Parasha Inspiration – Re’eh

רְאֵ֗ה אָֽנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה: אֶת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְו‍ֹת֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָֽנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם: וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְו‍ֹת֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וְסַרְתֶּ֣ם מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָֽנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לָלֶ֗כֶת אַֽחֲרֵ֛י אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְתֶּֽם:

Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you will heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today; and the curse, if you will not heed the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn away from the way I command you this day, to follow other gods, which you did not know.

Deuteronomy 11:26-28

This week’s Torah portion continues Moses’ message given to the children of Israel before they enter the land of the promise. Moses sets before the people the blessing and the curse. The phrasing is a bit curious, but quite important.

Moses declares that there is a blessing and a curse. Moses is not blessing or cursing, rather, he is indicating to the children of Israel that the blessing and the curse exist. Neither does Moses imply that Hashem is blessing and cursing, instead, the implication is that the blessing and the curse exist. The children of Israel merely have to make a choice.

The choice is simple, follow the commandments of Hashem and there will be a blessing. Do not follow the commandments of Hashem and there will be a curse. Moses is pointing out to the children of Israel that the natural result of following the commandments is a blessing. The natural result of not following the commandments is a curse. It is not a matter of Hashem, reaching down and actively blessing or actively cursing the children of Israel. Rather, the blessing and the curse exist, we simply have to choose between them.

There was once a child who had learned to crawl. The child’s parents told him to not put your finger in the electrical outlet. If you put your finger in the electrical outlet you will get hurt. In this instance, the parents had outlined the curse to the child. If he puts his finger in the electrical outlet he would get hurt. Note that the parents did not have to imply that they would intervene and hurt the child. The natural consequence of disobeying the commandment was that the child would get hurt.

So it is in Torah. If the children of Israel followed Hashem’s commandments, things would go well with them. If the children of Israel chose not to follow the commandments, things would not go well with them. This is the blessing and the curse.

It is easy to understand, then, that Hashem gave us the Torah in love. To guide our faith to guide our actions, so that things would go well for us. It is not a Torah of judgment, it is rather, a Torah of mercy. Hashem indicates if you want things to go well, follow Torah. If you don’t want things to go well, don’t follow Torah. See, Moses tells us that we have set before us the blessing and the curse. Choose the blessing. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.