In this week's parsha, Ki Tavo, we read about the blessing and curses that we all have the choice of in our lives. If we choose a life with spiritual meaning, along with it comes blessing. If not, we get a pile of curses. Sometimes the blessings are not so obvious. Sometimes we have to sift through a lot of mess to see the blessings. In my life, I was always taught to see blessing.
I recently shared the following story at a Partners In Torah event about how I was trained to see blessing in my life. I was told this story by my father many times as a child and adult. My father, just 10 months after marrying my mother, was sent to Vietnam. On that first day in Vietnam, he was taken into a room and filled out a “dream sheets,” the forms that allow a soldier to request his assignment. He had done his research and knew that he wanted to be stationed anywhere in Long Binh, which was the safest military installation in Vietnam. Upon completing the paperwork, it would take about two days to receive his assignment. As he was walking out of the room, a sergeant came in looking for him.
“Where’s Lt. Landis?” he asked, scanning the room. He went over and saluted him as he introduced himself.
“I see from your records that you went to Georgia Tech. I was there the same time you were,” he told my father. “Did you go fraternity?”
“Yes,” he replied, “I went AEII.” “I rushed AEII and Phi Ep, but ended up not pledging,” he told him.
In case you don’t speak Greek, both are Jewish fraternities. They talked for quite awhile, played some Jewish geography and discussed the assignment my father had just requested, Saigon Support Command. When he confided to the sergeant that he was hoping to end up anywhere in Long Binh, his last words were, “I’ll see what I can do.”
My father had no idea that this chance encounter would be the most fortuitous in his life to date. As two days later, when assignments were posted, he was one of only two of the 250 men on the plane that day to be assigned to Saigon Support Command. When he reported to his commanding officer he asked, while shaking his head, “Why did they send me a combat signal officer for a quartermaster slot?” Of course we know why.
Quite possibly because of that, I am here to write this article. Blessings come in all forms from all places.
Rabbi Pinchas Landis is education director of Partners In Torah of Cleveland in University Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.