Parshaa - Ki Savo 5762
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann
Counting Our Blessings
After listing twelve categories of sin which bring, G-d forbid, curse
and destruction, the Torah then describes the opposite - the blessings
and goodness which will befall those who diligently guard and uphold
its mitzvos. "And it shall be that if you diligently listen to the voice of
Hashem, your G-d, to observe and perform all His mitzvos... then all
these blessings will come upon you and overtake you, if you listen to
the voice of Hashem. (28:1-2)" What does it mean that the blessings
of the Torah will "overtake you?" Why couldn't the pasuk (verse)
simply say, "then all these blessings will come upon you?"
The story is told of a violent flood that threatened to drown anyone
who didn't escape the deluged town within a short time. One by one,
rescue teams succeeded in locating the town's inhabitants and
bringing them to safety. All available means of rescue were used; they
came with canoes, with motorboats, by foot, and with helicopters. Yet
as each rescue team succeeded in saving more and more of the
panic-stricken townsfolk, one brave man simply refused to take
refuge, even as the waters rose until they threatened to drown him.
When the canoes came to rescue, he would not get in: "Take the
others," he said, "and don't worry about me. I have faith - Hashem will
save me!" When the motor boats took away hundreds more, he
refused to join them. "Go ahead," he said, "Hashem will take care of
me!" Even as a helicopter courageously rescued the town's last
stranded inhabitants perched precariously in the branches of a tree,
he remained steadfast. "Go along now - you see Hashem has helped
me stay alive to this point. I have complete faith - He will take care of
Of course, the brave man ultimately drowns; the flood's only casualty.
His neshama (soul) ascends upon high, where he is brought before
the Heavenly tribunal. He is crushed. "Almighty G-d," he pleads, "if I
may be so bold as to ask a question?"
"Ask My son."
"Hashem, I trusted You. When everyone else was scrambling aboard
boats and helicopters to save their lives, I never wavered in my faith.
How could You let this happen to me? Everyone else survived, yet I
"My dear child," replies the Almighty, "Who do you think it was that
sent you the canoe, and the motor-boat, and the helicopter?"
A pious disciple of the holy Choize (Seer) of Lublin zt"l once came to
his Rebbe after having spent an extended period in his court. The
time had come for him to return home. "Rebbe," he said, "I have only
one request: For many years I have fasted and abstained from worldly
pleasures in the hope that the holy prophet Eliyahu would one day
reveal himself to me as he reveals himself to the righteous of each
generation, as the Rebbe surely knows. I pray each day that I may
meet the holy prophet even once in my life. Yet I grow older, and I
have yet to see him. Please, Rebbe, bless me that I too may with my
own eyes see the holy Eliyahu at least once!"
The Choize's reply was cryptic at best, and did little to allay the
distraught disciple's longing: "And when one does see Eliyahu
HaNavi - one still needs to have sense..."
On his way home, the disciple stayed overnight in a small village.
When he got up in the morning, the lobby of the inn where he
lodged, which also housed the village shul, was bustling with people.
It seemed one of the villagers had been blessed with a son, and today
was the bris milah (circumcision). After the morning prayers, the
assembled waited until all was ready. "Baruch Ha-Ba!" cried out the
mohel. Everything went as expected. The child was brought in, placed
in the lap of the sandek, and final preparations were hurriedly made.
It was then that the guest witnessed the strangest thing; so strange
he was sure at first his eyes were deceiving him. Just as the mohel
was about to perform the circumcision, another man walked in, took
the baby from the sandek, and sat down in the sandek's lap, holding
the baby in his arms. There the two grown men sat, one in the
other's lap, as the bris milah was performed. After its conclusion, the
second man stood up, replaced the child in the first man's lap, gave
the child a blessing, and left.
Unable to restrain his wonder, the guest turned to one of the villagers
and exclaimed, "That's the strangest custom I've ever seen! Who ever
heard of such a thing?"
"To what do you refer?" asked the bewildered villager.
"What's this business about the two sandeks sitting on each other's
lap? And why did the second sandek just come and go like that? Is
this some kind of obscure village custom?"
"Excuse me? Two sandeks - in each other's lap? What in the world are
you talking about?"
He excitedly asked everyone within earshot whether they had seen the
spectacle, yet none had. "How strange," he thought, "how totally
strange." It was then that he recalled the mysterious words of his
Rebbe, "And when one sees Eliyahu HaNavi - one still needs to have
seichel..." "Here I was, witnessing Eliyahu, the 'Angel of bris milah,'
with my own eyes, yet all I could think of was how strange and bizarre
were the people of this village. Indeed, one still needs sense!"
It's one thing to receive Hashem's blessings. To realize and recognize
that we are the recipients of blessing is a blessing in itself. One could
live what many would consider a blessed life, yet while away his time
waiting for blessings to come, never realizing that he's had them all
along. One who's healthy often takes his health for granted. "Of
course I'm healthy - why shouldn't I be?" There's so much we take for
granted; our children, our spouses, our friends, our freedom,
Shabbos, Yom Tov... every day, Hashem's blessings await us in ways
we may never have even considered. Yet often we lack the foresight
and wisdom to recognize them as such, and be thankful for them,
focusing (and sometimes obsessing!) instead on the "blessings" we
have yet to acquire, be they material or even spiritual in nature.
While there's nothing wrong with ambition, it's important to recognize
the natural tendency we have to overlook the blessings in our lives
and focus instead on the perceived blessings we see by others and
hope ourselves to acquire. "For each breath that you take, praise G-
d," teach our Sages (Bereishis Rabbah 14:9). All these blessings will
come upon you - the Torah promises blessings and goodness will be
the lot of those who keep its mitzvos. And (they will) overtake you -
not only will the Torah be the source of blessing for you; it will also
give you the insight and discernment to recognize and appreciate the
blessings you have.
Have a good Shabbos.
****** This week's publication is sponsored by Mr. Hershy
Weinberg, in memory of the holy members of his father's
and mother's families who perished in the Holocaust. L'iluy
nishmas the mishpachos of R' Meshulam Zalman ben R'
Yisrael Avraham, and Chaya Sura bas R' Chaim Tzvi Aryeh
Ha-Cohen Berkstein. May Hashem avenge their blood, and
may their memories be a blessing. ******