|This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my 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 grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah
-Amitai Dovid Ben Rivka Shprintze
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-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
● What did Moshe want us to “see”? ●
After reinforcing the B’nei Yisrael’s devotion to Hashem and breaking down the fundamental components of a man’s relationship with Hashem in Parshas Va’Es’chanan and Eikev, Moshe Rabbeinu charged the B’nei Yisrael to a new task:
“Re’eih Anochi Nosein Lifneichem HaYom Brachah U’Klalah”-“See I am placing before you today, blessing and curse.”1 With this opening, Moshe introduced what appear to be consequences—that there would be Brachah or a blessing should the people obey G-d’s Will, and Klalah or a curse if, G-d forbid, if they would neglect to do so.2
TODAY’S SITE: The Blessing and Curse of Re’eih
On its own, this passage is innocent and fairly simple to understand. However, there are two issues to be raised with Moshe’s warning to the people, one internal to the text and one more global to Sefer Devarim.
- What are we looking at?
Firstly, Moshe begins this warning with the directive of “Re’eih,” to look or see; “See I am placing before you today, blessing and curse.”1 The question is what exactly Moshe was expecting the B’nei Yisrael to see or look at. It might have made more sense for Moshe to have begun this announcement with the word, “Shema”-“listen,” as he had been doing until this point. “Re’eih” would seem to imply that there is something for the people to view with their eyes, but the subject of Moshe’s message seems to be more abstract, the concepts of blessing and curse. Why, then, did Moshe instruct the B’nei Yisrael to “see”? What was there to see?
Perhaps, one can suggest that the subject of Moshe’s speech was actually not so abstract, and that, in fact, he did not want the B’nei Yisrael to meditate on the mere concepts of blessing and curse. What he really wanted them to do was to actually open their eyes and look around at their life circumstances and see the tangible, real life impact of the consequences of their actions, as the blessings and curses would come to reality before their very eyes.
Although this suggestion certainly answers the question and is quite tempting, if Moshe’s message was really just that the people ought to look at the consequences of their actions, then we must conclude that Moshe’s words are either superfluous or their meaning is just unclear. Why is that? I refer you to the second question below.
- More Consequences
The more global issue with this segment of Moshe’s speech is that the message of reward and punishment for one’s actions is not only an old one, but one which Moshe spoke about in depth only one Sidrah ago in Parshas Eikev. Indeed, perhaps two thirds of Eikev consisted of Moshe’s warnings to the B’nei Yisrael of the consequences of their actions.
In fact, the famous second passage of Krias Shema, “V’Hayah Im Shamo’a…”-“And it will be if you hearken…,”3 revolves around the principle of S’char V’Onesh, reward and punishment, as it pertains to our Avodas Hashem.
Accordingly, if it is true our Pasuk in Re’eih is here to enlighten us to the reality that good things will happen when the people obey G-d and that bad things happen when the people defy Him, then, what was Moshe adding to what he already stated earlier? What is the message of Re’eih beyond that which Moshe already spent the entirety of Parshas Eikev conveying to the B’nei Yisrael?
Furthermore, in a couple of Sidros, in Parshas Ki Savo, the Torah will present to us an elaborate array of blessings and curses that could befall the B’nei Yisrael depending on the performance of Avodas Hashem in the frightening verses of the Tochachah4, the passage of Admonition. If Eikev introduced us to the concept of “consequences” and the Tochachah was going to further that message in elaborate fashion, what is Parshas Re’eih supposed to be contributing to the discussion?
STRAIGHT AHEAD: The “Brachah-Klalah” Presentation
If one would merely read ahead through our passage in Re’eih, one would realize that Moshe was not merely warning the nation that there would be consequences to their actions, “blessing” or “curse,” but he was informing the nation that there would be formal blessings and curses to be declared and presented in a ceremonious fashion as described later in Parshas Ki Savo.5 This presentation, Moshe explained, would take place upon the nation’s entry into Eretz Yisrael, at which time the tribes would be divided and positioned on two mountains Har Eival and Har Gerizim for the grand showing.6 In fact, perhaps it is this “showing” which Moshe Rabbeinu was commanding the B’nei Yisrael “look” out for, in the not so distant future.
Now, this presentation of blessing and curse would not merely be a warning about consequences for obeying and disobeying the Torah, but it would mark the forging of new covenant and contract between the B’nei Yisrael and Hashem. Thus, this “blessing” and “curse” is quite unlike anything that we were exposed to in Parshas Eikev or would be taught in the Tochachah. In fact, Chazal describe the entire procession to come, how the Kohanim and Levi’im would stand in the valley, declare these generic blessings and curses7; “Blessed is the one who does not violate X…Cursed is the person who does violate X…,” to which the people respond “Amein”-“It is true.”
