How can you turn a Curse into a Blessing?

I believe that the difference between a curse and a blessing is based on your outlook. A curse is when you look out and judge current circumstances as they presently are. A blessing is when you view the same circumstance in the future, taking into consideration the passage of time and the insights it has brought you.

While in this very moment, things may be sad or feel bad. Remember, you are looking outside – your outlook dictates your attitude. Over time , this too shall pass. The passage of time helps healing, feeling, and growth. As this happens you develop new insight – seeing inside yourself- enabling you to the discover the blessing your hardships have brought you.

I attended shabbat services at The Shul in Surfside on Friday May 12, 2023. There I learned about an inspiring torah teaching:

One day, a father sent his son into town to receive a blessing from the Rabbi.

When the son met with the Rabbi, the Rabbi offered him the following blessings:

  • “Plant …but never harvest”
  • “Bring those into home …but they will never leave”
  • “Send yours away from your home …but they will never return”
  • “May your house be destroyed…and that you will forever be a guest”
  • “May your dining table…be always dirty and messy”

When the son returned home his father “Did the Rabbi offer you blessings?”

“Blessings!?!?” the son said with exasperation, “No the Rabbi gave me curses! What kind of Rabbi did you send me to?”

“What did he tell you?” The father asked.

The son repeated the “curses”

  • “Plant …but never harvest”
  • “Bring those into home …but they will never leave”
  • “Send yours away from your home …but they will never return”
  • “May your house be destroyed…and that you will forever be a guest”
  • “May your dining table…be always dirty and messy”

“These are not curses, these are blessings!” the Father responded. Then he explained to his son the true meaning of the Rabbi’s words.

  • “Plant …but never harvest”
    -May your children live beyond you and not be harvested.
  • Bring those into home …but they will never leave”
    -May your children marry their spouses, and you welcome them into your family, and that they never leave your family.
  • “Send yours away from your home …but they will never return”
    -May you send your children to be married and that they stay happily married and live in their own homes and not return to live alone in your home.
  • “May your house be destroyed…and that you will forever be a guest”
    -After you pass away, may your spirit continue to live in the hearts and minds of your loved ones forever.
  • “May your dining table…be always dirty and messy”
    -May your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren gather around your dining table and be messy, and dirty, and have lots of compassionate chaos.

“Do you see son? These are all blessings.”

“Why did the Rabbi have to deliver them in such an obfuscated manner? Why not be more direct?” The son asked.

“The Rabbi wanted to teach you that life is not always what it appears on the surface. Often a curse can turn into a blessing with the appropriate attitude or benefit of time. Rarely is what we first see, what we ultimately understand. We need to look deeper and broader to understand and connect with life. Furthermore, the Rabbi wants us all to actively search for insights. Afterall, “insights” are those “sights” that are “inside” ourselves and others.

When we connect with others, we need to dig deeper, beyond the surface, to find the “nechama” (the soul) within each of us.

We can look to the Torah to find examples of Curses turning into Blessings:

Noah and the Flood:  Genesis 6

  • God destroyed the planet, but due Noah’s faith and following God’s plan, he was able to serve aboard the Ark. Noah’s saving his family and the animals enabled the planet to be reborn in goodness and flourish. The curse of destruction became a blessing of purification and rebirth.

Joseph’s Dreams and the Technicolor Dream Coat: Genesis 37,44, 45, and 50

  • Initially, Jacob intended to give Joseph a blessing with the technicolor dream. However it created jealousy and discord amongst Joseph’s brothers.  While intended to be a garment of beauty, after the brother’s contrived “fake” death of Joseph, it became the blood-stained evidence of Jacob’s loss.
  • Joseph told his brothers about his dreams that they would all bow down to him when he became a ruler.  This created tremendous hostility and jealousy of the brothers and they sold him into slavery.  Joseph’s dream blessings were initially seen as a curse by his brothers. Later when Joseph became the second highest ranking leader in Egypt, he used this power to save his brothers from famine. The curse of his rise to power was in truth a blessing to his jealous siblings. Joseph’s initial curse of being sold into slavery and locked in prison later became a blessing because it brought him into the knowledge and later trust of Pharaoh enabling his rise to power and allowing him to save the children of Israel from Famine.

The idea of curses turning into blessings can also be explored in the tradition of poetry. I am reminded of a poem by Swami Vivekananda. He was a 19th century Hindu monk, religious scholar, author, and philosopher. He is best known for his role as a major figure in bringing the practice of Yoga to the Americas.

An Answered Prayer
By Swami Vivekananda

I asked for Strength
And God gave me difficulties to make me strong
I asked for Wisdom
And God gave me problems to learn to solve
I asked for prosperity
And God gave me brain and brawn to work
I asked for courage
And God gave me dangers to overcome
I asked for Love
And God gave me people to help
I asked for favors
And God gave me opportunities
I received nothing I wanted…
…I received everything I needed

My Prayer has been answered

You can read more about how time and outlook can shape how life’s events affect you here and here.