Parashas Re’eh

This week’s parashah begins (Devarim 11:26-27): “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing – that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God, that I command you today. And the curse – if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God ….” The Midrash expounds (Devarim Rabbah 4:1):
Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: “It is not to do you evil that I gave you blessings and curses. Rather, it is to inform you what is the proper path for you to choose and thereby receive reward. From where do we know this? From that which is written: “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.”
We previously presented an explanation by the Maggid of this Midrash taken from Ohel Yaakov, parashas Re’eh. We now present another explanation, taken from Ohel Yaakov, parashas Eikev.
As a rule, a curse does not produce a blessing. For example, some people try to make a living by stealing and cheating, thereby bringing a curse on others, but in end they do not benefit from their evildoing. Thus the Midrash teaches (Vayikra Rabbah 15:7): “Blessings bring blessing, and curses bring curse. It is written (Devarim 25:15): ‘A perfect and honest weight shall you have.’ If you act accordingly, you will have what to do business with. And it is written just before (ibid. 25:13): ‘You shall not have in your pouch one weight and another – a large one and a small one.’ If you do, you will not have what to do business with.” Similarly, Shlomo HaMelech declares (Mishlei 12:27): “A deceitful person will not get to roast his catch.”
As another example, in the account of the flood, the Torah states (Bereishis 8:14): “In the second month, on the twenty-seventh of the month, the earth dried up.” The Midrash remarks (Bereishis Rabbah 33:12): “It became like a parched field. They planted it and nothing sprouted. Why? Because the flood rains were a curse and a curse does not lead to a blessing. They waited until it rained, and then they planted again.”
The Gemara teaches (Berachos 58a): “When Babylonia is cursed, its neighbors are cursed. When Shomron [in Eretz Yisrael] is cursed, its neighbors are blessed.” Now, we just explained that curses do not lead to a blessing. It must be, then, that the curses brought on Shomron were not really curses. In general, any curse brought upon the Jewish People is ultimately for their good. This is the basic message of the Midrash we quoted at the outset.
Rav Flamm, the redactor of Ohel Yaakov, directs us to a discussion of the above-quoted Gemara in the work Maon HaBerachos by Rav Yisrael Yonah Landau (died 1824). The discussion begins with an explanation of Yirmiyah 14:19-22 that Rav Landau related in the name of “a certain scholar,”and Rav Flamm tells us that this scholar is the Maggid. With Hashem’s help, I was able to locate the work Maon Berachos, and so I present the explanation here.
Yirmiyahu pleaded before Hashem:
Do you utterly despise Yehudah, do you loathe Tziyon? Why have You smitten us in such a way that we have no cure? … Do not annul Your covenant with us. Are there bringers of rain among the inanities of the nations? Will the heavens bring forth raindrops? Surely it is You, Hashem, our God, and we place our hope in You, for You do all these things.
The explanation of this passage is developed, in the Maggid’s typical style, through a parable. A certain man had an only son, for whom he hired a private tutor. The tutor was strict, and often beat the boy. Once the boy misbehaved during mealtime, and the father got angry and sent him away from the table. In order to cause the boy extra grief, the father ordered that the boy’s portion be given to the tutor, along with the tutor’s own regular portion. The boy peered into the room through a window, and when he saw his portion being given to the tutor, he rejoiced. The father asked: “Why are you so happy?” The son replied: “At first I thought that you had sent me away for good, but now that I see that you are keeping my tutor here and giving him food, I understand that you plan to bring me back.”
The parallel is as follows. Because we rebelled against Hashem, He sent us into exile. And we see that while He refrains from granting us bounty, He dispenses blessing generously to the nations that oppress us. In the case of Shomron, it was Assyria, the rod of Hashem’s wrath (Yeshayah 10:5), and there have been many others over the course of history. Seeing the success that our oppressors enjoy could well be cause for grief. But we know that the bounty they receive does not come from the false gods they worship; rather, Hashem is surely the One who grants it to them. And we continue to hope in Him. Indeed, we are consoled by Hashem’s beneficence to our oppressors, for it is a sign that He has not despisingly cast us away, but instead wishes to continue disciplining us, and plans eventually to gather us back from exile.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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