August 22, 1998
In Parshas Re'ay, G-d tells the Jewish people, "See, I put before you today blessing and curse." The blessing will go to those who keep the Torah and its mitzvos. The curse, G-d forbid, will affect those who do not heed the Torah.
G-d uses the term see, and not the term listen. One might have expected G-d to say, "Listen, I will explain to you how to achieve blessing and avoid curse. " Why does G-d say, "Re'ay--See"?
Our Rabbis teach that hearing cannot be compared to seeing. When a person hears something, he does not always believe it. Perhaps he didn't hear clearly or the message was not passed to him accurately. He can challenge that which he heard.
But unlike hearing, seeing is absolute. A person who sees something accepts it as fact. He sees it with his own eyes and can not deny it. If you tell him it isn't true, he will insist that it is.
All too often we coast through life without focusing on the reason for our existence. We fail to give meaning and purpose to our lives.
G-d, therefore, chooses His words carefully, instructing us, "See"-- focus and comprehend--"I have put before you blessing." Understand what will bring blessing, purpose and meaning to your lives. Discover challenges and opportunities in life that will be beneficial to you. If you look carefully, you will find meaning in life.
Another lesson is learned from the phrase "that I put before you today." The word I is written Anochi, an uncommon term. The word ani is most often used. Why then did G-d choose to use the word anochi here?
Because anochi reminds us of the first of the ten commandments, which begins "Anochi Hashem Elokecha--I am Hashem your G-d." G-d began by introducing Himself to the Jews as the G-d who delivered us from Egypt.
With these words He assured us that wherever a Jew might be, even in exile, G-d is there together with him and will untimely redeem him from his suffering. There is Divine providence in the world and G-d will never forsake His people.
Additional significance is found in the word nosain, translated above as "put." G-d puts the opportunity for blessing and curse before us and allows us to choose. But nosain stems from the word mattanah, a gift. If we focus carefully on all that happens to us during our lifetimes, we will recognize all the gifts we have received from G-d.
Even the challenges of life are gifts given to us as opportunities to elevate ourselves and grow to greater spiritual heights.
G-d stresses that He has put this knowledge "before us," indicating that we are in control of our individual and collective destinies. It is we who determine what our future will be. Will it be a blessing or, G-d forbid, a curse?
It all depends upon how we perceive life. If we take the challenges that are presented to us as opportunities to grow spiritually, then our lives become a blessing. But if we view events from a negative perspective, seeing any inconvenience as an unwelcome burden, then life becomes a curse.
G-d teaches us how to maintain this positive attitude that will bring blessing to our lives. He said, "See, I put before you today blessing and curse."
All too often we become overwhelmed by all the challenges that we have to take on and all the obstacles that we must overcome. G-d gives us sound advice: Hayom--today! Take it one day at a time.
Focus on each day's challenges and you will not become overwhelmed. But do keep focused and never allow the truth to fade away.
Rabbi Avraham Feigelstock
Rabbi Feigelstock is rabbi of Eitz Chaim Congregation in Richmond, British Columbia.
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