Now only does this presentation of blessing and curse not look anything like what Moshe described in Eikev or will describe during the Tochachah, it pales in comparison to both. In the covenant of Har Eival and Har Gerizim, we actually do not get the vivid and awe-inspiring description of tangible blessings and curse which can be found in Eikev and in the Tochachah. With that said, the “blessing” and “curse” of Re’eih clearly has less to do with the fortune or misfortune that would befall the people based on their Torah observance, and perforce, is way more nuanced than that. What Moshe was having the people look at is a formal service in which abstract blessings and curses are the topic of discussion. If that is indeed what Moshe wanted the people to be aware of, we have to be bothered by at least two more questions.
- Why now?
Indeed, if the blessing and curse Moshe is describing is really just a reference to a ceremony to be elaborated on in two Sidros from now, Parshas Ki Savo, a ceremony that would not even be taking place until the people could enter Eretz Yisrael, why was Moshe urging the people to “see” the blessing and curse right now? Why did Moshe need to issue this instruction so prematurely?
Seeing as Moshe would not actually describe the ceremony of the mysterious blessing and curse until later, it would seem that the Moshe’s speech from now until that point would all be an integral and most necessary introduction to that presentation. In a similar vein, we might suggest that the rest of the contents of Parshas Re’eih needed to be preceded by this preamble, that Moshe was placing before them “blessing and curse.” Meaning, there has to be some connection between Moshe’s message about the “blessing and curse” and everything that follows. What is that connection?
- What was there to see?
The second question is that if the “blessing” and “curse” was not a description of the tangible consequences of one’s actions, then what exactly did Moshe want the people to “see”? We suggested a possibility that Moshe wanted them to look out for the forging of the new covenant in the coming days, but is that really so compelling? After all, why they would have to “look” out for that? Was Moshe worried that the people might blink during the procession and miss something major at Har Eival and Har Gerizim? Even for a ceremony, there does not seem to have been all that much there to look at. What then was it about these abstract blessings and curses that Moshe wanted the people to see?
OBSERVE: Looking Further than Eye View
The premise of this second question regarding what Moshe exactly wanted the people to look at was the reality that, indeed, there was nothing tangible there for the people to look at that particular moment in time. But, maybe that is the entire point of Moshe’s command. Had there been something to look at which is clear in plain sight, Moshe would not have had to urge the people to “look.” They would have naturally seen it. Moshe needed to instruct the people to “see” or tangibly realize something which they might have otherwise missed and dismissed. The question is: What was Moshe conveying to them that they did not realize before which now, he insisted that they open their eyes and see?
EXPLORING: “What is straight in the eyes of Hashem”
With all of that background, we turn to the contents of Re’eih. After Moshe’s introduction, he proceeded to discuss the laws of destroying objects and centers of Avodah Zarah, idolatry, as well as the proper implementation of sacrificial services to the One True G-d.
What is interesting to note is that within these upcoming passages, a pattern seems to develop in Moshe’s speech as he appears to employ a new “slogan” or “catchphrase” in his instructions 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.”8
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.”9
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.”10
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.”11
The question is what exactly is it that Moshe meant in these recurring words? Obviously, following the Torah is the definition of that which is proper according to G-d’s view, or in G-d’s “eyes,” so would Moshe have had to stress this point multiple times in his speech here? Even once is extraneous.
Moreover, it is not like Moshe was addressing the most foreign statutes that he needed to remind the people that these laws were proper in G-d’s eyes. He was discussing such fundamental concepts in Avodas Hashem such as the appropriate way to offer a sacrifice to G-d and eradicate idolatry. One would think that G-d’s “view” on these matters is the premise of the discussion. Why then is Moshe did Moshe need to state and overstate this imperative to do “HaYashar B’Einei Hashem”-“what is straight in the eyes of Hashem”?
DISCOVERING: The Straight Path – “G-d’s-Eye View”
This question may hinge on the opening of our Sidrah. We wanted to know what exactly Moshe was urging the people to “see.” And we concluded that it must be something that is not obvious or apparent to the naked, human eye.
Moreover, as was noted, with the command of “Re’eih,” Moshe introduced the B’nei Yisrael to what looked like a simple, blanket warning, “blessing” if they would do what is right, and “curse” if they would do what is wrong. Of course, in light of other admonitions and that which the Torah reveals about the nature of this “blessing” and “curse,” we eliminated that read as a possibility. It is clear that there is more than just a discussion here about reward and punishment.
Indeed, it would seem that recognizing openly manifest consequences for one’s actions is not as difficult a feat as it is to recognize the “Brachah” and “Klalah” which Moshe was vaguely describing here. To detect basic consequences is a simple feat. It is a matter of cause and effect, action and reaction. Even young children and animals can appreciate these concepts. Again, these consequences are not the topic of discussion here. What, then, are the “blessing” and “curse” of Parshas Re’eih adding to the S’char V’Onesh of Parshas Eikev and the grotesque curses of the Tochachah? They must be referring to concepts far more nuanced and extraterrestrial than the results of our actions.
