26:3 If you follow My laws and are careful to keep My commandments ...
26:6 I will grant peace in the land so that you will sleep without fear.
26:14 If you do not listen to Me, and do not keep all these commandments...
26:36 I will bring such insecurity upon those of you who survive in your enemies' land that the sound of a rustling leaf will make them flee from the sword. They will fall with no one chasing them.
This parsha offers a stream of vivid images. The first set promise beauty, fulfillment, and peace; the second set threaten disasters as terrible as can be imagined. The Torah says that if we follow God’s laws, we will be secure and sleep soundly. If we do not listen, our anxiety will be so intense we will be in a state of perpetual post-traumatic stress disorder. I would much rather reflect on the positive promises, yet the negative images have a way of captivating attention. We want to follow the laws that produce peace. But how? What are they? As someone who does not accept all the rabbinic halacha as The RIGHT Way that can be followed without questioning, but instead inquires into the appropriateness of actions myself, it is not always clear just how to keep the commandments.
It may be useful to turn the language of this parsha around on itself. If I am beset by anxiety, then my actions may be out of alignment with holiness. If I am genuinely peaceful, then the actions that produced the peacefulness may be wholesome and aligned. This is a bit tricky, because we need to allow for the ordinary changing weather of emotions and reactions that constantly flow through us in reaction to internal and external events. Yet underneath the surface ups and downs of a day is something deeper – either a sense of safety and well-being that can support resilience even when events are difficult, or a sense of dread that the other shoe is about to drop. This deep inner sense may become a guide for discerning whether or not I am listening and keeping to the wholesome path.
May we be guided to discern those actions that will promote safety, wholeness and peace for ourselves and for our communities.