by Dr. Kalman Stein, Head of School
In this week’s Torah reading, Parashat Ki Tavo, we encounter a relatively short description of the blessings HaKadosh Barukh Hu will shower upon us if we live up to our religious obligations, followed by a long, harrowing litany of the terrible fate that awaits the Jewish People if we do not.
It is striking that the same word,V’Hisigucha, is used in the introduction of each section. The litany of punishments begins by telling us that if we don’t behave “U’Va’uh Alekha Kol HaKlalot HaEilehV’Hisigucha – all of these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” We certainly can understand why the curses will have to, as it were, chase us and overtake us. But what about “U’Va’uh Alekha Kol HaBrachot HaEileh V’Hisigucha — all of these blessings will come upon you and overtake you” which appears in the introduction to the wonderful blessings? Most of us don’t flee from good things. Lottery winners readily come forward to claim their prize; they do not need to be sought after and overtaken.
The homiletic interpretation is quite obvious. It is not sufficient simply to be surrounded by blessings. Each individual must also have the perspective, the receptivity, even the courage to recognize, accept and make good use of the Brachot which reach out to him or her.
Megillat Ruth which many of our high school students will study later this year offers a striking example of what happens to those who lack this perspective and sense of proper priorities. The kinsman upon whom fell the initial responsibility to marry Ruth refused to do so because he feared the unknown consequences. His lack of courage deprived him of the opportunity to be the great grandfather of David Hamelekh. And what was the name of this man who played such a pivotal role in the story of Ruth? Shmuel, the author of Ruth, has every opportunity to mention his name in his rather detailed account of the man’s dialogue with Bo’az. Instead we hear Bo’az say: “Surah, shevah po, Ploni Almoni: Come, sit down, nameless one.” In the ultimate expression of contempt we see Megillat Ruth‘s evaluation of this individual’s unwillingness to accept the blessing which knocked on his door. He is not significant enough even to leave his name for posterity.
This is the school’s Bracha to each member of the Hebrew Academy community for the coming year: May you not only have material and physical wellbeing and opportunities for continued spiritual and intellectual growth but may you also each be overtaken by the sensitivity and daring to see and appreciate all of the many Brachot in our community and in our lives.