Parshat Ki Tavo – Justice, but Where is Kindness?

This week’s parsha seems to mirror what I see in the world around me this week.  Most of the parsha is concerned with a number of blessings and curses that Moses tells the people will happen to them.  He commands that half of the tribes will ascend one mountain and half the other when they enter Israel.  Half on one mountain will be told the blessings that will be for the Jewish people if they keep the Torah.  The other half will be told the curses that will come to the Jewish people if they do not keep the Torah.  A lot more time is spent very vividly describing the curses, some so awful that they involve the people becoming desperate enough to eat their own children.

Reading this in the time we are, we know that historically, the Jewish people did fail and suffered many if not all of these curses.  They did see themselves dispersed.  There was starvation and death and sickness.  Over and over again, the Jewish people have as a people suffered.  Looking around, too, we can see that people still suffer as great storms ravage the US and war seems so close.

Moving in closer, I see so much hostility and judgment between people now.  For a brief while, there was a respite from it all as all kinds of people came together to help each other in the wake of the flooding in Houston, but now again, they seem back at each other’s throats.  Everyone is preoccupied with justice, but few seem to have time for kindness.  They spend so much more time trying to curse those they see as opposing them than trying to bring blessings to those in need.

The Kabbalists say that even the harshest decrees come from a place of goodness and that the only reason we can’t see this goodness is that it must be hidden from us or else the revelation of the existence of G-d would be so apparent it would destroy our ability to exercise free will.  To them, even the worst curse was simply a hidden good directly from Hashem.  A flood, the death of a beloved child, even war, are all delivered from Hashem in His goodness.

I find this easier to accept when it comes to divine judgment than when it comes to the ways in which we pass judgment on each other.  I feel like we’ve grown harsher in how we treat each other, more eager to rush to justice without first considering compassion.  I look at so much of what I see around me and wonder, “Where is the good in this?  Are these words and actions part of Hashem’s bigger plan or just us exercising our free will to be needlessly mean and cruel?”  Why do we seem to spend so much more time on the negative than trying to create the positive?

In this week’s parsha, half of the tribes were meant to hear the curses and half the blessings, which to me seems to indicate that we are supposed to be balanced when it comes to judgment and kindness, that we are supposed to consider each equally and that while the parsha may have spent more time describing the curses for those who failed to live up to the Torah’s mandates, that these curses were only equal in weight to the blessings.  There seems to be a middle way that we are meant to find here, in which we avoid the curses and win the blessings.

But I feel like the pendulum will need to swing back some to reach that center.

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