Bechukotai 5774 – Blessings and Curses

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This week’s Torah reading, Bechukotai, contains the tokecha, the “rebuke.” God tells us if we follow the rules, things will be good for us and we’ll enjoy blessings.  And if we don’t follow the rules, things will be bad.  REALLY bad.  One verse says we’ll be eating our children. I never could connect with that verse — I’d starve to death before I’d do that.

The curses take up WAY more space than blessings.  It’s like a couple of paragraphs of blessing, and pages of curses.  Why the discrepancy? Why don’t blessings get equal time?

R. Baruch haLevi Epstein (Lithuanian rabbi 1860 – 1941) brings an interesting reason.  What he says is that in essence there’s a “multiplier effect” to curses.  If you have a blessing that’s good, but what it adds to you is that one blessing.  But if you have a curse, a curse it not just one curse — it can take away a lot of blessings as well.  If you have a blessing, say money, that’s great, but that’s all it is, one blessing.  But if, God forbid, you get hit with a curse, it can wipe out your blessings too.  A serious illness, for example can ruin your whole life.  So the greater attention to curses reflects this “multiplier effect” of curses.

We also can see this in how sometimes people will focus on the negative.  Years ago when I was working for a government contractor a colleague had a sign over his desk showing a harassed looking worker… “One ‘aw ****’ wipes out 1,419 ‘attaboys.'”

It may not be fair — but it does seem to be the way the world is wired.  So the Torah gives more weight to the curses to encourage us to avoid behavior that would lead to being cursed — so that we’ll be able to enjoy the blessings that we do have.

May God grant you many blessings and may you avoid the curses!

Shabbat Shalom,

Reb Barry

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