This Shabbat we read the parshah of Re’eh and my haftorah is from the prophet Isaiah, recited on Rosh Chodesh. This new month is Rosh Chodesh Elul. The word Elul is an acronym for the Hebrew spelling, meaning “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” It can be interpreted as how people love each other or the relationship between God and the Jewish people.
Parshat Re’eh opens up with the famous quote, “See this day I set before you blessing and curse.” This is saying that the Israelites who follow the mitzvot of the Torah will earn a blessing, and those who don’t will be cursed. According to the Torah, the nation is commanded to worship only the one God of Israel when they are entering the land and to destroy the foreign idols. And if they do not, they will be cursed. But who is actually bringing the curse? Is it God or the people? We can ask this question about our own lives even today.
Does an individual bring down curses upon him or herself by his or her behavior? These “natural consequences” can feel like curses: for example, when a person insults or harms another person and is then punished for his behavior by losing a friend or having to pay for his negative actions. He or she feels a lot of regret for what they have done and may wonder why they feel cursed.
In the haftorah we read about the return of the Jewish people from Babylon to the land of Israel. The theme of this haftorah for this special Shabbat also refers to God’s creation of the world and to God’s promise to the Jewish people to remember God’s special relationship with them.
In creation, the moon represents light. When we perform mitzvot we bring light into the world. My mitzvah project is volunteering at the Baltimore Humane Society, where I help out with the small animals that are in their care. The mitzvah of Tzaar Baalei Hayim is an important mitzvah to follow because God created animals when God created the world, and we should not hurt God’s creations. When we observe God’s mitzvot, we have chosen the path of blessing.
Julia Willis is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.