Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God. — Deuteronomy 12:28
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.
The Kotzker Rebbe, a renowned rabbi who lived in Poland in the 1800s, had many famous sayings. This is one of them: “If I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you. But if I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you!”
Did you catch that? It sounds like a riddle, but it’s actually a very simple concept. When someone lives their life according to what others might think of them, then they don’t really live an authentic expression of who they really are. In order to be who we truly are, we need to live life according to our own standards and not according to another person’s point of view.
In this week’s reading, Moses tells the children of Israel that if they obey God’s commands, then life will be good for them “because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God.” Literally translated from the original Hebrew, this phrase is not an explanation, but another directive. It reads: “ . . . do what is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God.”
The Jewish sages see this phrase as a piece of advice. Moses is teaching the Israelites — and us — that we must live our lives according to what God will think of us, as opposed to what other people may think of us. There will be times when doing the right thing won’t be popular and doing the popular thing won’t be right. We need to do “what is good and right in the eyes of the LORD.”
We live in a society where people care immensely about what others think of them. Whether we realize it or not, the things we say, the clothing we wear, and the places we shop are greatly influenced by others. Yet, as the Kotzker Rebbe points out, this robs a person of his or her individuality. While it’s normal and natural to want to fit in, there is also a time and place for standing out. It’s far more important to “fit in” with God and be cast aside by the people around us than to fit in with everyone around us and be cast away by God.
Take a look at your life and ask yourself what God might think of it. What does God think of how I dress, how I spend my time and money?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President