Curses!By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
As we mentioned at the beginning of parshas Re’eh, when the Jews entered the land, they were to deliver blessings and curses on Mount Grizim and Mount Eival, respectively. Six Tribes were assigned to each mountain. (For this purpose, Levi was counted as one of the 12, while Ephraim and Menashe were considered a single Tribe.) The representatives of Levi on Mt. Grizim were those too young or otherwise unfit to perform the service. Those who were able to serve as active Levites stood between the mountains and pronounced the blessings and curses to the people.
First the curses: one who makes an idol; one who treats his parents disrespectfully; one who moves a boundary marker to encroach on another’s property; one who causes the blind to go astray; one who manipulates a trial involving a widow, an orphan or a convert; one who has sexual relations with his father’s wife; one who commits bestiality; one who has intercourse with his sister, even a half-sister; one who has sex with his mother-in-law; one who attacks another secretly; one who accepts a bribe to condemn an innocent person; one who does not uphold the Torah. (This is the source of the practice of hagba’ah, lifting the Torah at the time of its public reading. It is then “upheld” in the most literal sense.)
Anyone who violates any of the prohibitions listed above is cursed. The people were to voice their assent by responding “Amen” after each.
Conversely, if the people listen to God and follow His laws, they will be elevated above all the nations of the world. They will be blessed in the city and in the field, in their offspring, their crops, and their livestock. Their food utensils will be blessed, as will their comings and goings.