Hashem is the Source of Blessing
The Torah states, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you hearken to the commandments of the L-RD your G-d…and the curse, if you do not hearken to the commandments of the L-RD your G-d” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). Some questions arise when we examine these verses, while at the same time some moral lessons become clear.
First of all, the text begins with the singular re’eh (“see”), yet it continues in the plural and finishes in the same way: “That I present lifneichem [before you] today” (v.32). Secondly, why does the text have to say that Hashem will send us a curse? If He sends us a blessing when we perform His commandments, it is obvious what will happen if we fail to perform them. That is, since the very opposite of a blessing would come upon us in that case, why the need to explicitly mention a curse? Thirdly, the way that the blessing is formulated in the text differs from the way the curse is formulated. For the curse, the verse states: “And the curse, if you do not hearken to the commandments.” Hence the blessing should also have been formulated in the same way, namely: “If you hearken” (as opposed to “that you hearken”). This implies that we will certainly receive a blessing!
From this text we learn just how good Hashem is and how much goodness He bestows upon His creatures. As the Ramak said, “One who is good is accustomed to doing good.” Therefore nothing bad will ever come from Hashem; He only sends us what is good. In the natural order of things, everyone wants to live in peace and tranquility. There is almost no one on earth who wants to experience hardship and have Hashem send him misfortune and suffering. In fact we pray each day to avoid such things when we recite, “Do not bring us into sin…or into temptation.” Normally when a person experiences some hardship or problem, he quickly loses his calm and says, “I can’t overcome this! It’s ruining my life! How can I continue to live like this?” His life ends up in complete turmoil, to the point that his faith in Hashem begins to diminish. On the other hand, everyone must realize that Hashem does not bring hardship upon a person if he cannot withstand it. As the Sages have said in explaining the verse, “He gives snow like wool” (Psalms 147:16), if Hashem sends a person snow and frost, He also compensates by sending wool to cover and warm him. If some misfortune or problem arises for a person, Hashem knows that he is capable of overcoming it and can continue serving Him with all his 248 limbs and 365 sinews.
Furthermore, it often happens that a person is inundated with hardships, leaving him with the impression that he is actually being cursed. He feels that, far from such events being good, they are actually curses, ones that have come upon him because he has not been worthy of G-d’s love. This is not true in the least! We must understand that even events that appear to be a curse are only a blessing, meaning that Hashem does not bring curses upon men. Instead, if a person experiences some tragedy or mishap, he must realize that Hashem only wants his good, as we are taught: “Whatever the All Merciful does is for the good” (Berachot 60b). As we have said, nothing bad comes from Hashem, only good. Therefore whatever appears to be a curse is but a blessing from Him. If we look closely, we will see that all this appears in the verses we shall soon cite.
The Torah states, “I present before you today a blessing and a curse” (Deuteronomy 11:26). This means that even something that we believe is a curse is nothing but a blessing. In fact Hashem wants to give us nothing but blessings. This is why the verse states with respect to the blessing, “that you hearken,” for the Holy One, blessed be He, truly wants to bestow every possible good upon us. He knows that we will certainly obey His words and carry out His commandments. This is why He tells us “the blessing, that you obey,” for we shall certainly receive blessings because we will, in fact, obey His words and carry out His commandments to perfection.
However if a person wants blessings to rest upon him, he must make himself into “vessel that can contain blessings.” He must prepare himself to be a vessel for the blessings that Hashem will pour upon him. How can a person do this? Two things are needed, both of which are mentioned in the verses that we have cited.
The first, which is a well-known requirement, is Torah study. When a person engages in Torah study, he receives all the blessings mentioned in the Torah. This is because the Torah itself is a source of blessing. Hence Hashem will definitely pour an abundance of blessings upon a person when he studies it. The second requirement is unity. When Jews are perfectly united, when they express their love for one another and are guarantors for each other, Hashem sends blessings upon them in abundance. Not only that, but no nation can stand up to them.
The verse testifies to this by using the singular re’eh (“see”). This means that if we are all united, Hashem will place before us – before all the Jewish people – an abundance of blessings. Furthermore, when the Jewish people are united and some misfortune occurs to an individual, another person will come and encourage him. That individual will then realize that his problem is not so serious, and he will regain courage.
Although we will certainly merit blessings when we hearken to Hashem’s voice, we must still ask ourselves what will happen if we don’t obey Him. If the Torah had not stated, “The curse, if you do not hearken,” a person could think: “I’ll do whatever I want and nothing will happen to me.” It is in response to such an attitude that the verse states: If you do not hearken to the voice of Hashem, you will receive curses from Him, for Hashem does not forgo His demands. As the Sages have said: “Anyone who says that the Holy One, blessed be He, is disregarding [of sin], his life may be disregarded” (Bava Kama 50a).
Consequently we should learn a life lesson here, as well as a moral teaching. In other words we must study Torah, live in harmony with one another, obey Hashem’s voice and perform His commandments to perfection. In this way we will become suitable vessels for containing blessing, and we will merit the blessings of Hashem for all time.