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See! Today I put before you the blessing and the curse. The blessing: granted that you obey the commandments that I command today. And the curse, if you do not obey the commandments and stray from the path… and follow the gods of other people that you never knew (11:26:28).
The emphasis of the next three parashiot is not on the blessings or the curse, but on the "commandments that that I command today". The next verse in the parasha says that the blessings should be given on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Eival, but makes no reference to them until much later on, in Parashat Ki-Tavo.
Perhaps this may be explained by the roots of blessing for the Israelites.
Christianity emphasizes Adam's eating of the forbidden fruit as the Original Sin of Mankind. Judaism, in contrast, emphasizes the Original Blessing. After Abraham followed G-d's commandment to prepare to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, G-d said to him: "I will bless you and your children will be many… they shall succeed against their enemies. All nations of the world shall be blessed through your children, because you obeyed My voice" (Gen. 22:17-18).
The crucial words are "because you obeyed my voice". That phrase can be interpreted in two different ways. It could mean that G-d's blessing will be on Abraham's children unconditionally, because of Abraham's demonstration of the highest devotion to the Creator.
Or it could mean that G-d's blessing will be on Abraham's children conditionally. The condition is that the Israelites have to be worthy of their forefather, Abraham. As Abraham observed G-d's instructions, so he received the Original Blessing. As his children are required to observe G-d's instructions, so they will also receive the Original Blessing.
This is what this parasha opens with. "Behold, I am putting before you today the blessing and the curse". Moses emphasized that the blessings would not be effective until they were mentally prepared and committed to taking on the Torah's demands - as Abraham was in taking on G-d's command. The Israelites had to be like Abraham to receive the Original Blessing - they had to obey G-d's Voice.
Therefore Moses opens with blessings and curses. He makes the blessings as the norm: "The blessing: granted that you obey the commandments that I command today". He treats the curses as going against the norm: "The curse, if you do not obey the commandments and stray from the path…" Moses is saying to the Israelites that the Original Blessing is given to the Israelites on the same terms that it was given to Abraham: "because you obeyed My voice".
Only once the Israelites are aware of what they have taken on - as detailed ahead over the three parashiot, would the conditional nature of the blessings have a due impact. They would know to what they would be saying "Amen" to… (Deut. 27:11-26)
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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