“See, I set before you blessing and curse.” The opening verse of this week’s parsha introduces a contract between God and Israel. Moses informs the people that they have a choice: follow God, thus receiving blessings, or engage in the ways of the neighboring peoples, and through these actions be cursed.
For those of us who struggle with the idea that God rewards or punishes us based on our actions, this can be a difficult verse. Thankfully, our tradition offers us a take on these verses which points out how our lives are impacted by our choices.
In Sifre D’varim, one of our classical Midrashic texts, Moses is compared to a person sitting at a fork in the road. One path looks clear in the beginning, but it quickly turns to thorns. The other path starts off thorny, but after a few steps, it becomes clear. The person sitting at the fork informs those who pass by about the terrain, and leaves it to them to make their own choices.
College is filled with thorny choices: what classes to take; which clubs to join; what to major in; whether to go to that party; whether to go home with that person. Some of these choices they may discuss with us--others, they will have to make on their own. We can’t shield them from difficult things. Our students may make choices that they later regret. They will struggle. They will have experiences that are painful, which leave them feeling lost and trapped.
No matter which path they choose, it is our responsibility to be their Moses - to help them process these wounds, to find strength in themselves, and to point out that the path is clear up ahead.
Jake Adler is the Jewish Student Advisor at Haverford College.