|This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-HaRav Gedalia Dov Ben Perel
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Yechiel Baruch HaLevi Ben Liba Gittel
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael, especially those suffering from COVID-19.
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
רְאֵה ● Re’eih
“See & Be Seen”
Parshas Re’eih curiously begins with the command to “see” and ends with a command to “be seen.” What exactly are these two commands?
On the one hand, when introducing the new covenant which the B’nei Yisrael would forge with Hashem upon their entry into Eretz Yisrael, Moshe commanded, “Re’eih Anochi Nosein Lifneichem HaYom Brachah U’Klalah”-“See, I am placing before you today, blessing and curse.”1
On the other hand, when discussing Aliyah L’Regel or the annual pilgrimages to Yerushalayim, Moshe commanded:
“Shalosh Pe’amim BaShanah Yeira’eh Kal Zachurcha Es P’nei Hashem Elokecha BaMakom Asher Yivchar…V’Lo Yeira’eh Es P’nei Hashem Reikam”-“Three times a year, each of your males shall appear [be seen] before Hashem’s Presence in the place that He shall choose… and one shall not appear [be seen] before Hashem’s Presence empty-handed.”2
Together, these are the bookends commandments of Parshas Re’eih, the reverse parallel instructions to “see” and to “be seen.” The connection is intriguing, but what does it mean? Is there a deeper relationship between these instructions? Is there a hidden ideal that they share?
To answer this question, let us consider what it exactly it means to “see” and “be seen.” Typically, when we’re being told to see something, it means there is some visual aid to look at. Whenever our goal is to be seen, it is usually to let someone know that we cared to show up—we show face.
Considering the common meaning of seeing and being seen, it is fascinating to note how atypical the usage of these verbs are in Parshas Re’eih. What we are being told to look at is not so clear. What it means to be seen in Yerushalayim on the holidays is also quite obscure.
Let us begin with “Re’eih.” What are we supposed to “see”? A “blessing” and a “curse”? But, those are abstract concepts. How are we supposed so see these things? What does it mean to see the blessing and curse that is placed before us? What was Moshe pointing to and bringing to our attention?
Moving on to “Yeira’eh,” what does it mean that we have to “be seen”? Who needs to see us? Apparently, the “P’nei Hashem” or the Presence of Hashem, but what does that mean? If the goal was simply for us to ascend to Yerushalayim and experience aspects of the Avodah, then that would be reasonable. But, we would hardly refer to that as “being seen.” Apparently, it is not just about our sensory experience, but about Hashem “experiencing” us, which is obviously difficult to comprehend. Does Hashem have a special guest list with our names on it, such that we have to make sure to pop our heads in so He knows that we showed up? Obviously, G-d can see us wherever we are, so what is the significance of our physical attendance that we Torah emphasize that we have to “be seen” and show face as it were?
“What is straight in the eyes of Hashem”
What is interesting to note is that a pattern seems to develop in Moshe’s speech as he appears to employ a new “slogan” or “catchphrase” in his instructions to the B’nei Yisrael. When warning the people that they may only offer sacrifices to G-d in the chosen place, namely, the Temple Mount in the Promised Land, and not wherever they so pleased, Moshe commanded, “Lo Sa’asun K’Chol Asheir Anachnu Osim Poh HaYom Ish Kal HaYashar B’Einav”-“You shall not do like all that we are doing here today, man [according to] whatever is straight in his eyes.”3
Later, when telling the nation not to consume the blood of the animal sacrifices, Moshe was compelled to add, “…Ki Sa’aseh HaYashar B’Einei Hashem”-“…for you shall do what is straight in the eyes of Hashem.”4
When summarizing the commandments of the sacrificial services and describing how one should properly offer them before G-d on the Altar, Moshe reminded the B’nei Yisrael to keep the commandments for their betterment and, of course, “…Ki Sa’aseh HaTov V’HaYashar B’Einei Hashem Elokecha”-“…for you shall do what is good and what is straight in the eyes of Hashem your G-d.”5
Finally, when Moshe transitions to the topic of false prophets, professed dreamers of divine visions, missionaries for idolatry, and cities in the Promised Land which host idolatry, he caps off the discussion by stating that the nation must keep Hashem’s commandments as their job is, “…La’asos HaYashar B’Einei Hashem Elokecha”-“”…to do what is straight in the eyes of Hashem your G-d.”6
What is the meaning behind this unavoidable emphasis on that which is “straight in the eyes of Hashem”?
If we could put it simply, it is that Hashem, in fact, has a viewpoint. Hashem has an impression of what happens in this world—our every step and misstep. Whatever we do is either straight or crooked in the eyes of Hashem.
This perhaps is the deeper meaning of the “blessing” and “curse” which Moshe commanded us to “see.” We argued that these concepts are abstract, and perhaps that is the point. If the target of Moshe’s speech was glaring, he wouldn’t need to tell us to “look.” He’s telling us to “see” something we would not have otherwise. What does he want us to see?
The answer is that he wants us to see the world, but from “G-d’s-eye view.” Not the world as we may know it—the world as we may see through our “own lying eyes.” To see the world Hashem’s view means to recognize from an objective, divine standpoint, that, through our actions, we generate either existential “blessing” or inescapable “curse.” Which result we produce depends on the divine standard which has been laid out in the Torah and placed before our very eyes. Regardless of how society and other contemporary world cultures view the world, there is an objective standard for that which is “blessed” and “cursed.” Moshe welcomes us and urges us to be enlightened and see the blessing and curse, the world from “G-d’s-eye view.”
The Most Important Impression
With all of the above, we can explain the deeper meaning of the partner instruction in Aliyah L’Regel of “Yeira’eh” or “being seen.” What is the hidden objective? What does it mean to “be seen”?
Surely, if we don the wrong lenses and preoccupy ourselves with worldviews foreign to those of G-d Himself, we will veer off the path and go lost. But, not only do we lose ourselves when we obstruct our own vision, but when we concern ourselves with the impression of others—in other words, when we get caught up in how it is we are seen by others.
This does not at all mean that we should neglect our charge to create a Kiddush Hashem and risk creating a Chillul Hashem, G-d forbid. But, when it comes down to it, whose impression of us is of utmost importance? Whose impression of us should be most concerning to us? We care very much to “be seen” and “show face” at various affairs. We care about what people think of us. Indeed, Kiddush Hashem matters, and if we’re doing everything we’re supposed to, regardless of the world’s impression of us, we will always generate only Kiddush Hashem and never a Chillul Hashem. That is because when the world thinks one way and Hashem “thinks” differently, then something has to give. And at that point, whose view of us must govern our actions? For Whom is it most crucial that we “show face”?
That question is answered by Aliyah L’Regel. We “show up” because, indeed, it shows that we care. It shows that we recognize that G-d is watching us. Coming full circle, our attendance at Hashem’s appointed place at Hashem’s appointed times demonstrates our understanding that He has an impression of us. The fact that we’re sure not to be caught “empty-handed” is a testament that we care about His impression of us.
See & Be Seen
In the end, our work is cut out for us, and the charge is every bit clear as it is challenging. We have to try to see the world from G-d’s view, know before Whom it is that we will be seen, and act accordingly.
May we all be Zocheh to appropriately see and be seen—demonstrating our G-dly view of the world through our actions and making the right impression before G-d so that He should enable us to see and be seen experiencing the Geulah and the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂
- Devarim 11:26
- 12:28. Why this verse adds the word “HaTov”-“what is good” is perhaps an important discussion, but one which will not be addressed here.