A letter to a friend

Friday, 19 July, 2019 - 7:17 am

Change the curse into a blessing – if not all of it, at least see part of it as a blessing.

In parashat Balak, which we will read this week in the diaspora, there is one central story: Bilaam goes to curse the Jewish People and Hashem changes the curse into a blessing. How simple it seems when Hashem arranges everything in a moment. But, my friend, believe me, we too have the ability to turn a curse into a blessing, and, as mentioned, if not all if it, as Hashem did with Bilaam, then at least part of it can be seen by us as a blessing.

We are coming from the days of the geulah – the 12th and 13th of Tammuz, the days when we mark the release of the Rietz (the sixth Rebbe of Chabad) from the Soviet jail in 1927 – 5687. He and his chassidim struggled to maintain their Judaism in Russia. The Russian authorities didn’t like this very much, and the Rebbe suffered greatly in their jail, but was finally released. You know very well the extent of the Rebbe’s suffering – both material and spiritual – in that jail. But still, here is what he wrote seven years later, written like only he could write:

“A person, besides having set periods during his life – childhood, youth, young adulthood, marriage, the days of full adulthood, old age – and besides the state of his talents, be they ordinary and mediocre, or shining and wonderful, and his nature, whether he is shy and sad or happy and gregarious, besides all that, the Supreme Divine Providence arranges for him special periods that sometimes change the person’s nature and develop his talents, placing him on a special height, from where he can see the purpose of a person’s life on this earth.  

“The period that is strongest in its action on a person’s psyche and the development of his talents is the period rich with suffering and torture due to propagandizing vigorously for some idea, especially someone who struggles and fights with his persecutors for the sake of the upholding and strengthening of his religion. Such a period, while it means body and soul torture and suffering, is rich in strong effects and they are the days of light in a person’s life.”

It is not pleasant to go through difficult times. No one chooses to do so and may it be that no person will have to experience periods of difficulty and trial anymore, but – and that is a big and important but – when it comes already, the person can turn the curse into a blessing, or at least find and see the blessing hidden in the curse, to the point that he will be able to say, as the Rebbe wrote, “And they are the days of light in a person’s life.”

Blessing you with a geulah sheleimah, when we won’t need special abilities to see the good in everything,


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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