As the portion this week begins, we read:
רְאֵ֗ה אָֽנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה
Behold, (see) I set before you today a blessing and a curse
The three pilgrim festivals are set out together with the offerings. We are told that we are to worship God in a place that he will choose but the place is never specified. (That phrase appears 16 times in today’s Sedra).
At the end of the Parasha we read:
Three times in the year, every one of your males shall appear before the Lord
This time we are to be seen. We are not to be an invisible presence.
Being a Jew is all about the choices that we make. Choosing and making a blessing of what is before us is part of our being. Beyond knowing what is expected of us we are asked to commit and to act.
Much of the Sedra sets out how we are expected to live our lives in the sight of the nations around us. Most non-Jews would point to our dietary laws, Kashrut, (set out in detail here) as identifiers but there are many other things set out in this Parasha. Charity is set out and to this day remains as a core community commitment.
We are specifically told not to “eat” blood. (In these times meat usually comes “pre-kashered” but some of us will remember the “koshering” boards use by parents or more likely grandparents).
The three pilgrim festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot together with the Temple rites are all described with the same word, “simcha”, a time of joy. The Danish Philosopher Kierkegaard wrote:
It takes religious courage to rejoice.
Right now, with the Shul building closed during the pandemic, it is easy to become invisible, but this is not our way. Whatever the curse we have the blessing of ritual and community.