ראה אנכי נותן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה.
“Look, I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.” (Devarim 11:26)
The verse speaks in the present tense, as if all this is taking place “today.” In actuality, the blessings and curses were given later when the Jewish people stood on Mount Grizim and Mount Eival, before crossing the Jordan River. If so, why does the verse speak in the present tense?
We say in our morning davening, “To You, Hashem, I will call, and to Hashem I will plead. Listen, Hashem, and grant me; Hashem, help me!” (Tehillim 30) This verse speaks in the future tense, yet immediately in the next verse, we speak in the past tense: “You replaced my weeping with dancing; you removed my sackcloth and strengthened me with joy.” These verses seem puzzling. If we are in need of Hashem’s help, the next verse should continue pleading that the weeping should be replaced with joy. How can we go from a desperate plea to a song of praise in one verse?
The Skulener Rebbe zt”l used to say that sometimes we see the fulfillment of Hashem’s special promise to “Answer before the call.” Sometimes, a person is helped even before he prays for salvation. A person may be in a desperate situation, feeling lost and bewildered. He may not even have collected his thoughts to call out to Hashem, and yet he already sees the beginning of his yeshua. Why does Hashem respond so quickly, even before the person calls out to Him? Hashem does this when He knows that the person will be praying in the future. Since Hashem foresees the person’s future deeds, he sometimes “listens” to the prayers that have not yet been prayed and helps the person in his time of need.
Therefore, when a person finds himself in a troubling situation and then sees Hashem’s salvation, he should remember that he still must pray! Hashem wants to hear his prayers – the prayers in whose merit Hashem helped him in advance. Even if the weeping already turned to joy, he should still call out to Hashem for help. This explains why the crying is in the future tense, when the next verse praises Hashem for His salvation. A person must continue to pray even after he was helped, because Hashem longs to hear his voice. As the chapter in Tehillim concludes: “So that my soul should praise you and never be silent; Hashem, my Lord, I will always praise You!”
The Gemara (Yevamos 121b) relates the story of Nechunya, a person who dug wells to supply water for the thousands who flocked to Jerusalem during Yom Tov. One day, Nechunya’s young daughter fell into one of the wells and nearly drowned. The tzaddik Reb Chanina ben Dosa prayed for the girl, saying, “How can the tzaddik’s daughter be hurt due to the great deeds of her father?” The girl was miraculously pulled out of the well, alive and healthy. We see from this story that sometimes when evil is decreed upon a person, his good deeds can turn the curse into a blessing.
The Torah is telling us: “Look, I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.” Even though the blessings and the curses were actually given later, Hashem is reminding us that it is up to us to pray today. Hashem knows the future, and when we pray to Him in advance, He saves those prayers for difficult times. Likewise, when times are good, we should still pray today, because we were helped in the merit of our future prayers.
Regardless of the actual time when the blessings or difficulties take place, we should always turn to Hashem “today,” as if the blessing and curse is placed before us now. We should never tire of prayer, never stop beseeching Hashem, so that we always merit being close to Him and benefiting from His kindness. Not only that, but our prayers and good deeds actually have the power to turn the curses into blessings!