This week’s portion, “Re’eh” begins with the phrase “See, this day, I set before you blessing and curse” (Deut. 11.26). This theme of blessing and curse runs throughout the book of Deuteronomy and we will see it again on Yom Kippur afternoon in portion “Nitzavim”. The commentators looked at this opening line of the portion and were drawn to the very first word. “Re’eh” (see!) is written in a singular form, yet the context is a command to the community. Some asked if the word should not have been written in the plural.
Tradition answered that “while the commandments are set before the whole people (hence the plural address), each individual must “see” and decide whether to obey or disobey” (p. 1418 of Plaut Torah Commentary. URJ Press. I think this comment has particular meaning for we Boomers. There is a sense of perspective as we grow. This is very meaningful as we begin to turn the calendar to the High Holidays. We soon will enter the month of Ellul, the month prior to Rosh Hoshonnah, a month when we are asked to “turn” our souls to begin that process of introspection and renewal. SO, it is natural that we look back, a little, on this past year, or years. The advantage of hindsight, other than being 20-20, is that we can sometimes “see” things differently than when we were in the midst of living them.
We live with people, we live in community, yet we often fail to “see” things as they are, rather we see them as we wish them to be. In looking back, we often “see” what was true and real. The challenge, of course, is what we do with that knowledge. Many of us “see” those truths and choose to ignore them. Truth, reality, can be frightening. Yet, many people see those truths and learn from them. Part of this may be garnering the courage to be one’s self, a full human being whose actions and beliefs represent the true “self”, and not the beliefs and actions of others. This individuation of the soul is part of our maturation and healthy aging. It takes courage to really “see” ones own truth. Every day we are given that opportunity. and, as the text reminds us, we are given the choice to “see”!
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.