והיית לשמה למשל ולשנינה בכל העמים אשר ינהגך ה' שמה.
“And you will be for devastation, for an example and repetition among all of the nations to where Hashem will lead you.” (Devarim 28:37)
These harsh words are a dire warning to the Jewish people about what would become of them if they incur G-d’s wrath. If they will be deserving of punishment, they will experience such devastation that all nations will point to them as an example of Divine retribution and keep on repeating the story of their misfortune.
Our tzaddikim have taught us that all of the curses found in the tochacha (the Rebuke) are blessings in disguise. What is the hidden blessing that can be found in these words?
There is a disagreement between the Halachic authorities whether mitzvos require kavana – intent, or a person can be credited for doing a mitzvah even if he has no special intention to perform that mitzvah. The Rambam rules that if a person blows the shofar on Rosh Hashanah without kavana he has still fulfilled the mitzvah. On the other hand, a person must have kavana when eating matzah on Pesach in order to have fulfilled the mitzvah. What is the difference between these two mitzvos?
The commentators explain that a person normally doesn’t blow shofar for his personal needs, so when a person blows the shofar on Rosh Hashanah it is clear to everyone that he is performing a mitzvah. On the other hand, matzah is a food and a person eats food every day. Therefore, he needs to have the intention of doing a mitzvah when eating matzah in order for the deed to be considered a mitzvah.
The discussion about the necessity of having proper kavanah pertains to all mitzvos, not just to those that are performed with actions. The Shulchan Aruch quotes the verse: “In all of your ways you shall know Him.” A person must include Hashem in all of his deeds. When he eats, he should have in mind to gain strength to serve Hashem. So too when he sleeps, rests or is doing business, he should always have the right kavanah – the intention of serving his Master.
The verse can be interpreted as follows: The word l’shama – a devastation, can be pronounced differently to mean lishmah - for His Name. Now the verse reads, “And you will be for His Name” - your entire existence will be solely to glorify the Name of Hashem. Even the smallest of your deeds will be with the proper kavanah of bringing glory to Hashem’s Name, and therefore counted as mitzvos.
“L’mashal - as an example.” The Torah says that Hashem created man in His form. We know that Hashem is not a physical entity and He cannot even be understood in any physical form, so how can it be said that man has been created in His form? Our sages explain that G-d created man according to the Ten Sefiros which comprise the world’s blueprint. This means that man represents the entire world, and the Divine intelligence which designed it.
The Torah says (Devarim 28:10): “And all the nations of the earth will see that the Name of G-d is called upon you and they will fear you.” We see from this that the Jewish people represent G-d to all nations of the world; we are “an example” of G-d.
The verse continues: “Uleshnina – for a repetition.” The world shnina can also mean to clarify, as we see the word used in Shema – veshinantam l’vanecha, and you will clarify to your children. Hashem will bless us that the Torah will be clear to us and we will be able to study His holy words with ease.
This blessing will be with us everywhere, even “among all of the nations to where Hashem will lead you.” Although we have been exiled from our Land and we are dispersed among the nations of the world, this blessing will remain true. We will merit being a sanctification of G-d’s Name, we will be an example of G-d-liness to the nations, and we will be able to learn Torah with clarity.