Parshios Netzavim & Vayeilech
Blessing As A Precursor of Teshuva
By Rabbi Yissocher Frand
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 737, Borrowing and Lending Seforim. Good Shabbos!
Parshas Nitzavim follows the Tochacha of Parshas Ki Savo and contains its own set of curses. After all of these curses, a pasuk [verse] towards the end of the parsha says: “And it will be when all these things come upon you – the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you – then you will take it to your heart among all the nations where Hashem your G-d has dispersed you; and you will return unto Hashem your G-d and listen to His voice, according to everything that I commanded you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul.” [Devorim 30:1-2].
In essence, you will see all the terrible things that happen to you and it will shake you up, causing you to repent. However, it seems strange that included in the things that will cause you to repent are both “the BLESSINGS and the curses.” Why were blessings included in this formulation? Usually blessings are NOT an incentive to do Teshuva [repent].
We understand how Tzoros [troubles] lead to repentance. When a person experiences troubles, he begins to introspect. He asks “Why is this happening to me?” Sickness, curses, and problems are motivations for a person to examine his ways and perhaps change them. But it seems difficult to understand that Blessings should be lumped into the same category with Curses as a precursor of Teshuva.
In fact, some commentaries interpret that the pasuk is referring to someone who first was blessed and then had things turn bad for him. The contrast from the prior blessings to the present curses is what prompts the introspection leading to repentance.
The Shemen HaTov offers a different interpretation. The Shemen HaTov interprets the word “Bracha” [blessings] in a straight forward manner and says that sometimes blessings can be a reason for repentance as well. If someone has it so great and everything is going so well, that Bracha should be an inspiration for a person to do Teshuvah.
A person must ask himself: “Why are things going so well? Is it because I am such a righteous person? Is it because I am so much smarter than the competition?” A person can see the multiplicity of blessings that surround him in his life and his reaction should be: “The Almighty is being very good to me. It is about time that I shaped up.” It is really our decision. “When all these things come upon you, the Blessing and the Curse,” it is up to you to decide what is going to be your motivation to repent. If you react to the blessing and ask, “The Almighty is being so good to me, how can I repay Him?” then you may be able to repent before ever having to suffer the curses.
The Chofetz Chaim was once overheard speaking to G-d: “Master of the Universe, You have done so much for me already. I have written the Sefer Shmiras HaLashon. I have written the Mishneh Berura. You have done so much for me already, what can I do for you already?”
If we ever wrote the Mishneh Berura, most likely our attitude would be, “Look, G-d, I wrote the Mishneh Berura. I made Orach Chaim learnable! You owe me! I resuscitated the mitzvah of Guarding One’s Tongue. Now it’s my turn!”
The Chofetz Chaim looked at it from a totally different perspective. I had the merit to write Shmiras HaLashon and Mishneh Berura. This was only because of G-d’s kindness to me to allow this to happen. What can I now do for G-d?
This is how we must look at Blessing. When all these matters befall you – the BLESSING and the curse, then you shall return to G-d and hearken to His voice.
The Shemen HaTov relates this concept to the Friday night Shabbos Zemiros: “Kol Mekadesh Shvi’i” [All Who Sanctify the Seventh Day]: “Extend Your kindness to those who know You, O jealous and vengeful G-d”. It seems incongruous that the “jealous and vengeful G-d” is being invoked to extend chessed [kindness]. What does this mean?
The Shemen HaTov explains that we are praying to the attribute of Jealousy and Vengence to shake us up so that we may repent. But there are two ways in which we may be shaken up. We can receive the “wake up call” either through punishment or through being showered with goodness. We beseech that the “wake up call” come through kindness and Chessed even when we are not behaving right and perhaps deserve to be punished. We may be inspired to Teshuva through Bracha (blessing) or Kelala (curse). We ask G-d to try the method of Bracha. Hopefully that will suffice to achieve our proper repentance.
Unfortunately, most people do not react that way to blessing. They say “My strength and the might of my hand, made for me all this great wealth.” People turn to religion in the foxholes, the hospitals, and the houses of mourning. People do not generally turn to religion in their $50,000 cars or in their skybox seats. It does not need to be like that. We ask G-d, even though he is Jealous and Vengeful, to try the method of kindness first, in fulfillment of the prophecy, “The BLESSING and the Curse will come upon you… And you will return to the L-rd your G-d…”
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion. The halachic topics dealt with in the portion of Nitzavim-Vayelech in the Commuter Chavrusah Series are the following:
Tape # 022 – Reading Haftorah: Scrolls vs. Book
Tape # 112 – Shoteh: Mental Incompetence in Halacha
Tape # 158 – Schar Shabbos: How Do We Pay Rabbonim and Chazzanim?
Tape # 205 – Kiddush Before T’kiyas Shofar
Tape # 252 – Buying Seforim
Tape # 295 – Burying the Dead on Yom Tov Sheni
Tape # 341 – The Brachos on the T’kios
Tape # 342 – Is Building a Succah a Mitzvah?
Tape # 385 – Fasting on Rosh Hashana
Tape # 386 – Succah Gezulah
Tape # 429 – Treatment of an Invalid Sefer Torah
Tape # 473 – Seudas Siyum Mesechta
Tape # 517 – What Exactly Is Mitzva of Shofar
Tape # 561 – Lo Bashomayin He
Tape # 605 – Selling A Sefer Torah
Tape # 649 – Minhagim of the Yomim Noraim
Tape # 693 – My Father’s Chumros
Tape # 737 – Borrowing and Lending Seforim
Tape # 781 – I’m the Baal Tokeah and Not You!
Tape # 825 – The Shuls of Gaza – A Halachic Perspective
Tape # 826 – Yom Kippur: Women and the Shehecheyanu; Women and Kor’im
Tape # 869 – Mitzvah of Chinuch – Whose Responsibility? Mother or Father?
Tape # 870 – Yom Kippur – The Yom Kippur That They Did Not Fast
Tape # 913 – The Tefilah of Oleinu
Tape # 957 – Coming Late for Tekias Shofar and Other Rosh Hashana Issues
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