Our Torah reading this week, parshat Re’eh, offers a juxtaposition. The portion begins, “See, I place before you this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you listen to the commandments for the Lord your God that I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not listen…” (Deuteronomy, 11:26-28). It ends with a restatement of the holidays of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
These three holidays in particular are agrarian in nature, and an important aspect of each is a celebration of the earth’s bounty. There is, as well, a subtext: that such bounty is brought forth by a partnership between man and God.
These days, most of us are divorced from the earthbound processes that produce the food we partake of, on these holidays and for our everyday meals. How many of us have seen a field transform from a crusted and drab khaki, baked hard in the summer heat, to a rich and resilient chestnut brown, to a rain-drenched ebony, pregnant with potential. Over the course of a fall and winter, the fields are a kaleidoscope of brown hues. As spring emerges from its den, the land grows verdant in languid shades of green. By summer, the gold of ripe grain is a reflection of the golden sunlight that beats down upon the earth.
And having toiled for months, the farmer prepares not his table but his offering. He connects his bounty not to his own strength but to the partnership between himself and his creator.
In the juxtaposition of barrenness and plenty, of blessing and curse, our choices, if they are rooted first in gratitude, become quite easy. “The blessing, that you listen to” recalls us to the goodness within each of us if we are inclined to gratitude. And “the curse, if you do not listen” reminds us that, devoid of gratitude, we might assume that the majesty before us—our fields or the bounty on our table—reflects our own powers and capabilities. But do any of us exist by our power alone?
This Shabbat, let us remember the communion between ourselves and our God. Let us look upon the fellowship between us and among us as we do upon the fields of gold and green, and let us be thankful for the bounty at our feet.