“Blessed is the person who does not violate X…Cursed is the person who does…” is not a description of reward and punishment, but rather an objective and perhaps divine standard and impression of a person who fulfills or, Chas V’Shalom, transgresses the will of G-d. The individual is intrinsically blessed if he fulfills G-d’s will. That would explain why Moshe specifies, “Es HaBrachah Asher Tishmi’u El Mitzvos…”-“The blessing: that you listen to the commandments…”—the blessing is not “if” you obey, but “that” you obeyed the will of G-d! Moshe was thereby communicating that by an objective standard, “S’char Mitzvah Mitzvah”-“the [true] reward of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah”12—that beyond any consequence, there is intrinsic, existential value to the obedience of Hashem’s will!
What emerges is that, exactly as we’ve suggested, what Moshe wanted the people to see here was something beyond the basic, tangible consequences of their actions. Recognition of this kind of “blessings” or “curse” entails seeing G-d’s impression of man, attaining what we might refer to as “G-d’s-eye view.”
Seeing anything from G-d’s-eye view could be no simple task, and perhaps it is precisely for this reason Moshe Rabbeinu needed to stress “Re’eih”—that the nation should “look at,” “see,” and “recognize” something that it possibly had never before, something that they would not have ever seen otherwise. Because, again, to see one’s actions and decisions as matters which, not merely have consequences, but make lasting impressions on his soul and reflect his inner essence before G-d requires a more sensitive, almost extrasensory level of perception.
But without putting in the effort to perceive ourselves and the world around us from G-d’s view, one leaves himself at risk of shrugging off the yoke of heaven. Indeed, one should not and, really, could not base his obedience to Hashem’s will on mere “consequences.” That is because, firstly, why would one want to wait for the going to get tough before he learns to fulfill his responsibilities? If one accepts that at the end of the day, there is S’char and Onesh for his actions, then he should not wait until it is too late. On the contrary, he should reasonably be proactive like an intelligent and responsible adult, not simply reactive like an animal or child.
Secondly, even if we accept that there are consequences for our actions, those consequences are simply not always immediate or at least not immediately obvious. That is because, again, we are not animals or children; Hashem is not going to condition us to fulfill our spiritual responsibilities. Thus, if one does not engage in regular introspection to seek out G-d’s perception of him, he will not recognize the the reward and punishment that G-d plants in his life. Without this sensitivity, there could be no real awareness of even the consequences of one’s actions, thus, one will be left with no line of defense against his Evil Inclination.
REVISITING: G-d’s-Eye View in Gan Eden
This reality may explain the first sin of mankind in Gan Eden. When the Serpent successfully convinced woman, “Lo Mos Tamusun”-“you will not surely die,”13 that that which G-d had warned would not immediately come to pass, it was only a matter of time before she would test the waters with his single command from Hashem. In the end, mankind evidently had no regard for G-d’s impression. Indeed, eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil reflected that it was mankind’s own impression of itself, not G-d’s view, which mattered most. But, when man and woman ate from the tree, their eyes were suddenly open allowing them to see matters from G-d’s view.14
NEXT STOP: The Era of the Shoftim – “Ish HaYashar B’Einav”
Indeed, as elementary and obvious as the concept of doing what is proper in G-d’s eyes seems, there was a norm that existed in the era of the Shoftim to the contrary. During the period of the Judges, the nation at large disregarded the “Einei Hashem,” marking that era as a time when, the Navi describes, “Ish HaYashar B’Einav Ya’aseh”-“Man, what was straight in his eyes, he would do.”15 Indeed, it was in those days when the B’nei Yisrael were stooped in perhaps the deepest bog of Avodah Zarah in the nation’s history.
In a similar manner, Shimshon followed his instints and chose a wife from among the P’lishtim who, the Navi describes, was “straight” in his “eyes,” but apparently not so in G-d’s eyes.16
FINAL DESTINATION: Seeing from G-d’s-Eye View
Moshe’s command challenges us to live up to a certain standard of maturity and spiritual sensitivity, to enable ourselves to understand a language more sophisticated than that of reward and punishment. Indeed, if G-d created man in His likeness17 with an intellectually refined spirit18, the aim should be for one to “see” past the tangibles and recognize the true imprint of “Brachah” and “Klalah” that is created by his every action. Put simply, the charge is to develop “Einei Hashem” that depict what is straight by divine standards and will govern his decisions and actions. We have to see things from “G-d’s-eye view.”
May we all be Zocheh to see from G-d’s-eye view, be sensitive to the spiritual implications of our every decision and action, allow this Divine extrasensory perception to govern our Avodas Hashem, and Hashem should reveal, in full view, the reality of Geulah and the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos Rosh Chodesh and Chodesh Elul!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂
- Devarim 11:26
- Ibid. 11:27-28
- Ibid. 11:13-21
- Devarim 28
- Devarim 27
- Ibid. 11:29
- Sotah 32A
- Devarim 12:8
- Ibid. 12:25
- Ibid. 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.
- Ibid. 13:19
- Pirkei Avos 4:2
- Bereishis 3:4
- Bereishis 3:7, 22
- Shoftim 17:6 and 21:25
- Ibid. 14:3, 7
- Bereishis 1:26
- Ibid. 2:7; See Onkelus.