Blessing and curses each carry Divine blessings

Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose is The Rabbi Bernard Lipnick Senior Rabbinic Chair at Congregation B’nai Amoona and a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association.

“See, behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.” (Sefer Devarim, Chapter 11, Verse 26)

The brilliant and iconoclastic Hassidic Master, Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav (1772-1810), shares an insightful and powerful interpretation of the opening verse of our weekly Torah Portion, Reeh, which warrants the careful consideration of spiritual seekers. (My free flow translation and interpretation of Likutey Moharan section 1:36:6 follows; all errors and omissions are my own!):

“Behold, before ‘you’ is a blessing and a curse. However, the light, the bounty, the blessing, which emerges from God is a pure, undifferentiated, and unvalenced light and this light appears as simple letters. It is, therefore, up to each human-being to connect these letters and they take shape only according to the capacity and orientation of the vessel, the individual, receiving the letters. If the person is good, the combination of the letters yields blessing, and if not, if the person is evil, then the opposite will occur and the result will be curses and negativity. For before God there is no combination of the letters and thus, there is no blessing or curse. That is, the blessing or the curse, are wholly dependent on the recipient, the individual!”

For me, this somewhat opaque and enigmatic interpretation of the opening verse of Parashat Reeh, contains great depth and profound meaning. Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our greatest of teachers, states, “Re’eh Anochi Noten Lifnaychem Hayom – Behold, I, God, am placing life circumstances in front of you, both Brachah Uklalah, blessings and curses.” Now, it is in your hands to decide which it will be! 

We all know that we cannot fully control what befalls us. Nonetheless, what we can choose is our reaction to these exigencies. In the words of the Torah, we choose whether what we encounter is a Brachah or a Klalah, a blessing or a curse. Moreover, we have another form of control. We have the ability to use the innate gifts, talents, predispositions and orientations (our Kelim, our vessels) that have been implanted within us by our Creator to process, categorize and channel the circumstances — both the adversities and triumphs -— of our lives so as to see the light, the letters, the messages that emerge from On-High and which are placed before us on a daily basis. 

At moments of challenge and reversal, we may wonder why we feel Hester Panim, that God is eclipsed and hidden from us. And in moments of triumph and elation, we may speculate that our successes are the result of our own self acquire capacities, Otzem Yadi. Our Torah, as understood by Reb Nachman, presents us with a clear choice. Do we choose to believe that we possess the vessels to see the active Hand of God when we achieve our hard-fought victories as well as the presence of Divine Blessing when we encounter disappointments, losses, and failures? 

As we prepare to publicly read Reeh this Shabbat, I invite you to join me in praying — thrice daily — for this kind of insight, clarity, and Amoona, faith, on a daily basis. Amen!