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Parshat Re'eh - Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:26 - 16:17

“…I Set Before You…”

by Shmuel ben Shlomi

Parsha Re’eh begins in an odd way when the verses that immediately preceded it in the previous parsha stated that HaShem would stand before Israel and will put dread and the fear of the Israelites upon all those who would stand in their way of possessing the land of promise once they enter in.

Now HaShem continues, not with more words of victory or comfort based solely on His promise, but reveals that the foundation for this great forging of a relationship between them and Him is conditional. His love and caring for His people is eternal and unconditional since it rests solely on the covenant He made and swore upon Himself with our fathers, Avraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Israelites can be sure of one thing, the land is theirs and will always be theirs on that foundational relationship alone and nothing else. However, whether or not it will be a blessing or a curse upon them is contingent on one thing and one thing alone —

“See this day, I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of Adonai Eloheynu that I enjoin upon you this day; and a curse, if you do not obey the commandments of Adonai Eloheynu, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, who have not proved themselves to you.” [Also SEE: Hosea 13:4]

As one enters any relationship there are certain rules that will govern it. For example - the relationship between a man and woman in marriage is governed by certain rules and vows taken by each upon which each promise to the other to abide by in order for that relationship to be a positive, productive and successful one. The same holds true for our relationship with HaShem. At Sinai HaShem gave His Law and made certain promises to His people and the people solidified it by making the vow —

“All that Adonai has spoken we will do.” [Exodus 19:8]

This began the new relationship between HaShem and His people. Before this time the covenant between Him and Avraham, Isaac and Jacob was not fully realized until that day at Sinai when all the offspring of these patriarchs was gathered before Him, the commandments given and their vow taken. While the covenant remains eternal, the promise of the blessings of that covenant is conditional upon each generation of Israelites to experience it for themselves depending upon their legal promise as stated in Exodus. It is here in parsha Re’eh that HaShem reminds them (and us) of the conditional aspect for them and any future generations of their offspring (that’s us again).

Historically, we bear witness to this in times when we the children of Israel as a nation have obeyed the commandments of Torah. The nation was blessed, as was the world we touched around us; but in those times in which we sought out after alien gods whom we have not experienced or copied the nations around us that lead us astray from the Torah and into the paths of darkness, the curse upon us and the world became obvious and at times, quite heavy and burdensome.

The rest of the parsha details the laws and rules that we must carefully observe both in the land of promise that Adonai has given us to possess and even in those lands we may find ourselves outside of Israel. Within our particular sphere of influence, however great or small it may seem, must be illuminated by us through our following the words, commands and laws found in Torah.

Today, in the first half of the 21st Century CE we find ourselves with an extremely propitious opportunity both as a nation once again in the Land of Promise and as individuals who may still be living outside the borders of Israel. We can be a blessing or a curse for ourselves, our families, our neighbors and even in whatever nation we inhabit, be it in the diaspora or within Israel itself.

We have today set before us a blessing or a curse. Which will we chose?

Until next time — Shabbat Shalom!

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