The ultimate curse?
"The sound of a driven leaf
Shall put them to flight"
Leviticus 26:36-37 - "As for those of you who survive [the land's desolation], I will cast a faintness into their hearts in the land of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight. Fleeing as though from the sword, they shall fall thought none pursues. With no one pursuing they shall stumble over one another as before the sword."
This week's portion includes a warning about the "curses" that, God warns, will befall the people "if you do not obey Me and do not observe all of these commandments." At the end of this list are the verses quoted above, which in some ways might be the most severe curse of all.
Disease, cities ruined, land made desolate. These are all real, we can see them, and they would be terrible to endure. But how much worse is terror so great that the "sound of a driven leaf" would cause the people to "stumble over one another" despite the absence of any real danger? Still, there is hope:
But when they confess
And are humble, and atone
God will remember
Leviticus 26:39-45 - "Those of you who survive ... shall confess ... their obdurate heart humble itself, and they shall atone for their iniquity ... [Then] I will remember in their favor the covenant with the ancients, whom I freed from the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God; I, the Eternal."
As we complete the Book of Leviticus, we say chazak, chazak v'nitchazek. The communal strength suggested by this traditional phrase just might be an antidote to the fear of the "sound of the driven leaf" that we are warned will result from failing to behave in the image of God.
Image by Anne Davis via Flickr