When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. — Deuteronomy 11:29
The Torah portion for this week is Re’eh which means “see,” from Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:11–55:5.
I had a friend in college who was an excellent chess player. Many people challenged him, but Alan always won. One time, to shake things up a bit, Alan suggested to his losing opponent that they turn the board around so that now Alan would be playing the weakened position and his opponent would be at an advantage. Amazingly, Alan was able turn the game in his favor once more.
Then he turned the table again and fought from the losing position, and once more gained the upper hand. No matter how many times the players changed positions, Alan always won. Where one person was on the road to defeat, Alan brought success. Though the circumstances never changed, the players did, and that made all the difference.
In this week’s Torah reading, Moses commanded the children of Israel to proclaim blessings and curses on two different mountains once they entered the land of Israel. On Mount Gerizim, blessings would be declared, and on Mount Ebal, curses would be read. The Jewish sages teach that these two mountains represented blessings and curses in their very physical makeup.
Interestingly, although both Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal experienced exactly the same amount of sunlight, rainfall, and fertility, the former mountain was lush while the latter was barren. The sages explain that these mountains were an analogy for mankind. Two people can have the exact same circumstances in life, and while one thrives, the other withers. How is this possible? How can the same influences create totally opposite reactions?
The answer lies within the “player.” In life, we are all given a certain set of circumstances, but what we make of our life is entirely up to us. That’s why two people can have the same situation and yet live out totally different consequences. It’s all in what we choose.
This week’s reading began with a choice. We can choose blessings or we can choose curses; we can choose to thrive or wither; we can choose growth or stagnation. We can use whatever circumstances we are given as opportunities to grow and thrive, or we can let our circumstances get the best of us and beat us into defeat. In life, success doesn’t necessarily go to the one who is most talented, brilliant, or savvy – it goes to the one who chooses to follow the path of blessings.
Friends, no matter what situation you find yourself in today, know beyond the shadow of doubt that it is one in which you can thrive. All you need to do is make that choice. Cling to God and to His Word and choose life’s blessings!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President