Be Careful What You Wish For – Naso 5784

D'var Torah | Numbers

We can imagine how people grappling with unpaid bills and vanishing income wish that they win the lottery. But as the adage goes, be careful what you wish for!  According to several studies, lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy in three to five years than the average American.  Economist Jay L. Zagorsky, writing in U.S. News and World Report, concurs. He writes: “Studies found that instead of getting people out of financial trouble, winning the lottery got people into more financial trouble.” Moreover, winning the lottery adds stressors to family life. Once family friends learn of the financial windfall, they line up with expectations and it is hard to say no without engendering enmity. And, unaccustomed to managing large sums of cash, many lottery winners squander their winnings with bad investments and senseless purchases. New cars incur higher operational costs, higher insurance premiums, and increased risks of theft and vandalism. Lottery winners, more often than not, find their blessing is really a curse.

Following the statement of the well-known tripartite blessing the priests are to give to the Israelites, the Torah (Numbers 6:27) adds: “Thus they [the Kohanim] shall link My name with (literally, “place My name on”) the children of Israel, and I [God] will bless them.” Rabbi Isaac Samuel Reggio, a 19th century Italian Torah commentator, raises the obvious question. The priests are the ones giving the blessing, so why does the Torah specify that, in fact, it is God who is doing the blessing?

In Sefer Torat Elohim, Rabbi Reggio answers: “God commanded that the blessing be attributed to Him since a person does not know what is good for oneself in life. Sometimes a person desires and longs for a certain “good,” and is happy when it is attained; but the [ultimate] result is very bad. And, so too, the opposite [something that seems bad may ultimately prove very good for the person]. Therefore, God commanded to have the blessings in His domain, and God will bless Israel according to divine wisdom, knowing what is really good and not apparently good.”

Human beings do not always know what is good for them. But God does. So rather than wishing for what we think we want, it is far better to acknowledge or even be thankful for what we have.

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Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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