Parashat REEH:

See, REEH, 

" this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d which I enjoin upon you this day,

and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other G-d's, whom you have not experienced."

That’s how it has been translated.  

I like to read it slightly differently:


this day I set before you

blessing and curse.

The blessing is when you listen to My mitzvot

and the curse is

when you don’t connect with My mitzvot

but turn away

and follow other G-ds

with whom you don’t have a personal connection.

In my reading, 

Torah is not telling us that:

if we follow the mitzvot we will receive blessing 


if we fail to follow the mitzvot we will be cursed. 

As in, do the right thing and you will be rewarded, 

do the wrong thing and you will be punished. 

Torah is telling us that:

following the mitzvot is, 


the blessing. 

And that being detached from our Source is, 


the experience of being cursed.


The word mitzvah you All know  

means commandment

You may or may not know that it’s related to the Arameic word 


which means 

to attach or join. 

Mitzvah can be understood to mean not only commandment, but also connection.

I love the idea of the mitzvot as connections. 

- They connect us with G-d. 

- They connect us with our tradition. 

- They connect us with other human beings and with the earth.

- They connect us with ourselves.


613 may be a difficult number to approach. 

Some of the mitzvot outlined in Torah were only possible when the Temple was standing. 

So let's try to set aside our perfectionism. 

Even if we can’t necessarily do all 613 mitzvot, we can still aim to live in a way which connects us.

- The mitzvah of daily prayer is connective, 

- Say thank you to G-d for the food which sustains us,

- Say thank you to G-d for waking up alive in the morning,

- On weekdays, ask G-d for what we need, because asking for our needs to G-d can be transformative even if a literal response is going to come our way. 

- Say the bedtime shema and reconcile ourselves with each day’s actions before we sleep. 

- The mitzvah of making blessings is connective. 

Bless bread, bless wine, bless the rainbow, bless our children, bless a stranger you meet on the street.

The mitzvah of sanctifying time is connective:

- When Shabbat arrives, let go of our workday consciousness. 

- Gather the light of the candles into our heart. 

- Stop rushing and planning and doing, 

and take one day of the week to imitate G-d and to rest, to just be. 

- Celebrate the holidays and festivals: 

- eat apples and honey 

and hear the shofar at Rosh Hashanah just a month away from now. 

- Fast and connect with G-d on Yom Kippur. 

- Rejoice in a sukkah during Sukkot. 


Each of these mitzvot connects us with thousand's year of history, 

with Jews around the world today, 

with G-d, 

and with a deep part of ourself.

We can’t do mitzvot without knowing what they are. 

So in order to gain the benefit of living the mitzvot, 

you need to experience the mitzvah of Torah study. 

• And the more you learn, 

   the more you’re able to do,

   and the more you do, 

   the more connected you are.


• and, the more connected you are, 

• the more blessing you receive.

The curse comes when we turn away from G-d’s path and follow other G-d's whom we have not personally experienced. 

Some of us may not feel that we’ve ever experienced our own G-d, 

We may not feel that we know how to have a direct experience of G-d.

But I invite you to consider that you can experience G-d 

You can experience a connection with the Source of all Being 

Whenever you do a mitzvah, whether an ethical one 

(such as cooking for Take and Eat) 

or a ritual one 

(such as lighting Shabbat candles.) 

• You can experience a connection with the Source of all Being 

- when you feel love for your parent, 

your child, 

your spouse, 

your friend. 

• You can experience a connection with the Source of all Being 

- when you walk in the woods, 

- or step outside our sanctuary, and become aware of the birdsong and the glory of the mountains.

When we do these mitzvot, we feel connected to G-d, and that’s our blessing.

When we turn away from this path, and become distracted by the constant chatter of email and twitter and Facebook and obligations; 

When we imagine that our to do list at work is more important than really connecting with our family on Shabbat,

When we value money and privilege more than we value kindness and caring,

Then we are disconnected from G-d.

There’s an old joke which says that heaven and hell are both dinner parties, both featuring people sitting around a table with incredibly long forks. In hell, each person spears their own food with their own fork, and then can’t reach their mouth, and goes hungry. 

And in heaven, each person spears some food and feeds it to someone across the table, and in this way everyone is fed, and there is joy. 

It’s look like in a  cartoon!?! Right???

True, and it doesn’t match our Jewish conception of heaven or hell, but I think it speaks to this week’s Torah portion.

When we ignore the mitzvot, when we think only of ourselves, we go hungry.

When we follow the mitzvot, when we feed one another, we receive the sustenance we need.

Shabbat shalom!



Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420