> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > 1 Minute Vort on the Parsha

Not the Way It Seems

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

by Rabbi Eli Scheller

See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. (Deut. 11:26)

Moses informed the people about the blessings and curses that would be recited on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The verse begins with the word "re'eh" - See, which is in the singular form. It then continues with "lifneichem" - before you, which is in the plural form. What is the reason for this change?

When a person finds himself in an inconvenient situation, he may become distressed and upset that such a "curse" has happened to him. For example, if one gets stuck in traffic he may miss his flight, and as a result he may lose out on a big business deal. But the truth is that it can actually turn out to be a blessing. It is possible that the loss of money is meant as an atonement for past sins, as well as preventing worse catastrophes from occuring. The Torah is alluding to this message by putting "See" in the singular form, for there is really only "One" that knows if something is a blessing or a curse - God.

A man once asked King Solomon to teach him the language of the birds. King Solomon refused, explaining that it was not a good idea to be familiar with it. The man persisted, so King Solomon taught it to him.

One day the man was walking down the street and listened to the birds chirping. They were talking about him, saying that tonight all his sheep were going to die! He thought to himself, "This is horrible news, but at least I can sell them before that happens." Indeed he sold his sheep.

A few days later he listened to the birds chirping, and again they were talking about him, saying his house was going to burn down. He quickly sold it, thinking to himself, "It's a good thing that I know bird language! I am saving myself so much money!"

The next day he heard the birds saying that tonight he would die! He ran to King Solomon and told him what had happened. King Solomon replied, "Now you'll understand why I didn't want you to know the language of the birds. You did a certain sin for which you deserved a severe punishment, but God, in His great kindness, wanted to give you a clean slate by giving you a small punishment - killing all your sheep. However, you didn't allow Him to do that, so He moved on to your house. You still did not allow Him do so, and therefore the only thing that God could give you to provide you with atonement was your death."

When troubles befall a person he should attempt to accept it with joy, for who knows what tragedies it is saving him from.


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