By: Michelle Ruby Schwartz
Director of Israel Teen Emissaries and Education
This week, we continue the Torah reading cycle with Parashat Re’eh. Every year, we read the same sections of the Torah week by week and are challenged to find something new to learn each time. As I think back to the hundreds of students I have had the privilege of talking Torah with over my career as a Jewish Educator and B’nei Mitzvah tutor, I have realized that this could not be truer than it is this week. Re’eh was “my” Torah portion when I became Bat Mitzvah on August 30, 1986, and this week I am taking yet another new teaching from it.
Moses is continuing his final speech to the Israelites as they are about to enter the Promised Land without him, and he needs to give them all instructions for how G-d wants them to live in this holy land. There are a lot of expectations on the people, so much so, it takes Moses the entire book of Deuteronomy to lay it all out for them. It begins with the reminder not to worship false idols, describes what they can and can’t eat (the laws of Kashrut), how to treat slaves, and concludes with the laws of the three pilgrimage festivals- Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
Here is what I have gleaned from Re’eh during this read through. Re’eh translates to “see” and reads, “See, this day I set before you blessing and curse…” What intrigued me was the use of the word “see” in this context. Moses is giving the Israelites the power of sight. Why would they need to be given sight when everything they are being told must be heard? This resonated with me because when I thought about it, we see evil, curses, and terrible things happening all around us, and we are then challenged to transform what we see into something good. If I break this down even further, it reminds me to be more observant of what’s happening around me and see opportunities for bringing blessing.
Of course, none of this is new information and is just part of being a good person, but the idea that we have been given all of these senses with which to experience the world should be a reminder we have gifts to share and things to contribute, but we have the choice as to how we use them. I hope this Shabbat brings us all the opportunity to stop and see ways to bring our vision into focus and share our sights and insights with those around us.