Perashat Re'eh 5777
Perashat Re'eh 5777Friday, August 18, 2017
The first few words of Perashat Re'eh have many of the classic Torah commentators puzzled. The perasha begins with the pasuk "Re'eh anokhi noten lifnekhem hayom berakha veklala", "See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse". This pasuk contains an interesting paradox. The word re'eh, meaning see, is in singular form, whereas the word lifnekhem, meaning you, is the plural form. Why is it that the Hashem is addressing us both in the singular, or individual, form and the plural form in the same sentence?
To understand this, let us first present an important principle of the Torah: The bounty that is destined for an individual only reaches its destination if the recipient has been prepared to accept such a gift, meaning, even if someone deserves to be blessed with plenty, he will not receive it unless he has properly prepared himself to embrace it.
The book of Melachim II illustrates this principle with the following parable. The widow of the prophet Ovadia came to Elisha to complain that her late husband had left her with overwhelming debts and that the creditor was threatening to take her sons away. After affirming that she did not have any valuables at home except for a small flask of oil, Elisha instructed her to borrow as many vessels as she could from her neighbors. Once the house was filled with all the pots and pans she could collect, she began pouring the oil from her tiny flask into the vessels. Miraculously, the flow of oil did not stop until every vessel that she had managed to borrow was filled. The moment she had no more vessels to fill, the flask stopped producing oil. (Chapter 4)
The Malbim explains that Elisha's blessing for the widow was contingent upon there being sufficient vessels to contain it. The miracle of the oil did not cease because Elisha's blessing was limited. Rather, the blessing ceased because there were no more vessels to fill.
In the same way, every berakha from heaven comes to this world only if there is a container that can hold it. The container does not have to be a physical vessel; it can be a spiritual entity.
A person who wishes to receive Hashem's blessing, in any form, must make himself a proper receptacle for that blessing. One must first explicitly ask from Hashem what he desires through prayer. In addition, when one keeps the missvot, he fashions himself into a worthy vessel. Without these necessary steps, he will not receive his due even though it was destined for him.
This enhances our understanding of the perasha's opening pasuk, "See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse". The blessings of heaven are there for the taking. However, it is not possible for any individual to take hold of them unless he readies himself. The Torah tells every Jew individually: Look! Look at these blessings I have laid out before you, and prepare yourself to receive and hold these blessings.
The pasuk begins with the singular word re'eh, see, which is addressed to the individual. On the other hand, the plurality of the word lifnekhem establishes that the obligation is the same for everyone. Although the message is for each person to find his own opening for receiving Hashem's plentiful bounty, it also speaks to the reality that as a people, we are collectively entrusted to serve as Hashem's repository for His benevolence.
Furthermore, our sages teach us that, "Hashem has found no other suitable container to hold a blessing for Am Yisrael than peace." As a nation, we must maintain peace among our fellow men as we must seek to perfect our personal character traits. Once we have become proper receptacles, Hashem will surely shower us with endless blessings, as many blessings as we can contain.
Jan 23 2020
Tebet 26 5780