3. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.
4. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your cattle, the produce of your cows, and the flocks of your sheep.
5. Blessed shall be your basket and your store.
6. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. [Deut 28 3-6]
Among the curses:
16. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field.
17. Cursed shall be your basket and your store.
18. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, the produce of your cows, and the flocks of your sheep.
19. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
20. The Lord shall send upon you cursing, confusion, and failure, in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed, and until you perish quickly; because of the wickedness of your doings, by which you have forsaken me.[Deut 28:16-20]
Deuteronomy provides a dilemma for many people due to its quid pro quo theology. Yet, coming back from vacation in the Galapagos Islands, I’ve been reflecting on a lot of what I learned on those
What this creates is a world where short distances change environments greatly. I quipped on the boat more than once if you don’t like the weather in the Galapagos, wait five minutes or take five steps.
My experiences in the Galapagos and the knowledge of Biologists and environmental scientists since the time of
Of course when that order is shattered, the system collapses. Pirates wanting to have a easy source of meat let go goats on these islands. The goats reproduced rapidly and ate all of the vegetation. In turn native species like the Giant tortoises and Land iguanas starved, on some
Like the goat of Azazel related to the temple practice of Yom Kippur, the goats represent our sins for interfering with an ecosystem. Yet the problem with interdependency is that once you interfere, you cannot just stop and go away. If we did abandon control and elimination efforts, the feral goats, rats, cats and dogs we introduced to the island would eventually kill everything, as evidenced on several of the smaller islands. Many have called for the elimination of Tourism in the Galapagos in an effort to save the
The Galapagos, most significantly, is a microcosm of the entire planet, and the problems of environmental protection are incredibly evident in such a fragile environment. This is not a simple system but a complex one where every species depends on other species. One problem leads to catastrophe.
The Galapagos can thus stand for a metaphor about our relation not just to the environment but to each other. We are interdependent on our environment and on our culture. When we interfere with either in a destructive way, it causes a chain of destruction, a curse. We need to be careful, but it is not easy. When we fail to keep the balance and the interdependences are not satisfied, thing fall apart, in the curses. When we do keep the balance we get abundance, and the blessings. It is not quid pro quo as much as we are part of a very intricate system.
I keep thinking of two lines from Genesis,
1:28. And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.
2:15. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it.
In one we are to subdue, in the other to guard. One wants to believe we are outside the web of life, separate from it, and thus exploitation of the natural world and indeed of each others is warranted. The other makes us the guardian of the web of life, our mission to protect it. Blessings and curses are not our reward or punishment, but the implications or our effect on the web of life. So which is it?
Both Moses and David said a phrase which it very telling: The Earth is the Lord’s. (Exodus 9:29, Psalm 24:1) It is not ours, we are mere servants here. Moses was actually telling off Pharaoh at the time, implying Pharaoh owned diddly squat. Thinking of the dormant volcano I climbed and the wild life I saw brought on this kind of humility. It is not easy, to say the least. Do you kill all the goats to save the Tortoises? It is not an easy question, no question in this interdependency is.
Blessings and curses are not about doing good and getting good. They are about being part of system, environmental, social and spiritual, and working within that system for the greatest benefit to all. It is a balance, and a very difficult one, with no simple solutions. But as the High Holidays approach, one we all should think about.