an intention here to demand from the people personal responsibility but also collective responsibility?
May we be blessed today with the knowledge of how to take personal responsibility and collective responsibility in a way that preserves our uniqueness and our unity, so that we will be able to identify in our lives the blessings and curses at our doorsteps, and navigate our life journey through connection to source of creation and avoid as much as possible falling into the pits along the way.