Healing Old Wounds – Shechem I
“It shall be that when God, your Lord, brings you to the land to which you come, to possess it, then you shall deliver the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, far from Gilgal, near the Plains of Moreh? (Deuteronomy 11:29-30)
Where is the Plain of Moreh? “Abram passed into the land as far as the site of Shechem, until the Plain of Moreh.” (Genesis 12:6) Just as the Plain of Moreh of Abram is Shechem, so too, here, the Plains of Moreh are Shechem. (Sotah 33)
Shechem is a place of internecine conflict. Jacob’s sons angered their father when they waged a great battle in Shechem to avenge Dinah’s rape. The brothers sold Joseph in Shechem. The Kingdom of Israel split between Judah and the Ten Tribes in Shechem. It is Shechem that was chosen as the place where the Children of Israel would accept mutual responsibility when they observed the ceremony of the Blessings and Curses, another powerful form of division; the difference between good and evil.
A place that seethes with division is chosen as the place where we accept a higher level of unity; ‘Arvut,’ mutual responsibility. The Torah is teaching us that unity does not mean that we are all the same or that we all agree. The blessings and curses were presented in Shechem to teach us that we must strive for the unity of Arvut specifically in the places where we disagree.
The brothers battled Joseph in Shechem. They fought for what they believed. They fought over issues that mattered. They caused tragedy by fighting rather than accept Arvut and living a shared sense of blessings and curses.
The Ten Tribes fought for what was important to them. They battled against what they considered evil. They fought rather than accept Arvut and their shared blessings and curses.
What would have happened if Rechavam, the son and heir to Solomon, responded to the demands of the Ten Tribes, not as he did, and not even as they demanded by agreeing to loosen the reigns, but by reenacting the Blessings and Curses of Shechem? What would have happened if the new king began by reminding the entire nation of their Arvut and what they shared?
What would have happened if the brothers, before selling Joseph, acted out the Blessings and Curses of Gerizim and Ebal? How different would the story have been if they began with the Arvut of Shechem rather than its division?
How different would the story have been if Jacob and his sons first had a Blessing and Curses gathering before debating waging war against Shechem?
What would happen if we would begin our public debates over issues fundamental to our community by focusing on the Arvut rather than its battles? We begin with open criticism, name calling, questioning motivations, and curses, rather than Arvut.
“How,” you ask, “can we focus on Arvut with people who believe so much that contradicts our core beliefs?”
“Why,” I ask, “did God specifically choose Shechem, the place of division, for us to accept the Covenant of Arvut?”
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