Printed from

"May this year and its curses end..."

Thursday, 3 September, 2020 - 6:53 pm

 “May the year and its curses end.”  This is not just me venting and hoping, this is a quote from the Talmud (Megillah 31b)!  The Talmudic sage Abaye discusses the fact that this week's Parsha, Ki Tavo, is always read just before the end of the Jewish year.  Abaye states that this custom was established by the great leader and prophet Ezra (who brought the Jews back to Israel to build the second Holy Temple), in order that the year and its curses will end.  What exactly is the connection?  On a basic level, it is a symbolic thing: read the curses at the end of the year and get them out of the way to  start the new year with blessings.  An interesting explanation I read recently written by Rabbi Shneor Ashkenazi is that reading the curses can take the place of them actually occurring.  We find an example of this idea in the custom to read the laws of all the animal sacrifices that were offered when the Temple stood, every day before prayer.  At least on a spiritual level, it is considered as if we have brought the sacrifice.  Another interesting custom relating to this concept is “asking for 'lekach' (honey cake)” on Erev Yom Kippur.  This is a Chassidic custom, to actually ask someone for a piece of cake, so that if it was decreed that we need to beg this year, G-d forbid, this “begging” should free us up from the need to beg for the whole year.  The same can be said for reading the curses.  May the reading take the place of any potential curses.

There are many discussions in Torah, especially in Chassidus, of the deeper meaning of the curses and how they are hidden blessings.  But on the surface level, we experience these verses as curses, and we could all relate to the above Talmudic statement this year.  Global pandemic, isolation, racial unrest, rioting and anti-Semitism, a Chabad House burned down, other Jewish businesses destroyed, missiles and firebombs flying in Southern Israel, Synagogues and schools shuttered, constant fear of infection G-d forbid, economic hardship and fear of poverty, fires and smoke everywhere.  I think as a nation we are more polarized than ever, and this has spilled over unfortunately to the Jewish community, where we see brothers and sisters allowing their political views to drive wedges between them.  Seems like a lot of curses we have to leave behind.  At the same time, we must look forward with hope.   We can thank Hashem that we are alive and well enough to read this.  This is not the first time we have experienced years with great challenges.  Our sages taught that there is "a wheel that turns in the world."  When we are at the bottom of the cycle, we know that we will be turning upward.


Rosh Hashanah, and the month of Elul leading up to it, are the perfect time to do something about this.  As we say in the High Holiday prayers, this is the time when Hashem judges the world, and each person in it, for the entire year.  This idea conjures up images of a harsh judge looking for opportunities to smite people down, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth as the Torah describes it.  Hashem is a benevolent Creator who cares for each and every one of His children.  He wants us to turn to Him and, as is discussed in Chassidus, He "accepts everyone with a smiling countenance."  Why then all the "tzores?"  I don't know, but this I do know: He wants us to pray to him and to do whatever we can to improve ourselves and the world around us.  He wants us to earn great blessings, and this can be done in two ways.  By increasing our merits - the Mitzvot, Torah study and actions that we do, and by prayer.  Just as a child can turn to his or her parent and ask for things just because they are their child, so we can turn to Hashem and ask for blessings just because we are His creations.


So I am encouraging you not to give up.  A new year is coming and we have the opportunity to ask Hashem for a much better one.  Let's do it together!  Over the next few weeks, increase your tzedakah giving.  Settle an old dispute and apologize to someone you have hurt.  Say a little extra tehillim (Psalms), be conscious of the Mitzvot you do every day, do a few more and give them more attention.  Spend some extra time studying Torah, especially the laws, customs and meanings of the upcoming holidays.  Upgrade the kosher status of your kitchen, get kosher Mezuzot for your doors.  These are all things that can be done "bite size" and don't require a complete makeover.  And plan to hear the Shofar this Rosh Hashanah, either at an outdoor, safe service or at a Shofar blowing in the park.  Prayer helps.  Prayer makes a difference!  Let's turn to our Father in Heaven and send our supplications for blessings and goodness, just because we are asking for it.  And let's hope for an end to the curses and a new beginning, a year of blessings, abundance and peace, a year of redemption with Moshiach.



Comments on: "May this year and its curses end..."
There are no comments.