by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"And all the blessings will come upon you, and overtake you..." [28:2]
The language of this verse is very surprising. We are always anxious to see
blessings. Who would not want to win the lottery? So why, then, does the
Torah talk about blessings which "come upon us" as if we weren't looking
for them, and "overtaking us" as if we were even running away?
The Sha'ar Bas Rabim answers: many times, people run away from something
which is actually good for them, but they do not recognize as such. Since
they do not see the good which will come from it, they think it is bad and
attempt to escape it. Thus the Torah tells us that G-d will be so anxious
to bless us, that the blessings will pursue us and "overtake" us, even if
we try to run away.
This is the flip side of that which Rav Frand quoted from Rabbi Berel Wein
in this week's RavFrand class: that people can receive terrific blessings
which they are not "equipped to handle" such as movie stars and athletes
(and, incidentally, lottery winners) who are often found to be miserable,
divorced several times, finding that their "blessed" wealth helped to ruin
That which appears to be a blessing may be a curse, while, at the same
time, that which appears to be a curse may be a blessing.
The Sha'ar Bas Rabim explains that this was King David's prayer in the
Psalm [23:6], "May only good and kindness pursue me all the days of my
life." His prayer was: may good and kindness pursue me, even when I do not
realize what they are and run away. (And, of course, may they be the only
things to pursue me.)
Today, my wife (a teacher in a local Jewish day school) brought home a book
from the school library entitled "The Other Side of the Story" [Yehudis
Samet, (c) 1996 Mesorah Publications (ArtScroll)]. It is filled with true
stories and lessons concerning the Mitzvah to judge others favorably (Dan
L'Kaf Z'chus), and more than one of these will strike "close to home" for
most any reader.
It then occurred to me that there is a connection between the lesson of the
Sha'ar Bas Rabim, and this book because our tendency to judge others
unfavorably does not apply only to other human beings. We think we know so
well what is "good" for us, that we complain to G-d! Why didn't I win the
raffle? Why didn't this happen to me? Why did that happen to me?
[Of course, when we see this in other people, we leap to judge them
unfavorably. There are those who lived through and experienced things which
we did not experience at least in good part because G-d knows we could not
handle them. So we have no right to judge others in this area above all else!]
When we find this tendency in ourselves, we must turn to the lesson the
Torah is teaching us: G-d so wants to bless us, that He will send his
blessings out to overtake us. That which we pray for, which we think will
be so wonderful, might be a curse if it arrives when we are not equipped to
handle it -- but, on the other hand, might be a tremendous blessing only a
year later. Thus let us learn to be patient, to pray for our needs, and to
remember -- that G-d knows what is good for us far more than we, and is
anxious to send it our way.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis,Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.