In the Torah portion Nitzavim we read:1 “There shall come a time when you shall experience all the words of blessing and curse that I have presented to you, and you will reflect on the situation… You will then return to G‑d your L-rd… with all your heart and all your soul.”

It is clear from the above, as well as from the further verses, that every Jew will ultimately return to G‑d in complete repentance; even one who has strayed far from the path of righteousness will “return to G‑d” upon experiencing “all the words of… curse.”

Accordingly, we must understand the verse’s intent when it states “all the words of blessing.” It is understandable that curse and misfortune can lead a person to brokenheartedness and repentance. But how does experiencing “blessing” rouse an individual to repentance?2

The Torah speaks here of repentance that is so intense that it leads a person to return to G‑d “with all his heart and soul.” Understandably, the factor that induces a person to repent so mightily — his feeling of pain emanating from the curse — must itself be extremely powerful. What makes the pain so intense?

The Torah explains by stating “you shall experience all the words of blessing and curse,” i.e., the detailed fulfillment of the curse will come after having first experienced the blessing.

Experiencing misfortune after having first experienced a period of blessing is far more painful than never having experienced goodness at all. For example, a person who was once rich and then became a pauper feels the pain of poverty far more than does an individual who has always been poor.

Thus, it is specifically through blessing followed by curse that a person can reach so lofty a degree of repentance that he will return with “all his heart and all his soul.”

But this raises another question: The verse is explaining how G‑d will bring each and every Jew to full repentance. But if this degree of repentance can only be reached when blessing precedes curse, how then can a person who has known only the curse attain full repentance?

Earlier on the Torah states3 — according to Rashi’s commentary — “Behold I [immediately] place before you a blessing…. Blessing so that you fulfill [the condition of obeying] the commandments…. “ G‑d starts off every Jew with blessing.

Thus, every Jew began his life with blessing. The complete repentance that comes only when blessing precedes curse is therefore available to all those who are in need of repentance.

The above also relates to the days that precede Rosh HaShanah , “the day of great judgment,” during which the portion of Nitzavim is read.

G‑d promises to provide all Jews with blessing, regardless of their spiritual station, adding only that everlasting blessing is dependent on a person’s fulfilling the commandments.

The reason for G‑d’s generosity is plain: Each and every Jew is likened not only to a prince4 but also to a king5 ; they are therefore eminently entitled to receive all manner of good.

As the Gemara states6 with regard to feeding Jewish laborers: “Even if you were to provide them with a repast that equals [King] Shlomoh’s during his heyday, you have still not fulfilled your obligation, for they are children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.” Since “That which G‑d commands the Jewish people to do He does as well,”7 He surely provides the Jewish people with all manner of good.

Surely, each and every Jew then fulfills the condition of obeying the commandments, and G‑d’s blessings will last forever.

This ensures that, come Rosh HaShanah , a person will engage in Teshuvah Ila’ah , the superior level of repentance wherein the individual’s spirit reunites with G‑d in a joyful manner.8 Especially so when the first day of Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbos , so that the service of Shabbos is that of Teshuvah Ila’ah — a degree of Teshuvah that is performed with great joy.9

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIV, pp. 118-121.