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See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing - if you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, that I command you today. And the curse - if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did not know (Devarim 11:26-28).

The Torah seems to be telling us that we can actually see the blessing and the curse of the Almighty. It is not something we simply have to believe in. One of the greatest blessings, if not the greatest, is to be privileged to be guided by Hashem and protected from sin.

A few days ago I heard an excellent cassette tape recording of a lecture by Rabbi Ordman of Arachim. He told a story of a couple who came from an anti-religious kibbutz. Somehow, the two were inspired to become observant and, as is often the case with ba'alei teshuvah (penitents), they went to the other extreme and made a 180 degree turn around. They moved into the ultra-Orthodox community of Meah Shearim and sent their children to Yiddish speaking schools in the neighborhood.

In ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel, it is not considered proper and modest for women to smoke. The woman of this couple, who had been a heavy smoker for years, had absolutely no problem accepting this prohibition along with the many others she and her husband had agreed to live by. However, she had one very serious problem. Normally, religious people who smoke report that as soon as Shabbos arrives, they put their last cigarette out and, at the same time, put it out of their minds. They don't even think about smoking until Shabbos ends and then, immediately after Havdalah, they rush to take their first smoke of the week. The rest of the week they find themselves craving for a cigarette from time to time and they hasten to satisfy their desires.

This young woman had the problem in reverse. All week long she had absolutely no problem keeping away from her bad habit. She had resolved that she would not smoke and she did not even feel tempted to do so. But each and every Shabbos she felt that she would go absolutely mad if she would not smoke a cigarette. No matter how hard she tried to do battle with her yearnings, they would not subside until she would hide in the bathroom and take a smoke. This went on for quite a while and, understandably, she and her husband, who wanted so much to be observant, were broken hearted. They went to all sorts of clinics which specialized in helping wean people away from smoking; they tried cigarette substitutes; they even tried hypnosis - but to no avail. When Shabbos arrived, she knew that she must smoke just one cigarette; otherwise she would totally break down. The couple was at their wits' ends.

One day, the distraught husband went to meet the great Rabbi Yisroel Ya'akov Fisher ztvk'l who was renowned for his knowledge of Jewish Law and Kabbalah and for giving medical and emotional advice which worked wonders. People from all over the world would stand on line for hours to visit him and seek his advice and blessing. The Rabbi listened as the husband poured out his heart to him. When he finished, the Rabbi said, "So what's the problem?" Surprised at the question, the young man described how difficult it was for them to accept, after all of their self sacrifice, that every week his wife would desecrate the Shabbos; yet they had no other choice. It was almost as if it was ordained by Hashem.

The Rabbi replied that it most certainly was destined by Hashem because…the woman was undoubtedly not Jewish. It is forbidden for non-Jews to keep the Sabbath, and since she was so sincere about obeying Hashem's will, He simply forced her to smoke every Shabbos so that she would not violate His commandments. The simple solution, the Rabbi continued, was to convert her properly and then the problem would solve itself.

Flabbergasted the man went home and related to his wife what the venerable sage had said. The startled couple began to check into the young woman's lineage and they found, to their amazement, that her great grandmother had converted in a way that was not acceptable to Halachah (Jewish Law). Consequently, her daughter and her daughter's daughter and she - who was her daughter's daughter's daughter - were all non-Jewish. She quickly converted properly and the following Shabbos she found that she had absolutely no craving to smoke; just as she did not the other days of the week.

Lucky are those who see Hashem's blessing as He prevents them from sinning and helps them abide by His commandments. They are truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel