See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. — Deuteronomy 11:26–28
The Torah portion for this week is Re’eh, which means “see,” from Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:11–55:5.
This week’s Torah reading begins, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” The portion is called Re’eh, which means “see.” But what were the Israelites looking at? Why does God say “see”? Shouldn’t it have said, “Listen, you can choose blessing or curse. If you follow My laws, you will be blessed, if not, you will be cursed”? What did God want the children of Israel to see?
The expression goes, “seeing is believing,” because when you see something, it resonates on a level unparalleled with hearing. Someone can describe to you what a sunset over a sea looks like. They can tell you what colors appear in the sky and how the light reflects on the water’s surface. But until you actually see a sunset over an ocean, you can’t really understand how beautiful it is.
A less beautiful example is when General Dwight D. Eisenhower went to visit the Nazi death camps in Poland. Eisenhower’s statement, which is featured prominently at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., says that he went to see the evidence with his own eyes so that he could be a witness if the world ever tried to deny the Holocaust. Seeing is believing. Believing is knowing that something is true.
When God told the children of Israel that they were to see that they had a choice before them, He was telling them to know – with complete clarity – that following His ways would bring them blessings and going against Him would bring curses. It’s as if God was saying to them, “See! Know it, experience it, and store this truth in your heart. There will be a time when your vision gets cloudy. There will be a time when you have decisions to make in life. Choose Me. Choose blessings.”
It would benefit us to think of this verse every day. Sometimes we let ourselves sink into the murkiness of life, into a place where life seems confusing. However, life isn’t complicated. Not when viewed from the place of clarity that God provides for us in this reading. In every decision we face, there is only one deciding factor – which path is most congruent with the will of God? If we navigate according to that compass, we will never go wrong.
Seeing something with our own eyes is a way to believe. Yet it is also true that believing is a way of seeing more deeply, more clearly, more fully than just our eyes can.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President