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THE KING AND I

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by Rabbi David Zauderer  
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

In Moses’ last speech of his life to his beloved people, he prophesies about a time when the Jewish people will experience a full-scale return to G-d and His Torah.

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In Moses’ last speech of his life to his beloved people, he prophesies about a time when the Jewish people will experience a full-scale return to G-d and His Torah. He says, “And it shall be when they shall come upon you all these things – the blessing and the curse that I have given you – that you will take My words to heart amongst all the nations which the Lord, your G-d, has scattered you” (Deuteronomy 30:1).

                Some will say that this prophecy is being fulfilled in our own generation, when many Jews are finding their way back to G-d, while living in the midst of Western culture. Be that as it may, there is a major problem with this verse. Generally, it’s the curse of anti-Semitic persecution or personal tragedy that causes people to rethink their lives and to come back to G-d. Why then does the verse say that when the “blessing and the curse” will befall you, you will take My words to heart? How does blessing lead one to return to G-d?

                The great Chassidic rabbi, Yaakov Yosef of Polonya, answered with the following analogy: A farmer once rebelled against the king and cursed him, and threw stones at the statue of the king. Said the king to himself, “If I shall imitate the actions of other kings and torture this man until he dies as punishment for his rebelling against me, what will I have accomplished? The man will suffer for a few moments and then he’s dead. What lessons will he learn? Better I should try a different approach. I won’t sentence him to death. On the contrary, I will elevate him to a high position in the government.” And so he did. The king appointed the farmer to an important position in his cabinet. The farmer saw close-up the kindness and beneficence of his king, and he started feeling terribly guilty that he had rebelled against such a kind ruler. The more the king did for him, the worse he felt, and the more he resolved never to curse the king again.

                We know that G-d only wants the best for His children. So he sends us various messages and tests in order that we should change our ways and rethink our priorities in life. But He has two tricks up His sleeve. He may test us with difficult times and rough waters. After we’re shaken up, we may start thinking more deeply into life and our real purpose here on earth.

                There’s also another way. G-d might just give us so much “good stuff” that we feel like we just have to improve ourselves and act more spiritual. He gives us good health, a wonderful spouse, beautiful children, a nice house, great friends – how can we not go to the synagogue just to say thanks for all this good He is showering upon us?!

                We might try this approach at home with our kids, too. When our child does something bad, our first instinct is to punish him or her and teach that little brat a lesson. Well, instead of punishment, why not try and love the child even more? Tell her how special you think she is, and how you were just about to take her to the toy store to buy her a special gift for her good behavior. Sometimes, the mere feeling the child has that his parents are so good to him, can bring about a change of attitude. (Obviously, this all depends on the nature of the child. It might backfire, but it’s definitely worth a try!)

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Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.

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