This week’s parshah open with a short, but powerful powerful verse:
“רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה׃”
“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse:”Deuteronomy 11:26
One listening to the parshah being read, or reading it in the Hebrew, should immediately notice that the word for “I” used is “anochi” rather than “ani” or “hineni.” While one might simply write this off as a mere grammatical convention, Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Epstein notes in his Sefer Meor V’Shemesh (Parshat Reeh) that the word anochi comes with a very specific connotation: this wording is only used when a person is relating themselves to God and aligning themselves with a Divine perspective. To quote Yisro from the Dreamworks musical The Prince of Egypt:
“A single thread in a tapestry, Though its color brightly shine, Can never see its purpose In the pattern of the grand design. And the stone that sits on the very top, Of the mountain’s mighty face, Does it think it’s more important, Than the stones that form the base? So how can you see what your life is worth, Or where your value lies? You can never see through the eyes of man, You must look at your life, Look at your life through Heaven’s eyes.”
This concept, in fact, also makes an appearance in Jewish Law. The very first ruling for Ashkenazi Jews is as follows (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 1:1):
“I have set the Lord before me constantly” (Psalms 16:8); this is a major principle in the Torah and amongst the virtues of the righteous who walk before God. For a person’s way of sitting, their movements and their dealings while they are alone in their house are not like their way of sitting, their movements and their dealings when they are before a great ruler; nor are their speech and free expression as much as they want when they are with their household members and relatives like their speech when in a royal audience. All the more so when one takes to heart that the Great King, the Holy One,Whose glory fills the earth, is standing over them and watching their actions.
In other words, we live our lives differently when we make ourselves aware of the Godliness around us. When we realize that Hashem is always with us, we are able to be more productive and live a life that is not only more meaningful, but also more productive.
This understanding also helps to make sense of the importance placed upon the parsha’s setup. There are blessings and curses placed before us, and the curses detail all that will go wrong if Torah is not properly appreciated. If the Jewish people do good things, they will receive blessing, but if they do badly then they will be cursed. Rav Jonathan Sacks Zt”l wrote (I Believe, Reeh) that this opening teaches a timeless truth:
“As you act, so shall you fare. A free society is a moral achievement. A society is strong when it cares for the weak, rich when it cares for the poor, and invulnerable when it takes car eof the vulnerable. Historically, the only guarantor of this is a belief in Someone greater than this time and place, greater than all time and place, who guides us in the path of righteousness, seeing all we do, urging us to see the world as His work, and humans as His image, and therefore to care for both.”
May we all go into Shabbos with a renewed appreciation for the opportunities that we are are given both through our own eyes and through Heaven’s eyes.
Rabbi Gotlib and the JET Team