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Parshat Ki Tavo (5760)

This section is unique because it contains ninety-eight curses awaiting the Jewish people if they refuse to serve G-d. Here the intelligent reader will probably ask himself, "Why so many curses?" Why can't G-d just make one big curse like: "If you don't do my commandments I'll do terrible things"? Why such morbid detail? Even more; in Parshat 'Bhaalotcha' (see our Torah website) G-d already gave us forty-nine curses! Why do we need another list twice as long?

I want to answer this with a story.

Once, some one hundred years ago, in a small house in the city of Baghdad, lived a young Jewish couple with their month-old baby. One Shabbat night after the husband had just left for the synagogue, the young mother noticed that her baby was breathing with difficulty. She went over to have a look only to discover that her child was burning with fever.

What could she do? It would be two hours till her husband returned home and who knows what could happen till then. But on the other hand, the nearest doctor was a fifteen-minute walk away and the streets of Baghdad were very dangerous for a young woman alone at night. She was desperate and each second that she helplessly watched her baby suffer made her more desperate.

Finally, not able to wait another instant, she ran to the closet, took out a dark coat, wrapped it around herself and rushed out into the street in the direction of the doctor's home. But after several minutes she heard footsteps behind her, someone was following her! Before she could turn around suddenly a large sack descended over her head, she was lifted in the air, tumbling over, and she fainted.

When she awoke she was laying on a fine carpet. Gradually she began to understand that she was in the palace of the Sultan himself.

"Please excuse the crude way you were brought here." The Sultan said. He was sitting on his throne and she gradually stood up to face him,

"You see I have been searching for a new wife to add to my harem, but such a beautiful one! And a Jewess at that! Ahh, I am very fortunate! And so are you! You will be my main wife! All that is here, and more will be yours! Power! Luxury! The finest silks, jewels, pleasures, all at your command." "I am sorry your royal highness," she almost interrupted, "I am a Jew, and I always be a Jew. I will never marry a non-Jew!"

"Ahhh. Very good! Excellent!" Exclaimed the Sultan "I thought you would tell me that you are already married, or that you don't like how I look, Ha Ha! Those things are difficult to change. But such a simple thing as religion! Ha Ha! That is nothing! Religion never stood in the way of love!"

"I would rather die than marry a non-Jew," she said firmly. "And the fact is that I am married! But even if I wasn't I would never marry a non-Jew," (She was shaking and scared but she had enough sense to try not to arouse the Sultan's wrath on her people) not even such a fine king as yourself."

"Put her in the tower till she changes her mind!!" Ordered the Sultan to his soldiers. Then turning to her with a kind look in his eye added, "I hope you change your mind. for the sake of both of us."

She was led out the palace doors and the palace gates to a high tower, up winding stairs, into a small room lined with fine carpets, the door was locked behind her and she was alone. "A rather luxurious jail" she thought to herself as she looked around at the carpets, and the small window about twenty feet up the wall. She knew that if she wanted to escape she had to work fast while it was still night and while she still had some strength. She rolled up three carpets and stood them on their ends under the window. Then she rolled up some smaller carpets and used them as a ladder to begin her climb to the top of the higher carpets until she was able to stand there, grab the corner of the window and lift herself to peek out. The window was bigger than she thought but looking down she almost lost her breath. It was a three-story drop! But on the other hand there were some bushes there, and maybe Gd would do a miracle, and in any case she really had no choice. She went back down, took one of the smaller carpets, pushed it up to the top and then into the window, thinking that maybe it would cushion her fall, managed to get inside, whispered 'SHMA YISROEL', grabbed onto the carpet and inclined her weight and .. She was falling!!!. In an instant she had hit the bushes with a terrible thud, she was terribly confused but .. She was alive!!!

It was nothing short of a miracle! The carpet and the bushes had broken her fall! Without thinking too much, she grabbed the carpet so as not to leave evidence and began to run home. Meanwhile her husband had arrived, found the feverish baby alone in the house and brought the doctor who lowered the fever. But where was his wife? He waited for several hours, even asked the Arab neighbors but no clue. Unable to rest he decided to take a walk to calm himself down.

After a few minutes he reached the river which was not far from his house, and immediately noticed that there was someone else there who was also pacing back and forth. Why . it was none other than the Sultan himself! When the Sultan passed him by he looked up at the Jew and said, "Ahhh! It's your Gd that punished me, what terrible luck!!! What a curse!!! Ahhh!"

"What happened, your majesty?" asked the Jew momentarily forgetting his own problems.

"I tried to steal a Jewish girl but she ran away and stole my carpet!! OOOH MY CARPET!!!"

"But, I don't understand, your majesty must have thousands of carpets?!" asked the Jew incredulously.

"Yes," the sultan answered almost crying, "But this carpet had all of my prize Jewels sewed into it!! OOOH!!"

Needless to say when our hero arrived home and found his wife sleeping soundly on the couch, a strange carpet thrown in the corner, he understood the entire story.

A year later they were living in a great mansion far from Baghdad and donating huge amounts of money to charity. The point of the story is that sometimes the biggest blessings come from what seems to be curses. Like it said in last week's Torah section (23:5). So now we can understand why Gd wrote so many curses in this week's parsha; so that there will be that many more blessings when He transforms them from bad to good.

In fact that is one of the main jobs of the Moshiach, and the reason that Jews have impatiently awaited his arrival for almost two thousand years; he will transform all the misfortunes and the difficulties in the world to blessings.

This is not far from us. We saw that the Lubavitch Rebbe (whom many still consider to be Moshiach for this reason) healed thousands of people, both spiritually and otherwise, and transformed countless numbers of curses to blessings.

Even today there are huge numbers of Jews returning to HaShem and his Torah thanks to the 'outreach' ideas begun by the Rebbe, and there are countless numbers of Jews helped and even saved from the worst fates through consulting any of his 25 books of 'Igrot Kodesh' (Letters of the Rebbe). [for more information please write us]

Let us finish with a story about the second Rebbe of Chabad Rebbe DovBer when he was still a boy of twelve years old. Usually his father, the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shneur Zalman, would read the Torah section in Shul on Shabbot. But one year he was unable to do so and one of the older Chassidim replaced him.

When the young Dov Ber heard the 98 curses from the new reader he fainted and was ill for several weeks. Later, when he recovered and was asked why he wasn't affected in the previous years when he heard his father read the curses he replied: "This was the first time I heard curses; when my father read I only heard blessings".

Wishing all our readers a good, healthy, happy New Year, together with

Moshiach NOW!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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