Don’t ignore blessings for fear of what ‘could’ be

This week in Parashat Ki Tavo, we read an entire section of blessings and curses, though mostly curses.
I will admit that I normally read over the curses as quickly as possible because they aren’t at all pleasant. I don’t know why, but this year, one particular curse resonated with me in a way that it hadn’t before. I have felt for a long time that I have led a privileged life, a life filled with blessing. But this year, it was the curse that caught my attention.
Deuteronomy 28:66-67 reads: “The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival. In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ — because of what your heart shall dread and your eyes shall see.”
The times we are currently living through feel precarious and uncertain. I have been appalled by what my eyes have seen. I have lived in dread of what the future might bring us. There is so much anger and hatred in the world today that it fills me with fear. I cannot honestly say, however, that there is more to fear today than in previous centuries. Europe 75-80 years ago was far, far worse. The Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-49 were devastating. The Crusades were not fun times to live through for anyone. Maybe it’s precisely because I have led a privileged life, a life filled with blessing, that today’s uncertainty feels so dreadful.
Toward the end of her life, my great-aunt, Lillian, also lived in dread. It’s not that she had a bad life or that bad things had happened to her. On the contrary, she lived a very good, very comfortable life. But I think it was the dementia she suffered at the end of her life that gave rise to the dread she felt. When I went to visit her, she didn’t remember me specifically, but she remembered my mother and that my mother had sons, so she welcomed my visits.
The conversation always started with the same cycle of questions filled with fear. The best I could do was try to steer the conversation into one of the other two cycles of questions that were less fear-filled. It was during these visits that I learned an important lesson. I couldn’t do anything for my aunt’s day-to-day life — she was lost to her own world. Nor would she remember my visits or how often I came. But I could brighten the moments that I spent with her and lift her fear in those specific moments.
What we dread is what we fear could come to be, “could” being the critical word. “Could” is the critical word because “could” means that what we fear might not come to be. For sure, we live in uncomfortable and uncertain times. It would truly be a curse, however, to ignore the blessings we enjoy right now in these moments to live only in fear of what might, but might never, be.
Rabbi Benjamin Sternman is the spiritual leader of Adat Chaverim in Plano.

Leave a Reply