The Bible Says What? ‘God will rejoice in making you perish’

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The Bible Says What? ‘God will rejoice in making you perish’

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner looks into the Torah and reflects on a controversial topic with a Reform Jewish response

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner

 This week’s Torah portion is truly remarkable. The latter parts of Ki Tavo contain a list of the blessings that will come to the Children of Israel for keeping the commandments, followed by a long and harrowing list of the curses that await should they fail.

Almost anything imaginable and unimaginable is listed here as a consequence, from those you would expect, such as plague and famine to the truly gruesome and unusual – including that people will end up eating their own children.

Most shocking of all though is the description of God’s role in all of this. In Deuteronomy 28:63, it says that just as God rejoiced in doing good to the people, so would God rejoice in causing the people to perish and destroying them. How can our God delight in something so terrible?

Some may say it is because ours is a God of justice, who delights in justice being done. Even this must make us pause. It may be a duty for justice to be carried out, but it is surely inappropriate to relish a punishment to such an extent?

We can read this passage as not being about God as an entity, but God as representing the constant that we turn to for guidance.

If we turn our backs on our Jewish values and practice then we corrupt them. The same values which have the potential to lead us to good will then lead us down a path of destruction, because we have perverted them. We must make it a central goal to defend and protect our values and practice.

During the current month of Elul, the Shofar reminds us of our annual time to check how we are doing and ensure we return to those values we hold dear.

  •  Laura Janner-Klausner is senior rabbi for the Movement for Reform Judaism
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