Oh Say Can You See
Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 )
“See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse” (Deut. 11:26).
R Yitzchok Meir of Gur says that God has given a person the wisdom and understanding to be able to distinguish between right and wrong, between a blessing and curse.
We have not only the intelligence to make wise decisions but also the ability to do so. Yet, we often see people making unwise decisions that are to their own detriment, and they fail to use these God-given strengths in their own favor.
This thought occurs to me when I see intelligent and even scholarly people smoking cigarettes, knowingly poisoning themselves. True, it would require effort and some tolerance of discomfort to break the habit, but certainly one's life is dear enough that one should willingly accept the discomfort in the interest of survival. People who readily accept the discomfort of a surgical procedure to save their lives nonetheless appear unable to do so with regard to discontinuing smoking.
The reason for this discrepancy is that one's judgment is distorted by what one would like to believe. The Torah states this very clearly: “A bribe will blind the eyes of the wise” (Deuteronomy 16:19). One's wisdom is ineffective when a bribe has affected one's judgment capacity. A blind person would indeed wish to avoid falling into a pit, but he cannot help himself if he cannot see it.
This is true of every unwise decision. Smoking is just one stark example. We are constantly under the influence of biases that impair our judgment.
The blind person cannot make himself sighted, but we do have the ability to overcome the blindness of our biases. We just need to be on the alert and on the defensive, realizing our vulnerability.
Moses chose his words very deliberately: “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” See, indeed. You have the ability to overcome the blindness of your biases.