As I am preparing to teach a mini-course on God (a fairly broad subject p. 5), I have come to see how glibly folks toss about the idea of the Divine being responsible for blessings. Curious assertions such as “I prayed to God and the tornado in my town spared my home!” or “God has blessed me all the days of my life!” (a favorite of televangelists) or when I was watching the suspenseful moon landing, my devout Christian boss said, “They will land only if God wants them to! Not the science of course or Armstrong’s skill as a pilot made the difference. This antique view of course is matched by a series of curses that can also be traced to the Holy One. My favorite curse came from one-time presidential candidate and TV 700 Club evangelist Pat Robertson. When that awful Hurricane afflicted New Orleans claiming the lives of hundreds and causing untold pain to thousands of its citizens this Bible thumping self-appointed prophet claimed how God was displeased with the gay population in that city. Ergo, God’s curse-filled wrath poured forth. The fact that the neighborhoods inhabited by a largely gay presence was the least affected by the hurricane could only have meant that God had bad aim.
In the cited quote from the Seven Beggars written by Rabbi Nachman of Bratislav, a young couple is visited every day for a week by a well-meaning man with a deformity. One could not see, another was blind, one more was lame, and so forth. But, each brought with him a blessing which could be traced to making what would seem to be a curse into something good. The blind man claimed he could now see with his heart and the deaf man better understood the cries of the world. He cleverly noted as well in his narrative how too many blessings can become a curse. Ergo, “There was much muchness!”
The Jewish view of the flip side of blessings, curses, is informative. Under the category of “If you don’t laugh then you will cry!” Yiddish folklore absorbs life’s pains with a touch of whimsy making our sufferings more tolerable. Here are a few of my favorite curses that one might wish to have inflicted on an adversary.
May all your teeth fall out but one – and may that one have a tooth ache!
May you win the lottery – and spend it all on hospital expenses!
May you prosper selling candles and then may the sun never set!
May you be like a chandelier – hang by day and burn by night!
Summertime and the living is easy – so we hope and pray that whatever burdens you have you will take heart from the Yiddish proverb. “God gives us burdens, but he also gives us shoulders to carry them!”
Blessings only to you and yours, Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.