As we approach the High Holidays, this week’s parsha reminds us of the importance of holding each other accountable communally. In it, a list of blessings and curses are enumerated that will be uttered aloud and affirmed upon entering the land of Cana’an. This list was considered so important that the Torah itself views it as a second covenant (Deuteronomy/Devraim 28:69), though less central to Judaism than the more famous covenant at Sinai. This list of values, expressed in contrasting lists of curses and blessings, was not abstract for the Israelites then, and, so too, any list of values that a community seeks to intentionally uphold today must not be rooted simply in the abstract. The Israelites did not shout from the tops of two mountains about being honest, or charitable, or kind, or patient. Instead, they spoke of not cursing one’s parents (27:16), or greedily stealing another’s property (27:17) as well as various specific forms of sexual impropriety (27:20-23). Let us use this time of preparation to both craft lists of values – with specific moral acts to uphold – that will guide us and our communities in the coming year, and recall how absolutely horrifying the consequences of not keeping to these values was for the Israelites. This proves that this set of values was of the utmost importance, allowing the Israelites to come together as members of a nation that held itself to its highest values.
Let us remember
To articulate values