Rabbi Shmuel Weiss
Blessings and curses the subject of this week's second Torah portion. Outlined is the glorious reward or frightening horror that awaits us when we keep or spurn, respectively, the Divine lifestyle of the mitzvot.
Blessings and curses the subject of this week's second Torah portion. Outlined is the glorious reward or frightening horror that awaits us when we keep or spurn, respectively, the Divine lifestyle of the mitzvot. Be careful: It is not always so simple to distinguish a blessing from a curse. The fortunes of life are not always what they appear to be.
A year ago this week there was a terrible tragedy in Russia; a leading rabbi of Tzfat was killed in a car accident near Moscow. However, the tragedy might have been far worse. The rabbi had been scheduled to make that fateful journey accompanied by two of Israel's leading rabbis. The rabbis, deciding at the last moment to join their colleague in Russia, had tried in vain for hours to get a seat on a flight to Moscow. When none was available, they bemoaned their fate. They cursed their luck; until, that is, they learned of the blessing hidden inside.
For centuries the land of Israel lay barren, deserted, unwanted. Visitors to the region including Mark Twain called the land "desolate" and "cursed." The Holy Land was pitifully empty, and seemed doomed to oblivion. What a blessing in disguise this was. The land was merely lying dormant for centuries, waiting for our moment of return. Had it been more productive, other nations would have lived there, would have claimed every inch of soil, making our ascent so much more difficult. Because the land was virtually empty, we could walk in and re-establish our mystical connection with Israel, soon activating the bountiful earth and making the mountains and hills bloom again.
I recently received a fascinating bit of history that brings home the irony of blessing and curse. Two fabulously-wealthy brothers Isidore and Nathan Strauss came to visit the Holy Land in the early years of this century. At the end of their trip, Nathan decided to stay on, giving freely of his great fortune to the country, even meriting a city that would come to be called by his name: Netanyah. Isidore, alas, chose to go back almost immediately to the "good life" of America. He made his way to Europe, and there embarked on a luxurious return voyage to the USA aboard the maiden voyage of the grand liner Titanic.
Blessings and curses may they always be turned by Hashem to our benefit, and may we see the hand of G-d in all things good and bad.
Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Raanana, is a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family.
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