From the Desk - The Mountains of Curses and Blessings
This is really becoming a very exciting season at Congregation Beth Ora! On Sunday, we held our third annual Giant Fruit Salad Making Event! The program was well attended by members of Beth Ora as well as many others who joined us for this special project. The event began with a talk on the importance of kindness in Jewish spirituality and was followed by an incredible multi-generational effort, producing about 30 trays of fruit. Our volunteers then delivered the fruit to Jewish Eldercare, MADA, St. Moritz, the police station, Auberge Shalom and Bnei Brith House. It was a wonderful opportunity to achieve something as a community to let others know that we care. Thank you so much to our excellent team of volunteers and to all those who donated money and fruit for the cause. A particular thank you to Johnny Esposito for his generosity.
On Tuesday, we said goodbye to our very special group of Israeli veterans who we were privileged to host in our community over the past two weeks. This has been such a beautiful experience for the host families but also for our entire community. The love and appreciation that we felt for our guests and that they felt for our community was palpable. I think so many of us feel a deeper connection to the people of Israel and a respect for the sacrifice that these special people go through to ensure that we have a Jewish State. May Hashem protect the people of Israel and may we have many more occasions to connect with our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. Indeed, next year, our community will be hosting another delegation of veterans! We look forward to this and are very appreciative to Liana and Howie Brown as well as the entire Beit Halochem team for making this happen.
This weekend, we have two major events in our community. The first is the Civic Shabbat. This will be a very meaningful and valuable service from 11:15 on Shabbat morning, after the Mussaf service at which we will be joined by our local politicians and clergy. Please join us for the Shabbat service and the Civic Service which will be followed by Kiddush.
After Shabbat, we invite you to join us for our Selichot evening program. In addition, to our memorial service honouring those for whom plaques have been donated in the past year, we invite you to a special movie night and discussion (with refreshments) to get us into the spirit of the High Holidays. We will be screening a remarkable documentary which reveals the incredible story of Laura Blumenfeld who befriended the family of the terrorist who tried to kill her father. The discussion will be followed by a beautiful Selichot service led by Heshy Benshimon. We are excited to present this enhanced program which we hope will inspire us to reflect on the theme of forgiveness at this time of the year and we have also arranged the Selichot service at an earlier time than usual to make it easier for people to participate.
We wish you a wonderful Shabbat,
Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal with… The Mountains of Curses and Blessings?
A few weeks ago, we read in the Torah about two mountains – Mount Gerizim, the mountain of blessing; and Mount Ebal, the mountain of the curse. Six tribes were to ascend Mount Gerizim while another six tribes were to ascend Mount Ebal. The elders of the Levites were to stand in the valley between the two mountains. They would loudly pronounce 12 basic moral commandments of the Torah. Rashi explains that, while turning their faces to Mt. Gerizim, the Levites declared that fulfilling these commandments would bring blessings, to which all of Israel responded Amen. Then, turning their faces to Mt. Ebal, they declared that violating these commandments would cause detriment, to which all of the tribes again responded with an Amen. Barry Vininsky asked the question of why we need two distinct mountains in order to proclaim the benefits of loyalty to the Torah ethic and the detriments resulting from abandoning the Torah? Indeed, why couldn’t the entire ceremony be performed on one mountain? What’s the deal?
Rabbi YY Jacobson explains that the Torah is conveying the message that life can and should be divided into two distinct pathways: one path as a source of blessing and growth; the other as a source of curse and devastation. We need to be clear that there is a real gulf separating the moral life from the immoral life.
Another understanding is that, according to tradition, Mount Gerizim was lush and fertile while Mount Ebal was rocky and barren. Indeed, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote in the 19th century that the two mountains still show a striking contrast in their appearance. Gerizim presents a smiling green slope, rising in fruit-covered terraces to its summit. Eival is steep, bare and bleak. R Hirsch explains that the two mountains, lying next to each other, form a most instructive picture of blessing and curse. They both rise on one and the same soil, both are watered by one and the same rain and dew, the same air breathes over both of them, the same pollen wafts over both of them, and yet Eival remains in barren bleakness while Gerizim is clad to its summit in embellishment of vegetation. In the same way, blessing and curse are not conditional on external circumstances, but on our own inner receptivity for the one or the other, we have to decide for ourselves for a “Gerizim” or “Eival” future.