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Hidden Blessings
by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
There are two sections of the Torah where G-d admonishes the Jewish people in the harshest of terms. Some of the most unthinkable curses are mentioned as possible punishments should the Jewish people stray from the ways of the Torah. The first such account of an admonition occurs in this week’s Torah portion, Bechukotai.

How can a compassionate father subject His children to such horrific suffering? The punishments do not seem to fit the crime, no matter how far the Jewish people may have strayed.

This question most likely prompted our Sages, particularly the Chassidic Masters, to conclude that these curses are actually hidden blessings. They are hidden ways of stating the incredible rewards G-d has in store for us. And these hidden blessings will fully materialize at the time of the final Redemption.

Chassidic literature abounds with examples of how G-d cloaks some of the most powerful spiritual forces in unsuspecting places. Some things are just too powerful to be expressed in conventional terms. Many Chassidic Masters have attempted to interpret the “curses” as blessings. These ingenious and “creative” interpretations were not just exercises in mental gymnastics, but, rather, a sincere attempt to reveal the existence of powerful positive energy that we know lies beneath the surface. And when we discover that hidden dimension and reveal it, it helps to actualize the positive energy itself.

One of the most horrific curses in the Torah portion is, “You will eat the flesh of your sons, and you will eat the flesh of your daughters.”

This verse poses a real challenge. How can we interpret eating our children in a positive fashion?

In Chassidic literature, when the Torah speaks of fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, it also carries an allegorical meaning. In Kabbala we are taught that our personalities are divided into two general categories: intellect and emotions.

Although we are a composite of intellectual and emotional faculties, the objective is for the intellectual faculties to exercise control over the emotional ones. A child will explode in anger for the most insignificant insult. The child does not have the intellectual capacity to control and temper his or her emotions. As we mature, however, we learn to shape our emotional response based on reason and understanding. In this way, intellect “gives birth” to emotions.

Our ultimate goal is for our emotions to be totally consumed by the intellect. This means that the emotions are in complete harmony with what is objectively proper. It is not that one’s emotions, such as love and reverence, cease to exist. What changes is that the love is unadulterated, solely focused and directed at the right things. We love G-d, Torah, our fellow, and all that is objectively good. There is synchronicity in our lives that renders our emotions pure.

This will be the ideal state of affairs we will experience in the Messianic Age. In that era, the world will be inundated with the knowledge of G-d, as the prophet Isaiah declares (cited by Maimonides at the very end of his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah): “And the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea.”

But this heightened level of knowledge will also change the way we behave and even the way we feel. Thus, Maimonides states, in conjunction with that prophecy of heightened knowledge, that there will be no more jealousy and division amongst people. With our knowledge (read: our spiritual fathers and mothers, the soul’s intellectual faculties) in tune with the reality of G-d’s existence as will occasion the Messianic Age, our emotional faculties (read: our spiritual children) will be said to have been “eaten” and “consumed” by our “fathers.” It will be a perfect and harmonious world—where all the curses associated with exile will be transformed into ultimate blessings.


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