Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg
Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg

Seeing the Blessing

"See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing - if you listen to the mitzvos of Hashem...and the curse - if you do not listen" (Devarim 11:26-28.) Why does the possuk begin with the word "re'eh - see"? It should have simply said, "I present before you today a blessing and a curse."

The Ohr Hachayim explains that for a person to convince others to follow one path and to avoid another, he has to have tried both and seen the value of one over the other. Moshe Rabbeinu was trying to convince Klal Yisroel that only spiritual pursuits have real value. So he said to them, "Re'eh - look at me. I have achieved prominence in the physical world. I have power, wealth, and kingship. And I have also tasted spiritual ecstasy when I ascended to the heavens to receive the Torah. I have experienced the best of both the spiritual and the physical worlds, and I tell you there is nothing that compares to the spiritual blessing that one receives for observing the mitzvos of the Torah." Moshe Rabbeinu was using himself as an example to convince the people to choose a life of Torah and mitzvos, and that is why he begins with the word re'eh.

Perhaps there is another reason that the possuk begins with re'eh. Sometimes a person can be blessed with physical well-being. He is healthy, financially successful and admired by others. And yet he is not happy with what he has. Shlomo Hamelech writes, "A lover of money will never be satisfied with money" (Koheles 5:9.) Chazal comment, "A person does not leave this world with even half of his material desires fulfilled; one who has one hundred wants two hundred" (Koheles Rabbah 1:32, 3:13.) All too frequently, physical blessing does not lead to happiness. That is why the Torah uses the word re'eh, to highlight the fact that feeling blessed is often a matter of perspective. When one focuses on Torah and mitzvos, on fulfilling the will of Hashem, and he accepts that whatever he has in life is a gift and he is sameach b'chelko (happy with his portion), that will bring him inner satisfaction and contentment.

This could be the deeper meaning behind the statement of Chazal, "And you will eat your bread with satisfaction - he eats a little and it becomes blessed inside him" (Toras Kohanim 1:7, cited by Rashi, Bechukosai 26:5.) Satisfaction is not always a function of the quantity a person eats. The Torah promises that if we follow the path of Torah and mitzvos, if we do not look for physical pleasures but rather we focus on what is truly important in life, then Hashem will make us feel satisfied no matter how much we have. Re'eh - see the blessings in your life with the proper perspective, and you will appreciate them.

There is yet a third lesson that the Torah might be hinting to with the word re'eh - that the way to acquire an appreciation for the beracha of Torah and mitzvos is by exposing oneself to kedusha, by seeing spirituality in action. Later in the parsha, the Torah introduces the mitzvah of ma'aser sheni, which requires a tenth of one's produce to be separated and eaten in Yerushalayim. The possuk explains that the purpose of this mitzvah is, "So that you will learn to fear Hashem, your G-d, all the days" (13:23.) How does eating ma'aser sheni lead a person to yiras shamayim? Tosafos (Bava Basra 21a) quotes the Sifrei which explains that when a person comes to Yerushalayim and sees the kohanim, leviim and talmidei chachamim around the Beis Hamikdash and the whole city involved in spiritual pursuits (kulam oskim b'meleches shamayim), it has an effect on him, so that even when he returns home, he is inspired to dedicate more time and energy to avodas Hashem.

This comment of Chazal teaches a critical lesson. When a person is exposed to kedusha, when he sees others involved in spiritual activities, it elevates him. And that perhaps is the idea the Torah is hinting to with the word re'eh. Even if intellectually a person appreciates the value of Torah and mitzvos, unless he actually exposes himself to experiences of kedusha, he will still find it challenging to remain focused on spiritual endeavors. The environment of a person can have a powerful influence on him. If we look for opportunities to connect to kedusha and we associate with people who are involved in avodas Hashem, that can inspire us to strengthen our commitment to Torah and mitzvos, which in turn will bring us true blessing.

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