Bechukotai: Why Curses?



How would you react to someone cursing you? The very word “curse” sends a chill up our spines. So what should our reaction be to the curses we find in the Torah?

Skeptics tend to dismiss the Torah as a primitive book presenting an angry, vengeful G-d. One part often singled out by them is its curses – some of them enumerated in this week’s Torah portion. They ask: Why would G-d stoop to cursing His people?

Indeed, the Torah states that G-d created flawed mortals, so why would He curse them with cruel punishments for behaving like who they are – human? Is this sadism? Does G-d have nothing better to do? And how do these curses help us have a loving relationship with Him? Do they not accomplish the opposite? Moreover, Torah is called a Torah of love and life, her paths are pleasant. How is that consistent with… curses?!

A cryptic story in the Talmud cites the author of the chief work of Kabbalah known as the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, whose yahrzeit we honored this past week on Lag B’Omer. This story reveals for us a fascinating mystical way to look at the biblical “curses” – and at all difficult challenges in our own lives, for that matter – not as curses but as concealed blessings.


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