This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo (Deut. 26:1-29:8), lists the blessings that come if the people will observe God’s commandments, and the curses that will come if they ignore the commandments, or turn away from God to practice idolatry.
Moses directs the leaders of six of the tribes to stand upon Mount Ebal to deliver the blessings, and the other six to stand upon Mount Gerizim to deliver the curses. Those who announce the blessings get a much smaller part to play. The blessings that God promises if the Israelites follow the commandments comprise fourteen verses, while the curses that will befall them if they disobey amount to more than fifty verses.
Why so many curses, and so few blessings? Perhaps only a few things have to be right to make us feel blessed. For most of us, if we have a home, enough to eat, an honorable livelihood, good health and people in our lives that we love, that is blessing enough. But when we start to desire other things, when we pursue wealth for its own sake, or make the pleasure of eating or drinking or sex into an addiction, when we tell lies, when we abuse those weaker than ourselves, the troubles that follow us can make us wish for the simplicity of a life of blessing.
Throughout the Torah, and especially in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tries to tell the people what is good for them. It sounds like reward and punishment, but it is really more like cause and effect. As the last words of the portion say, “Observe the words of this covenant and do them, that you may make all that you do to prosper”.