“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you do not heed the commandments of the Lord your God, but stray from the way I am commanding you today …” Deut. 11:26-28
It seems that if we follow the Mitzvot everything works perfectly, and if we don't follow the path of the Mitzvot, it doesn't? Is this how it works? Do we truly believe that life operates on a system of reward and punishment? We understand that sometimes good people face adversity while the wicked thrive. How does this work then? There are gallons of ink spent studying and arguing about the possibility that observing the Mitzvot brings us good.
Observing the Mitzvot enables us to create an environment for things to happen. It's about building an environment so that each person living with us, including ourselves and everything around us, can live better and in harmony, and in a way that we can somehow make this world function better. Of course, for this, more and more people must join the plan.
It is as if we form groups of people in concentric circles, and these circles expand through the integration of new people and the spread of doing good, much like when we throw a stone into the water of a lake and see the ripples expand until they fade into the distance.
However, sometimes things happen. Sometimes we go through moments of loss, pain, destruction, or discomfort. Of course, the first one we blame is the Kadosh Baruch Hu. Did He promise us a life solely of joy and pleasure? Did He, in our covenant, tell us that we would have a life without suffering and only enjoy ourselves?
We tend to blame Him when things go very wrong, and also when things don't go that well. In the latter case, sometimes, not always, we express gratitude. Other times we attribute the achievement to ourselves.
What almost always happens is that in the in-between moments, those that aren't particularly joyful or good, but also aren't entirely painful or bad, we forget about Him. In truth, He is always there, always present, and has been before we were, and will be when we are not.
We are transient beings in this world, and all we must accomplish is to try to improve it and make the lives of those who inhabit it better.
That is precisely the path of the Mitzvot.
The question that keeps haunting us is what to do when things go wrong? How do we understand that we still need to move forward, that it's not a punishment for making a mistake and not fulfilling something we should have?
According to the Torah, we can look back and understand that what we did was wrong, or we can look forward, attempting to do things better. If there's something we did wrong, that wasn't the cause of things going badly at that moment. But we do have the possibility to change going forward and do things better despite the bad that happened. It's not about victimizing ourselves for what fate has in store for us, but about facing the future to change the present and achieve a better tomorrow.
We have countless examples of people who suffered greatly in their lives, in the history of our people, and yet they kept moving forward and could build.
That is the blessing that Re'eh, our Parasha, talks about. Even when things go terribly wrong, when we are lying on the floor, downcast, anguished, suffering, we can rise and not become victims of what happened. On the contrary, we can transform into agents of the blessing.
That is the path of the Mitzvot, being agents of the blessing. That is our commitment as a people.
May we be able to move forward despite the losses and difficulties. May we do it, achieve it, and may Tikun Olam be, regardless of what happened in our lives or the lives around us. May we succeed in becoming a united community and a single congregation that discusses and seeks understanding to achieve better coexistence, without threats of alienation if what we deem correct isn't done, but rather what consensus decides is best for all.
May it be so, with the blessing of the Kadosh Baruch Hu, that of all who came before us, and that each of us can create
Rabbi Gustavo Geier