August 26, 2011/ 26 Av 5771
ראה אנוכי נותן לפניכם ברכה וקללה
See, I set before you blessing and curse (Deut 11:26)
This week begins the month of Elul, the thirty days of reflection that precede the High Holy Days. During this time, we are invited to take an honest look at our lives, at our relationships, and at our world and start the hard work of healing that which is broken. It is a time of both pain and possibility, an invitation to personal and social transformation.
Parshat Re’eh opens with the words: “See, I set before you blessing and curse.” Both possibilities-- blessing and curse, life and death—stand before us at all times. We can walk in the world in ways that bring joy and fulfillment to ourselves and those whom we love. Or, we can cling to bad habits and foolish choices that only serve to bring us down. The Torah’s radical notion is that God created us in His Image, endowed with total freedom, and we therefore must take the responsibility of choosing our own path.
It is true that life hands each of us a great variety of challenges, pains, and frustrations. It is so easy to fall into the mindset of victimhood—a sense that we are helpless to break old patterns or overcome stubborn obstacles. Yet, the dignifying message of this season is that we can refuse to be victims. Elul teaches us that we have the power take our own lives into our hands and shape our own destiny. We are, in the famous words of the poet William Henley, “the masters of our fate, the captains of our soul.”
May this Shabbat be a new beginning for each of us, an opportunity to choose blessing for ourselves and for our world.