This week’s Torah portion is concerned with the consequences connected to following God’s commandments. According to the Torah, those who faithfully follow the commandments will be rewarded, while those who stray will be punished. While many Jews today may find this formula concerning reward and punishment problematic, it would be foolish to deny the fact that every human action results in some kind of consequence.
Human relationships with each other and the world at large are dependent on how we choose to act. Regardless of how we may understand the commandments or how we understand God, maintaining human accountability for and sensitivity to the world around us is central to living ethical lives. When we act in ways which tend to the needs of the world, blessings are always in abundance. Certainly, bad things happen to good people – but it is important to remember that the good things that were done by good people brought blessings into the world. In contrast, curses arise when we fail to remain accountable for our behaviors and when we neglect the needs of others.
Our faith implores us to see the world through this lens by defining the partnership between humanity and God in terms of reward and punishment. We may not understand this formula in the same way that it is described in the Torah, but blessings and curses are, in part, the result of whether or not we chose to reach out to or turn our backs on each other, the world and the values of our faith.