This week we will be reading from parashat Re’eh. Re’eh marks the start of the third of four sermons Moses gives to the Israelites as they are about to enter into the land of Canaan. Moses is addressing all the assembled people with the words, “Re’eh Anochi notein lifneichem hayom beracha u’klala, see, this day I set before you blessing and curse.” 1 Here Moses is laying bare before the Israelites two starkly different life choices, living a life filled with blessing and meaning, or a life without. And in order to make the “right choice,” the Israelites need to open their eyes and see what was around them.
Of course, this is easier said than done. It is so easy to be so focused on life’s challenges that one can miss potential opportunities for blessings. As Rabbi Artson wrote in the Bedside Torah 2 , “In the midst of all these anxieties, how are we to live? Isn’t unrelenting gloom a rational response? Many scholars and philosophers, struck by life’s apparent pointlessness, have counseled emotional withdrawal from the passions of living for precisely that reason. We live and we die, without hope of any real breakthrough in human understanding or harmony. Is despair the most logical attitude to cultivate? Perhaps it is. But people are never strictly rational, and life is far too variegated to fit any single response.
For the spiritually alive, life is a constant marvel. Without having asked to live, without doing anything to deserve the gifts of life, companionship, and joy, we are offered these gifts in abundance that is staggering … Serving God implies the capacity to feel gratitude, a response of joy to the many wonders of living.”
Religious and/or spiritual practices, however you may choose to define them, are about helping us to connect with the greater world, with each other, with your sense of the Divine, and with the wonder that is life. We should never be blind to all the challenges, all the pain and suffering in the world. Yet, at the same time, we should not let them overwhelm us to the point that we fail to re’eh, to see all the good as well.
On this Shabbat, we are being reminded to see all of creation and to choose blessing. May we, even for a few moments, be able to do so.
Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff
1 Deuteronomy 11:26
2 Artson, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, The Bedside Torah, Contemporary Books, 2001, pg. 307