Our Torah portion this week, called Re’eh, begins with 3 verses that forewarn the Israelites of the importance of paying attention to perception:
רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה׃ אֶֽת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם׃ וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וְסַרְתֶּ֣ם מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לָלֶ֗כֶת אַחֲרֵ֛י אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְתֶּֽם׃
26 Look, this day I set before you blessing and curse: 27 blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; 28 and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)
These verses warn the Israelites to look at what they are doing in their lives—to see what is in front of them. And then, warns them that their understanding of what is in front of them is the difference between blessing and curse.
Why does the verse start with the word “Re’eh” or “look” when it could have simply stated, “I have set before you this day a blessing and a curse.”
The portion starts with the word Re’eh – which means to “see” or “look” or “perceive.” The emphasis on this word teaches us that God is enjoining us to PAY ATTENTION--- we know that every day we are faced with decisions between right and wrong—but here, with the word “LOOK” -- God seems to warn us to pay close attention, to what we ought to do and what we ought not do. Look—I have set before you this day a blessing and a curse!
Sometimes seeing what is right and what is wrong is easy, but many times, there are so MANY choices around us, we are overwhelmed by the options. We become confused as to what to do.
Is it better to buy organic produce or to buy locally grown produce?
Should we stretch for a new home or keep cash on hand for our 15 year old’s college education?
What is the best choice all around—to spend more time with our family or to take on more hours at work to become financially secure?
Wouldn’t it be great if we had time to sit and contemplate the choices before us: to stop everything and begin to sort through the challenges of our lives--- to metaphorically squint our eyes to gain sharper insight into what we are doing— to tune out the noise and tune into the bat kol—the inner voice and barometer that tells us what is right and what is wrong. To listen to it and know what steps we need to take to choose “right” and avoid “wrong” every time--how we can attain blessing over curse. Maybe we need 20 minutes a day to stop and think about our actions before we do them—or maybe we just need one day a week to take a look at all the choices we have in the coming week.
Well, that is precisely what Shabbat is for. It is meant as a time for us to Re’eh—to look, to deeply introspect and gain new insight into the choices we have in our lives. It is a time for meditating on what we should be doing with our lives and how we have acted in the past week to make the coming week even better. It is up to us to use this time to work at looking at our lives more clearly and intentionally. May we each use every week wisely in this way. Amen.