by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – September 4, 2012
In the Torah section of Ki Tavo, we read the verse (Devarim 28:2), “And all these blessings will come upon you and they will reach you.” Later on (Devarim 28:15), we also find with regard to the curses: “And all these curses will come upon you and they will reach you.” Commentators have, over the ages, wondered about this peculiar redundancy.
A comment offered by R. Avraham Aharon Yudelevitz (1850 – 1930) in his Beit Av regarding the verse (Vayikra 26:5), “And you will eat your bread and be satisfied,” can clarify the above redundancy. Sometimes one may have an abundance of blessings, but he is not satisfied, in which case the blessings are virtually wasted on him. On the other hand, some may have a fraction of the blessings and be immensely satisfied, making them very happy. In this vein, if all blessings “come upon you,” but they do not “reach you,” i.e. the recipient does not appreciate the blessings, then they are wasted. Only if blessings are appreciated can the recipient be considered as truly blessed. On the other side of the coin, R. Yudelevitz points out that if one is, G-d forbid, cursed with hardships to impart to him a message but the message passes him by, then too, the hardships are wasted. If hardships “come upon you” but they do not “reach you” for their accompanying message and meaning does not “reach” the recipient, then stronger messages may be needed. It is preferable that the message accompanying hardships reach the recipient sooner rather than later.
In his talks, the well-known rosh yeshiva of Aish HaTorah, R. Noach Weinberg was wont to tell of a long-haired Jewish boy whom he invited to study at his yeshiva. The boy told him that he had no need for it since he and G-d were already “real tight” anyway. “Like this,” he said, twisting his index and middle fingers together. In response to R. Weinberg’s query as to how he came to such a conclusion, the boy went on to tell him of his riding down a mountain rode one time on his motorcycle. While proceeding on the road, a huge truck came around a sharp turn – in his lane – heading straight at him. He plunged over a cliff. However, miraculously, he caught unto a tree branch that he held unto for dear life, saving his life, while his motorcycle crashed and burst into flames. “That’s how I know,” the boy concluded, “that me and the L-rd are real tight, if you know what I mean.” R. Weinberg then responded, “The L-rd definitely put that tree branch right there to save you. But tell me, who sent that monster truck that drove you off the road? Maybe the L-rd was trying to tell you something. Maybe he was sending you a message.”
It is of utmost importance to get the message. When blessings “come upon you,” they should also “reach you.” One should appreciate the blessings received and appreciate the source from Whom they come – G-d. We should appreciate G-d’s blessings if we want Him to continue them. Similarly, when hardships “come upon you,” they should “reach you.” One should contemplate why he or she is being faced with a given challenge – what warrants improvement. We need to understand what G-d wishes to inform us when we are faced with a small challenge to avoid G-d’s having to impart his message via a harsher challenge. We need to get the message – for our sake.