gap year in israel

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This week we read the Torah portions of Behar and Bechukotai. The latter portion discusses various curses that will come upon the people should they not act in accordance with the moral and ethical specifications of the Torah. If G-d is all good and loves His people as His children, how can we understand this notion of “curses”?

As we’ve just celebrated the holiday of Lag BaOmer which commemorates the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, let us look at an episode from his life to help us answer this question.

Rabbi Shimon once sent his son, Rabbi Elazar, to some distinguished sages to receive blessings. Rabbi Elazar returned and said that rather than bless him they had actually cursed him. Rabbi Shimon asked him to relate what they had said. Upon hearing their words, Rabbi Shimon told Rabbi Elazar that he had misunderstood. He began to show how what had seemed on the surface like curses were in fact blessings.

Let us use another example to illustrate. A team of doctors make first contact with a tribesman in the Amazon. Unbeknownst to him, he has severe afflictions that endanger his life. The team immediately set out to assist him. However, the language barrier prevents them from properly communicating with him. As a result, they are forced to pin him down in order to provide him with the urgent care he needs. “You savages!” he cries and wails. “Why are you hurting me?! What did I ever do to you?!”

We are like the primitive tribesman in the above example. We have limited understanding on the complexities of the world around us. Even with all our advancements and innovations, we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the mysteries of the universe. Due to our limited scope, we fail to realize how those things that seem like curses are indeed for our benefit. Rebbe Nachman famously said, “Where knowledge ends, faith begins.” May we merit to live by our faith until the time that we are able to see the blessings beneath the “curses” and may that be speedy.

– Rabbi Liad Braude

Behar and bechukotai