The key word in this week’s parsha is naturally the word that begins the
parsha – re’eih. The word means “see!” in the imperative, immediate sense.
It is plain to understand that Moshe somehow needs the Jewish people to
understand that it is insufficient to understand intellectually or even
believe emotionally in God’s role in our lives. One must be able to see it
clearly, to identify and quantify it in daily living.
The Talmud in one of its magnificent metaphors describes the scene in
Heaven where the righteous encircle God, so to speak, and point at the
Divine Presence itself, seeing it, so to speak, in clarity and acuity. At
the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, the Jews also pointed their
finger at the Divine Presence that was saving them from Pharaoh’s hordes
and stated: “This is my God.” There are times in one’s individual
existence and certainly in Jewish historical experience that God can
be “seen,” so to speak, in our world. But in order to see one has to look
and one has to focus.
It is insufficient merely to peek or glance. For true sight demands a
degree of concentration, of appreciation of detail, of recognizing depth,
color and shape. And that is where the idea of ritual and commandments
takes center stage in Jewish life and worldview. The commandments of the
Torah are meant to be our corrective lens in order to “see” things
properly. Some people have better physical eyesight than others. The same
can be said for the important aspect of spiritual eyesight as well.
There are people who suffer from not being able to see things from afar.
They are so locked into seeing the trees that they are almost unaware of
the forest that those trees constitute. Knowing the minutiae of the
commandments is important, necessary and praiseworthy. But seeing the
underlying values and principles of Judaism is also important, necessary
and praiseworthy. There are people who feel that they are far-sighted but
who trip over the objects that are immediately in front of them.
By ignoring observance of the commandments and possessing only “Jewish
values” the likelihood of sin is greatly increased. God told Kayin
that “at the open door [as one only steps out of one’s home] sin crouches
in wait” to ensnare us. Thus in order to be able to “see” things correctly
and clearly in Jewish life one cannot be near-sighted nor far-sighted. One
has to have balanced and near perfect vision. In a world where such good
eyesight is rare there are many physical and medical procedures that
advertise the restoration of perfect sight.
Moshe himself, so to speak, advertises such a product in today’s parsha
reading. It is the understanding of the necessary studying and observance
of the commandments combined with a deeper appreciation of true Jewish
values that are the corrective lenses that can help restore our balanced
and focused vision of Jewish and general life. In truth, Judaism
subscribes to the aphorism that seeing is believing.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com