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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


Updated: Sep 1, 2020

As mentioned before in this blog, I have been giving small devar torahs during morning minyan at Kehillat Israel in Brookline. This poem, called "On the Ladder of Blessing", reviews Parshat Ki Tavoh, which mentions a list of many curses and some blessings. I ask myself here, "What does it mean to be blessed? How does it translate into our lives?"

For a link to learn more about this important parsha, click here.

Deuteronomy 27: 2-3

And it will be, on the day that you cross the Jordan to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, that you shall set up for yourself huge stones, and plaster them with lime. בוְהָיָ֗ה בַּיּוֹם֘ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תַּֽעַבְר֣וּ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֣ן לָ֑ךְ וַֽהֲקֵמֹתָ֤ לְךָ֙ אֲבָנִ֣ים גְּדֹל֔וֹת וְשַׂדְתָּ֥ אֹתָ֖ם בַּשִּֽׂיד:3When you cross, you shall write upon them all the words of this Torah, in order that you may come to the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, God of your forefathers, has spoken to you. גוְכָֽתַבְתָּ֣ עֲלֵיהֶ֗ן אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֛י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את בְּעָבְרֶ֑ךָ לְמַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁר֩ תָּבֹ֨א אֶל־הָאָ֜רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֣יךָ | נֹתֵ֣ן לְךָ֗ אֶ֣רֶץ זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֶּ֛ר יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽי־אֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ לָֽךְ:


What is it to be blessed?

When we are blessed

Do we walk a little taller?

Are our bellies a little fuller?

Are our shoulders thrown back with pride

Our chins high, muscles taut?

Is our hair glossier, are our eyes keener?

Are our teeth whiter and our legs stronger?

Do we emit light, do we shine and glow?

Can we send that glow outwards to light the world?

If we are blessed are we more like the angels

Or are we more like God?

Are we more human or more Divine?

Or somewhere between the two?

Can our eyes see more clearly or are the edges blurred?

If we are blessed, can we spot evil where it exists, to stop it in its tracks?

Does blessing squash and stifle our evil inclinations? Our pride?

Does blessing fill up the spaces of idleness, of hatred and omission?

When we are blessed are we more likely to understand others?

More likely to love our neighbor as ourselves?

More likely to comprehend each other's languages and gestures?

To see the mercy in our eyes and the love in their hearts

Does being blessed give us more understanding of the commandments?

Is blessing something that is shared from me to you?

Or does it belong only to us and not others?

Does being blessed set us higher on a ladder going upward toward Good Intentions?

What of those who are left behind?

Do we help them up, extending our hand downwards toward them

Our fingers long and searching, our nails can either scratch or caress

The hands of those cursed reaching out, but not quite reaching ours

Do we leave them behind to find their own way?

Surely this cannot be blessed.

Are we wiser when we are blessed?

Are our hearts filled with more knowledge and obedience?

Do we understand God’s wisdom more?

Does being blessed mean that we remember or forget?

A tangled mixture of forgetting and remembering which are piled up like stones.

Like the words written on a stone altar, both blessings and curses

Inscribed into the rock for all to see forevermore

Words to fear, we tremble as we behold

To be blessed and not cursed

For all to remember and never to forget

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