[First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/nitzavim-that-could-never-happen-to-me/]
Ibn Ezra Deuteronomy: Nitzavim
“That could never happen to me”
“A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.” –Demosthenes
There is a macabre curiosity in the suffering of others. The most vivid example is the traffic jams that occur on the opposite lane of a car accident. People slow down, not necessarily to see if they could help, but out of a deep desire to witness the misfortune of the other guy.
We feel a brief pang of empathy for the victims of the tragedy, remind ourselves to perhaps fasten our seatbelt or drive slower or more carefully, and then cruise on at the same speed, saying to ourselves that we would never be so careless or so unfortunate as the person being wheeled into the ambulance.
Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 29:18 says that man does the same mental calculation upon hearing the curses and punishments that God will bring upon those that don’t follow His commandments. The foolhardy man will bless himself saying “that curse, that punishment, won’t fall upon me.” And he will believe his self-blessing to be true and effective though he may be obliviously careening into the approaching misfortune with his name written all over it.
May we wake up to reality from our self-delusions and get back onto safer and more honest roads.
To Ana Duschitz on her incredible hosting of the Women’s Weekly shiur of Montevideo. May it continue strongly in the coming year and grow.