Gotcha!

All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you, if you listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d (Devarim 28:2)

The end of Moshe Rabbeinu’s life was quickly approaching and, in one of the most dramatic scenes of the 40-year sojourn in the desert, he commanded half of the tribes to stand on one mountain and the others to stand on the facing peak, with the aron in the center with the tribe of Levi. The children of those who stood at Sinai and accepted the Covenant, and who subsequently sinned and died, reaffirmed their commitment to the Torah. In keeping with the words of rebuke that Moshe delivered in the last 36 days of his life, they cursed those who would violate the Torah and blessed those who would adhere to its precepts.

Rabbeinu Yosef Chayim of Baghdad, the Ben Ish Chai, is bothered by the wording of the general blessing that states, “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you.” Usually, he says, the word “overtake” indicates catching up to someone who is fleeing from capture. Who, he asks, runs away from blessings? (Aderet Eliyahu on Parashat Ki Tavo)

Sometimes there are people who succeed in ways that don’t make sense. Even when they conduct business in ways sure to bring financial losses, they somehow end up profitting in unnatural ways. For example, they might travel to faraway places and import expensive merchandise to an area where such items are in abundance and low-priced. Where huge losses should be the outcome of the “deal,” Hashem maneuvers the circumstances to bless this incompetent merchant with huge profits. Even though this simple individual is “running” from profit, Hashem makes the blessing “overtake” him.

Harav Lieb Markhash, father of the Shulchan Shelomoh, was a truly pious person who was involved in Torah study day and night. His wife ran a fabric store to support the family. One time she told her husband that it is not the way of a modest woman to go to market to buy merchandise. She compiled a list of the needs of her business and told him to go to the market to fill her requirements. The list also included the prices he must pay in order for her to resell the inventory for a fair profit.

When he arrived at the market, the wagon driver informed him that the fair would run for 30 days. Rav Lieb saw this as a perfect opportunity to learn for almost a month and to purchase his goods as the market was closing — and so he did. Unfortunately, by the end of the fair all the items on his wife’s list were sold out. The only dry goods remaining were an expensive red velvet only used by people in the royal court. The untrained buyer purchased all the red velvet at an expensive price and returned home. When his wife opened the bundles of fabric she was upset to find that all her hard-earned money had been wasted on hard-to-sell inventory.

“What will we do now?” she exclaimed. “We certainly will starve for lack of food. How will we pay our landlord? It will take years to convert this fabric back into legal tender!”

Calmly her husband responded, “Where is your trust in Hashem? All we have comes from Him and our annual income is pre-determined on Rosh Hashanah. What’s the difference which fabric we own?”

It was merely several days later that the king declared that all government employees of the royal palace must wear red velvet uniforms. There was only one supplier who could supply the hundreds of yards needed to fulfill the monarch’s order — Rav Lieb’s wife! The tzaddik and his wife could live several years off the profit from just one sale!

This is the promise of Hashem in our passuk. If we observe His mitzvot, all of the listed blessings will come upon us. And if by chance we might run from the good tidings, Hashem will maneuver His blessings so that they overtake us! Amen.

Shabbat Shalom!