See (ANOCHI) I place before you today (HaYom) blessing and curse. The blessing that you listen to the commandments of HASHEM your G-d that I command you today, and the curse if you do not listen well to the commandments of HASHEM – your G-d and you turn away from the path that I command you today to go after other gods that you did not know. (Devarim 11:26-2)
When Moshe uttered these words to the Jewish People nearing the end of their 40-year period of wandering in the desert there was a visual aid there to point to. In that context, with Har Eivel and Har Grizim on display, the command “SEE” makes plenty of sense. The Torah is also contemporaneous and is speaking to us now, especially since we are being told “SEE I place before you TODAY”.
“Today” can be the historical “today” from back then or “today” of now! So, how are we meant to understand this mandate “SEE”? See what? Where? There are endless answers and approaches to this question but let us try one on for size.
It’s been 3,335 years since we stood as a nation by Mount Sinai and we heard the Almighty announce, “ANOCHI HASHEM Elokecha… I am HASHEM you G-d Who took you out of the Land of Egypt…”. The verse testifies about that experience, “And the entire nation saw the sounds…”. We were able to see what could normally only be heard. It was that real!
According to the Ohr HaChaim we are called upon TODAY to SEE that ANOCHI of; “ANOCHI HASHEM Elokecha…” that HASHEM is placing blessing before us TODAY! How so?
It is a curious observation that the Nefesh HaChaim makes that almost all the blessings we make in the course of a day are said in the present tense! When readying to eat an apple, for example, we declare, “Boreh Pri HaEitz”. “Boreh” implies that it is being created Yeish M’Ayin–Something from Nothing now! This is completely consistent with another statement we recite twice each day in Davening, “HaMechadesh B’Chol Yom Tamid Maaseh Breishis” – “That HASHEM renews with his kindliness all day constantly the act of creation!”.
We are meant to recognize that this is not an old apple at all. It is being created and reaffirmed anew by the explicit will of HASHEM at each moment. Old is an illusion! New is reality! Just like the picture on your screen saver, if the program would be punched out or the power removed the screen would go blank, so too if HASHEM was not willing the world to be exactly as it is now it would revert to TOHU V’VOHU. That picture is not a still life, a cut flower. It is very much alive! So too that apple is being delivered now and is as truly fresh as can be!
The Talmud tells us that anyone who says Tehillim 145 three times a day is guaranteed to be a citizen of the Next World. WOW! That is ASHREI Yoshvei… three times daily. The Talmud clarifies that ASHREI is selected because of one particular verse, “Posayach es Yadecha U’Msbia L’Chol Chai Ratzon” – “You open your hand and satisfy the desire of all living things”. We thinking creatures are meant to install over a lifetime, by reciting this consistently, a consciousness and a true imagination that it is HASHEM Who is extending His generous hand and feeding us this apple. It is not an apple that comes generically from a store or a tree or the ground but from HASHEM directly and for us personally!
It is because we know too much or even a little that we may tend to forget this. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I ask my grandkids on SHABBOS “hard-hard questions” and for that they get sweet-sweet treats. They almost always get the answers right. Here is a sample or two: Q: Who made the sky? A: HASHEM! Q: Who made the trees? A: HASHEM! Then I will ask, “Is HASHEM the answer to all questions?” They shout emphatically, “YES!” It’s cute and deep and so true. One time I asked after a series of “Who made this and Who made that…”, “Who made water?” and 5-year-old Mordy said, “You turn the thing!” We chuckled. He figured out the mechanism for getting water and that stood as a mental barrier to seeing the real source. The Baal Shem Tov said on the verse, “ANOCHI Omed Bein HASHEM U’Beincha” … (Devarim 5:5) It’s the “I”, the inflated ego that blocks us from HASHEM. Once that mini-“anochi” is whittled then we begin to SEE ACHOCHI HASHEM giving us daily blessings!
Photo Credit: “Cohanim Hands – Priestly Blessing” by Elyce Feliz on Flickr