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Parashat Re'eh - 5777

In this portion, Moses continues to emphasize to the Israelites the importance of keeping G-d's laws if they wish to last in the new land. The call is to each individual to take responsibility for his/her actions and realize the impact it will have on the community.

The first verse in this Parasha is "Re'eh Anochi noten lifneichem hayom, Beracha Uklalah" - "See (singular), I am giving you (plural) on this day, a blessing and a curse" (Deuteronomy 11:26). Moses continues to spell out the kind of life that would bring a blessing: Helping the poor, having a justice system and keeping G-d's laws.

Three questions:

  1. Why does this Parasha begin with the word "Re'eh" (see) rather than "Sh'mah" (listen) as we find in other places?
  2. Why does this verse begin with the singular "Re'eh" (see, singular) and continue with the plural "Lifneichem" (before you, plural)?
  3. When Moses says "noten" (give), we can understand it in the context of the giving of blessings - that's a gift - but how can it also apply to the curses? Can curses be considered a gift?

Seeing is the highest form of being convinced of a situation, an event. Hoping that the Israelites have seen G-d's hand in the forty years of wandering, they should be convinced by now to the point that they will obviously chose the path that leads to blessing rather than the one that would bring curses upon them. This Parasha emphasizes "re'eh" (see), rather than hear. Each individual is directed to look deep into his/her heart, analyze and discern internally, what the paths are to a blessing.

The reason the verse begins with a call to each individual and then turns to the plural is because each individual should feel responsible for the society in which he/she lives.

Finally, the question of what kind of a gift this is if it includes blessings as well as curses. This emphasizes the gift of free choice. Every human being has been endowed with the power of free choice. That is what distinguishes us from other living creatures. Without that power, we would all be either like angels that do exactly what they are created and assigned to do – angels have no choice - or we could be like animals that only look for their next meal without regard to others or to improving the world.

These last few days have given us a real sense of what this verse is all about. "See, I have set before you today, Bracha Uklala - a blessing and a curse." We all have seen the hate, the racism and the ugly revival of open antisemitic expressions by certain groups. Do those activities lead to blessings, to a life where people love and help one another, as Moses describes the blessings that would come from a life of compassion, of helping the poor and the stranger? Or are there some who see these events as justified, even if they lead to curses, bringing destruction and pain to an entire society? Moses calls on each individual, to look deeply into his/her heart, his/her conscience, and "SEE" what is happening and, as individuals, do something to help the community and the society to follow a course that would lead to blessings, rather than curses that would lead to destruction.

We have the free choice – which side will you be on?

In the following chapters, Moses instructs us "Uvaharta Bahayim" - "Choose life".

May your life be filled with Berachot, blessings.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram