In the section of the Torah known as "the Admonition", (Lev. 26:14-43) G‑d informs Israel of the drastic consequences of veering from the Torah. Traditionally, this section is read quickly and in a lower tone than the rest of the reading. No one is invited up to the Torah for this section. The reader unceremoniously recites the blessings before and after reading it, but he is not "called up."1

On the subconscious level, the soul level, these curses are really blessings….

As a child, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch, along with the rest of the congregation, would listen to the weekly Torah reading read by his father, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. One year, his father was out of town for the Shabbat of parashat Ki Tavo, a parasha that includes a section of admonition. After hearing the Admonition read by the substitute Torah reader, the child was so emotionally upset that even a month later his father was unsure whether his son would be able to fast on Yom Kippur. The child was later asked, "Why were you not disturbed this way when the admonition was read in past years?" The child replied, "When my father reads it, no curses are heard." (HaYom Yom, 17 Elul)

"In truth, they are nothing but blessings,"2 writes Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi of the Admonition. He quotes the Zohar, which speaks of a hidden and revealed reality. G‑d, Torah, and man exist on a conscious and subconscious level. On the conscious level, these verses appear to be curses. On the subconscious level, the soul level, these curses are really blessings. They are not painful experiences we must endure for a greater good, dark clouds with silver linings; they are real blessings. When a saintly individual like Rabbi Schneur Zalman reads these verses, one hears their subconscious meaning, in which they are blessings.

The most sublime blessings are couched in most dreadful terms. This is because whenever a blessing is bestowed by heaven, it must first pass through the heavenly court, where the prospective recipient is judged as to whether or not he is worthy of the blessing. When the blessing is "disguised" as a curse, however, it "bypasses" the forces of strict judgment and can make its way straight to its recipient. In the Talmud [Moed Katan 9b] we are told that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (author of the Zohar) sent his son, Rabbi Elazar, to receive the blessings of a few of the sages. They bestowed upon him what sounded like a string of curses: "May it be the will [of G‑d] that you sow and not reap…let your house be destroyed…let your table be disturbed, and may you not see a new year." His father, expounder of the soul of Torah, revealed to him the meaning of their "blessings", the soul of their words.

Copyright 2001 chabad of california /

Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Sichot, vol. 7, p. 233; vol. 19, pp. 137-8