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    Blessings and curses – B’chukkotai

    grainFrom the range of blessings and curses that make up the sidra we read this week, let us select for discussion one blessing and one curse. Both appear strange at first sight.

    The blessing is, “You shall eat old grain long stored; you shall clear out the old to make room for the new” (Lev. 26:10).

    Clearly there is a place for both old and new. It is a blessing when you recognise that things do not have to be new to be good – nor do they have to be old.

    It is unsound thinking to argue that everything old needs the scrap heap. The past must not be brushed aside as totally useless. It is also unsound to argue that only in the past were things better.

    The blessing is to know how to utilise the tradition of the past and the opportunity of the future.

    The curse is, “With no-one pursuing, they shall stumble over one another” (Lev. 26:37).

    The obvious meaning is that there will be a quite unnecessary stampede and people will get hurt in the rush.

    Rashi adds a psychological dimension that resonates in our own generation: “At every moment they will think that somebody is pursuing them” – i.e. they will have a constant persecution complex.

    Rashi also quotes a Midrash which reinterprets the verse as saying, not “they shall stumble over one another” but “they shall stumble because of each other” – in other words, the sins of one person will harm his fellow.

    “From here,” the Midrash continues, “we deduce that every Israelite is responsible for every other”. To use a well-known analogy, if I bore a hole in the boat under my seat we will all get wet and probably drown.

    [Photo credit: CSIRO]

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