Two mountains face one another in the area of Nablus, known in the Tanach as Shechem. These mountains, Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Eval figure prominently in this weekâ€™s Torah reading as the locations on which the people of Israel after crossing the Jordan River will receive a list of blessings and curses. While many of us are familiar with these series of statements that appear later in the Torah reading of Ki Tavo, there is a message that should resonate who consider Torah study to be their avocation.
According to the Or Hachayim, the blessing has both extrinsic and intrinsic qualities. The former is readily accessible through reading the text in Ki Tavo. However, the latter is reflected in oneâ€™s appreciation and spiritual lift one attains when engaged in Torah study. In other words, the study itself is perceived as a blessing. Through Torah study, one gains an appreciation cited by Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, in his magnum opus, the Nefesh Hachayim, that one knows G-d through study. One does not simply study the words of G-d. One establishes a relationship with the Almighty through study.
On the word, those who distance themselves from Torah study suffer from the pitfalls of that which the Torah labels as a â€˜curse.â€™ There is a lack of a relationship between G-d and the Jew in question, and this distancing results eventually in a complete abandonment of Jewish values. This approach, taken by the Or Hachayim can indeed be harsh. We would like to look at another sentence in this weekâ€™s Torah reading that is interpreted in such a way as to send more of a positive message to all Jews no matter where they are on the observance scale.
The Torah tells us we are children of G-d. While one opinion in the Talmud seems to reserve this statement for those who are actively engaged in the service of G-d, the other point of view declares that those who have indeed rejected their heritage are still considered children of G-d. We may be wayward children, but children of G-d nonetheless.
Estrangement of children and parents is a horrible state of existence. It is indeed a curse. In a familial situation, we hope for reconciliation. In our relationship with G-d, we pray for us to be one with G-d. In the words of an old song, G-d, the Torah, and the people of Israel are one. As we enter the month of Elul, we hope for the realization of blessings not only in terms of our Torah study, but in our daily lives. May Hashem bless us and our loved ones.