Tosh Torah Series | Parshas Re’eh

Aug 26 2022

During the Yom Kippur davening, we say, “Hakol chafeitzim l’yirah es Shimecha”; every Jew wants nothing more than to serve Hashem properly. Deep down inside, the thin, small voice of our neshama tehorah continuously echoes throughout our being, compelling us to grow, to strive, to begin a new chapter in the long and tumultuous tale of our journey toward Hashem’s embrace. As Chazal phrased it, “Retzoneinu laasos retzonecha”, “Our will is to do Hashem’s Will.”

But there is only one problem: “U’mi me’akev? Seor sheb’isah” – the yetzer hara prevents us from carrying out our intention. The Tosher Rebbe teaches that one of the primary strategies of the yetzer hara is to “allow us” to return to Hashem but convince us not to rush it – to start tomorrow. With all kinds of different claims, many of which appear to be for the benefit of our spiritual success – like the idea that one must first truly understand how teshuvah works before attempting to improve, the yetzer hara pushes us off and causes us to delay our embarkment on an epic spiritual adventure. It was in order to counter this strategy that Chazal teach, “Ein ‘V’atah’ elah lashon teshuvah” – any time the word “v’atah”, “and now”, is used, this is a reference to teshuvah, because this is the essence of teshuvah: “V’atah” – right now, seize the moment, grab hold of the inspiration and don’t delay!

The first pasuk in our parsha reads, “Re’eh Anochi nosein lifneichem hayom beracha uk’lallah” – “See, I am placing before you, today, a blessing and a curse.” The Tosher Rebbe points out two difficulties with this pasuk. First of all, why is the word “Re’eh” used where there was nothing to look at? Wouldn’t the word “Shema”, “hear”, have been more appropriate in this context of verbal communication? Second, why does the pasuk say that Hashem is placing the blessing and curse before am Yisrael “hayom”, that day, if, as the ensuing pesukim make clear, this blessing and curse would only manifest at a later date, depending on the choices of am Yisrael and the lifestyle they would lead?

Based on what we have learned, the tzaddik explains that the word “hayom” is the heart of the pasuk. In using this word, Hashem is not referring to a timeframe for the delivery of the blessing and curse. Rather, “hayom beracha uklallah” – whether am Yisrael would merit the blessing of following the Torah’s ways or suffer the curse of distance from Hashem’s Infinite Light depended on one thing: “Hayom” – their ability to seize moments of inspiration and combat the inclination toward procrastination in the area of spiritual growth and personal development. This also explains why the word “Re’eh” is used, as opposed to the word “Shema” – while a person can hear about something long after the event took place, one can no longer witness that very same event. Seeing implies immediacy, an inability to delay, the impossibility of putting something off for later.

Friends, may we merit to turn up the volume of that holy inner voice constantly compelling us toward teshuvah, toward being a little bit better, living a little bit higher. And may we take this teaching as a reminder never to delay putting that inspiration into practice – immediately granting it a vessel and a home in this physical world by doing something practical to ensure our ability to implement the changes we want to see.

Wishing all of am Yisrael a restful, elevated, and meaningful Shabbos kodesh.