Transforming a Curse into a Blessing

Parshat Bechukotai starts off with the idea that if B’nai Yisrael follow the mitzvoth then God will give them blessings: rain, produce, bread and security in the Land of Israel.


However, if B’nai Yisrael don’t listen to God or follow the mitzvoth then there will be terror and swelling and fever that consume the eyes and fill the soul with grief. They will plant seeds in vain and their enemies will consume their crops. They will be defeated by their enemies.


In Vayikra,  26:31, 33-34 God talks about the destruction of the Land of Israel: “I will turn your cities into ruins and bring your sanctuaries into desolation…I will make the land so desolate that your enemies who live on it will be astonished. I will scatter you among the nations and unsheathe the sword after you. Your land will be desolate and your cities will be in ruins”


According to the Biur, since you are exiled from the land it will not retain its excellence and vigor. Indeed, just as I blessed it when you dwelt therein, so will I now divest it, until it becomes the reproach of all countries. Your enemies who will dwell in it will be stricken by dearth of everything and suffer all kinds of disease and plague, that they might realize that the desolation was caused by your sins.


At first this may seem like a curse, but if we look closely we can find a blessing behind the curse.


Rashi says that it is a good tiding for Israel, that the enemies would find no solace in the Israelite’s land, which would remain desolate of its Gentile inhabitants.


Ramban adds that since we left the Land of Israel, no nation has been accommodated by it. All have endeavored to settle it, but have failed.


Nechama Leibowitz points out that when Ramban visited Israel in 1265 and saw Jerusalem in its desolation with the entire land laid waste, he drew solace, viewing the land as an abandoned woman awaiting the return of her husband.


This past week I witnessed the modern day miracle of the return to our homeland firsthand.  I visited the Jezreel valley, a very fertile region during Biblical times which became malarial marshland which devoured its inhabitants, abandoned to the roaming nomads. It remained so until redeemed by Jewish toil which turned it once again into a flowering garden.


Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut where we proudly hung our Israeli flags outside of our windows declaring how grateful we are to have the State of Israel, the first flowerings of our redemption. We did not take those flags down after Yom HaAtzmaut, rather we keep them out until this coming week, when we will celebrate Jerusalem Day, Yom Yerushalayim and declare how grateful we are to have a united Jerusalem.


Each day we must count our blessings of having a modern State of Israel and a united Jerusalem as we move closer to the Final Redemption.