Ki Savo: The Twin Balancing Mountains
By Rabbi Yonah Burr
ויצו משה את העם ביום ההוא לאמר: אלה יעמדו לברך את העם על הר גרזים בעברכם את הירדן שמעון ולוי ויהודה ויששכר ויוסף ובנימן: ואלה יעמדו על הקללה בהר עיבל ראובן גד ואשר וזבולן דן ונפתלי: וענו הלוים ואמרו אל כל איש ישראל קול רם:
Moshe instructed the people that day saying: These will stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people when you cross the Jordan: Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar, Yosef and Binyamin. And these shall stand on Mount Eival for the curse: Reuvain, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Dan and Naftali. The [elder] Levi'im shall call out to every man in Israel in a loud voice!
The Gemara (Sotah 37a) describes the scene. The Kohanim and elder Levi'im stood together with the Holy Aron Hakodesh in the valley between these huge mountains. The rest of the Jewish people were divided in two. Half ascended the Mountain of Gerizim to ‘receive’ the blessings. The other half ascended the Mountain of Eival to ‘receive’ the curses. When the Kohanim turned to those on Mount Gerizim and proclaimed a blessing, the entire congregation would respond with a thunderous AMEIN! Then the Kohanim would turn to those on Mount Eival and proclaim a curse, and the entire congregation again cried a resounding AMEIN.
What is the meaning of this awesome ceremony? Why was the nation split so dramatically?
The Be’er Yosef explains it beautifully.
The Gemara (Kiddushin 40b) states that one should always view himself as having a perfectly balanced scale. Half his deeds sit proudly on the merit side and half populate the debit side. If the person performs a mitzvah, his merits will dominate. If he sins, the opposite will happen.
But there is even more at stake.
The Gemara continues. The entire world, indeed, the entire universe hangs in this balance. Half of the world is righteous and the other half is wicked. One more righteous person will make the difference, and it only takes one deed to define the person as righteous! One deed can decide the person is righteous, and one person can decide the world is righteous! The entire universe can be dependent on one act!
Perhaps, now we can understand the powerful imagery characterized by the the two mountains. Exactly half the nation - 6 tribes -- are on one side, receiving blessings. The other half are on the other mountain, receiving the curses. The Torah wants us to visualize this momentous scene throughout every step of our lives. The entire nation -- the entire world -- is a balanced scale. All of us hang in the balance as we wait anxiously for the one act that defines the outcome. All of our actions matter. Each can have cosmic impact.
What a message before Rosh Hashana, the day of judgement.
May we all be inscribed in the book of life, health, sustenance, and spiritual accomplishment!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!