How Does a Blessing Turn Into a Curse?

Cursed be he who strikes his fellow in secret. Cursed be he who takes a bribe to put an innocent person to death. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ Cursed be he who does not uphold the words of this Torah, to fulfill them. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ [Deuteronomy. 27: 24-26]
Sometimes the Torah is extremely difficult to read. This week’s portion of Ki Tovoh, When You Will Come, is the prime example. Over 63 verses, the Torah rains down every curse imaginable. Most of the curses follow a pattern: G-d provides plenty for the Children of Israel, only to have that grabbed by their enemies. The best example from the classics is Sisyphus, the evil and crafty king who plotted murder and theft and was punished by being forced to push a boulder up a steep hill only to see it roll down before he gets to the top.
How can a blessing turn into a curse? Say, you have been blessed with a beautiful, rich and intelligent woman who agrees to marry you. After a year or two, you can’t stand her. Her intelligence is annoying, her money makes you feel small, and her beauty arouses your suspicion.
One day in the not-too-distant future, historians will examine the State of Israel in 2023. Those with intellectual honesty will write that Israel marked the exception of any other nation in history. This was a rich state, with the second highest number of billionaires per capita, swelling with offshore energy, technology, tourists and food. It was a major supplier to the region. After decades of war, the State of Israel achieved peace with virtually all of its Arab neighbors and even maintained secret alliances with such longtime sworn enemies as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. You couldn’t find this in a science fiction movie.
So, how did it happen that this incredibly blessed state was plunged into chaos, hate and division? How did a wealthy elite choose to throw it all away and threaten to destroy the only land of the Jews?
Rabbi Abraham Mordechai Alter was the head of the Gur hasidic sect, known by his famous work, Imrei Emet, or Words of Truth. He was the fourth rebbe of Gur — from 1905 to 1948. The sage earned his namesake. Like the patriarch Abraham, Rabbi Alter fled the German killing machine in Poland during World War II and escaped to Palestine. He died during the Arab siege of Jerusalem in June 1948 and was buried in the courtyard of his yeshiva.
Rabbi Abraham’s father, Yehuda Aryeh Lieb Alter, was known as by his tract Sfat Emet, or Lip of Truth. Born in 1847, he eventually led tens of thousands of hasidim in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. After refusing the mantle of leadership, he became the rebbe of Gur in 1870 and set about teaching his flock Torah, Mitzvot and faith in G-d. He stressed that one of the greatest obstacles to a righteous life is that people fear having a relationship with G-d. Yehuda Aryeh Lieb died during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 at age 57, exhausted from trying to save his young followers from being grabbed off the streets and sent to the front in Manchuria.
The senior rebbe talked about the words in Psalms 116 Ana Hashem, “Please G-d,” the appeal of every believing Jew. Reb Aryeh Leib said those words could do anything. The full sentence is “Please G-d, for I am your servant.” When said with humility, G-d is prepared to make any miracle for His children.
But what happens when those same people are crass, ego-driven and care only for themselves. Then, all their money and friends will not be able to stop their downfall. Under those circumstances, their prayers are meaningless.
Liel Liebovitz is one of the leading journalists in the American Jewish community. Born in Tel Aviv, he is the editor of The Tablet, a hard-hitting daily report that defies woke to report on what’s truly happening in America, Israel and the rest of the world. In late August 2023, Liebovitz, who has written several books, described the anti-Semitic campaign against Orthodox Jews in the mainstream Western-funded media — whether Haaretz in Israel or the New York Times in the U.S.
“It’s open season on religious Jews.” [1]
And then there are curses that turn out to be blessings. The rejection from an Ivy League university that at first crushes your ego. But that’s followed by an offer to train you on the job. Instead of tests, you get a salary and paid vacation.
How about the Internet advertisement that promises you a motorcycle for $50 — while supplies last. You rush to type your credit card details only to find that you’re maxxed out. Bad, right? Two days later, you read that the offer was a scam by some guys in China, and that the “lucky ones” are now rushing to change all their personal details before they find nothing left in their bank account.
There is no question that the current chaos in Israel is a blessing in disguise. Yes, it has all the elements of an anti-Semitic campaign that you would find in Europe in 1930s. The difference is that a large portion of those on the streets is Jews. And while they are hurling threats and invectives at the devout, questions seep in.
–Why am I Jewish?
–Why should I be Jewish?
–Why should I stay in a country of Jews?
–Why am I even asking myself these questions?
And then things begin to happen. G-d helps you clear the clutter of hate in your brain to let in some love for your brothers. You will accept the latest invitation to spend a Shabbat with your parents. You will get away from your friends to sneak into a synagogue to hear what they are saying to G-d. And you find yourself saying Ana Hashem.
The Talmud in the tractate Sanhedrin ends with a long dispute over a simple question: How will the Messiah come? Will all of Israel have to repent? Or, that won’t matter?
The conclusion is that all Israel will repent. Hopefully, it will be out of love and respect. But if not, G-d will bring us such troubles that even the most defiant of us will shout, “Anything but this!”
And today, that’s what all of us are coming to agree upon.

1. “Admit it: You hate religious Jews.” Liel Liebovitz. Tablet. Aug. 23, 2023.]

About the Author
Steve Rodan has been a journalist for some 40 years and worked for major media outlets in Israel, Europe and the United States. For 18 years, he directed Middle East Newsline, an online daily news service that focused on defense, security and energy. Along with Elly Sinclair, he has just released his first book: In Jewish Blood: The Zionist Alliance With Germany, 1933-1963 and available on Amazon.