Overtaken by a blessing – what does it mean?


“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-3)

This is the opening statement of the list of blessings that can be found in the 28th chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. If you take a closer look, you will notice that the Bible uses the verb ‘overtake’ in this context and that is a rather odd word choice.

In the original Hebrew ‘overtake’ appears as ‘Ve-Hesigu’cha’ {והשיגוך} which actually means ‘to catch up with’ (and in Modern Hebrew means ‘to achieve’).

The Jewish Bible commentators noticed this rather odd usage of this verb in this context and gave a couple of interesting explanations about why the Hebrew Bible chose this specific verb:

The mediaeval Hebrew Bible commentators Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (Spain and England, 12th century) and Rabbi Ovadia ben Jacob Sforno (aka in the Jewish culture as ‘Sforno’, Italy, 16th century) offer fascinating commentary.

Similar to what happened with the manna in the desert, in which according to an old Jewish tradition, fell from the sky just outside the tents of the righteous people so they would not have to go far in order to collect it. Likewise, an abundance of blessings arrives at the doorsteps of the righteous people, meaning the blessings will ‘catch up with them.’

Another interesting interpretation, made by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov (the grandson of the founder of the Chassidic movement, Eastern Europe, 18th century), says that sometimes people have the tendency to ‘miss out on good things’ – meaning to pass, ignore or simply not notice when a good thing/opportunity happened to them and that is exactly the meaning of ‘and all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you’ – the blessings, that usually ‘go without notice’ will catch up with you…