By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
This week’s Sedra lists the blessings and curses that are to be given to Klal-Yisroel upon their entering Eretz-Yisroel. These curses and blessings hinge upon Klal-Yisroel’s shmiras HaTorah or lack thereof. All of the verses used for the blessings seem to be mirrored in the curses.
In the Brachos we are told of all sorts of instances in which we will be blessed, and that section closes with the statement אתה בבאך וברוך אתה בצאתיךברוך – blessed are you upon entering, and blessed are you upon exiting. Rashi explains this to mean (based on the Gemorah Babba Metzia107a) that just like when we are born and enter the world we are free of sin so too when we die and leave this world we should leave free of sin (see Maharal, Sifsei-Chachamim, and K’sav-Sofer for explanations as to why Chazal explain the Passuk in this context).
The Maharal (in his Gur-Aryeh) raises the following question: we can explain being blessed as being free of sin. In the converse scenario however, (in the case of curse:…בבאיך … ארור ) how can we say that someone who dies a sinner is born a sinner? A baby may be born void of sin and even void of merit alike, but they cannot be born free and sinful.
The Maharal suggests the following explanation: people are born without having any Mitzvos to their credit. If they remain that way through life, they then die without Mitzvos and without blessing. The Maharal is thus equating being void of blessing to actually being cursed.
While the Maharal’s approach does seem to answer the apparent difficulty with the Passuk, it still leaves us in somewhat of an unclear state of mind. Why is the absence of Mitzvos tantamount to being cursed? True, such a person may be lacking Bracha, but why should that absence of bracha be equated with being cursed? It may be true that it is impossible to remain free of sin, and consequently also become full of sin, and thus cursed. It would still be nice for the Passuk – or at least the Meforshim – to make such an inference.
Perhaps there is something much deeper being expressed in these Passukim. The Passuk only makes mention of the beginning and the end of man’s life in this world. It leaves out everything in between. Furthermore, we have already observed that there is no inherent difference between the beginning of life of someone who stays pure and free of sin, and that of someone who doesn’t. The only apparent difference is that the former dies pure and void of sin and the latter doesn’t. It thus would seem that the Torah is emphasizing that unused potential is nothing unless it results in a maximized outcome. While every Mitzva and Avaira (sin) that man commits has its value and will be justly rewarded or punished, it would seem that the deciding factor in determining whether people are truly blessed or cursed is whether right now they are truly good or whether right now they aren’t.
Someone who has been righteous doesn’t have to die righteous, and someone who is a sinner doesn’t have to die a sinner. An act good or bad is not necessarily indicative of whom or what a person truly is. Chazal tell us that when someone does Teshuva (repents) the actual sins are transformed sometimes even into meritorious actions.
We all start life in the same way. The difference lies in what we do with it. The beginning of life is merely a point in time from which one can go in either the direction of good or that of evil. Hence whether the beginning of life is a point of goodness or a point, God forbid, of evil is only determined by the direction in which we draw the line to the endpoint.
Since we do not know when our life will come to an end, we must ensure that we are at every moment at an “endpoint” that will guarantee us that the totality of our life is purity and goodness.