Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Torah portion of B'chukotai, contains both blessings and curses. In truth, both these phenomenon are acutely felt and experienced, but perhaps it is the deeper level that needs to be understood.
Both blessings and curses are more a function of perception and insight than of objective reality. One person’s physical reality will be experienced as a blessing by one and as a curse by the other. It is all a function of which eyes one is using.
Is the phenomenon of blessings and curses are simply a matter of reward and punishment? Perhaps, on a deeper level, it is about the experiential result of “walking with G-d” or of “not listening” to Him. Both those experiences are less about different realities but more about differing perceptions of that same reality.
We read in the Torah portion the following;
"And if in spite of these things ye will not be corrected unto Me, but will walk contrary (Keri) unto Me; then will I also walk contrary (Be-Keri) unto you; and I will smite you, even I, seven times for your sins." (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:23-24)
Maimonides in Hilkhot Ta'aniyot (1:3) translates ”keri” not as "contrary" or “odious" as some scholars do but rather as “happenstance”.
“But if people do not cry or sound the trumpets, and instead say, "This occurred to us as the natural way of the world, and this crisis surfaced by happenstance" – this is an attitude of cruelty, and it causes them to become attached to their evil ways, and this crisis will bring upon further crises. This is what is said in the Torah, "And if you act towards Me be-keri; then I, too, will act towards you in the wrath of keri." Meaning, when I bring a crisis upon you so that you repent, if you say that it occurs by happenstance, then I will add the wrath of that happenstance."
What Maimonides seems to be saying is that if the people react to the events of the world as if it is all “happenstance” then G-d will allow them to continue to experience the world in the random and happenstance fashion they have identified.
As a result of such a perception, the potential for evil and tragedy becomes increased.
Monstrous evil of all proportions, small and large are developed out of man's insatiable desire to see a world with no implications and therefore out of a need to see the world as "happenstance”. Such a world becomes free of conscience and moral imperatives.
This seemingly random spiral of evil and pain will continue until man returns the destiny of the world into its Divine tracks. It will continue until humanity begins to “walk with “ G-d towards a purposeful and determined destiny.
“If you walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them…” - then the perception of reality changes. That is experienced as a situation wherein "I will place My dwelling in your midst, and My Spirit will not reject you I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.”
Having a sense of walking within G-d’s purpose and destiny brings about an awareness of G-d’s Presence in all that one sees and experiences. Only with such eyes and perception can one become the vessel wherein blessing can flow in and fill
Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk one of the first spiritual “Zionists” finally fulfilled his dream to settle in the Land of Israel . Forty days after his arrival, he invited all of his family and students to a special festive meal.
During the meal, Rebbe Menachem Mendel recounted that before embarking on his trip he had gone to a pious and holy rabbi for a blessing. The Rabbi had informed him that on his arrival in the Land of Israel every stone will be a diamond! He related to his spellbound audience that on arriving he had looked and looked and all he had seen was…stones! Not a single diamond on the ground. He was devastated .
So fiercely did Rebbe Menachem Mendel believe in the promise that he would see diamonds that he fasted for forty days straight, eating only at night! On the fortieth day he opened his eyes, looked out of the window and saw…diamonds!
Yet he continued to live in poverty.
His wife asked him that if he saw diamonds in the ground, why did he not pick them up and bring them out of the state of poverty they were experiencing
Rebbe Menachem Mendel said, “ I now see the diamonds...but the storekeeper and the butcher still only see stones.”
LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved