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Seeing Is Believing

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

by Rabbi Yissocher Frand

Quirks in the grammar of the Torah's verses hold many lessons for us. Hashem tells the Jewish people, “See (re’eh), I am setting before you (lifneichem), on this day, blessings and curses.” The word re’eh is the singular form of the verb, but the preposition lifneichem is plural. Why the discrepancy?

Furthermore, why was it necessary to preface the gift with the word “see”? If you give someone a present, is it necessary to tell him, “Look, I am giving you a present”? Is it necessary to point out the obvious?

The answer is that blessings are not always so obvious. If we don’t make an effort to “see” them, to perceive them, we may not even be aware that we have been blessed. If we think about it, life is full of blessings. In fact, life itself is the greatest blessing. But we take all these thing for granted and do not realize how blessed we are. Therefore, Hashem reminds us to “see” the blessing He has given us.

The Kotzker Rebbe points out that blessings can be given collectively to many people, but each individual will perceive it in his own way, depending on his own particular personality and outlook. Blessings can be universal, but the perception of them is always individual. Therefore, when Hashem tells us to “see” He uses the singular form, but the placement of the blessing is expressed in the plural.

The Talmud tells us (Taanis 30b), “Whoever mourns the destruction of Yerushalayim will eventually merit to see its joy.” Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohein Kook asks a simple question. If we are talking about someone who mourns the “destruction of Yerushalayim,” then his reward should be to see it rebuilt. Why do the Sages speak about its “joy”?

Rav Kook explains that even when Yerushalayim will be rebuilt not everyone will “see” the profound depths of its joy; that will take a special blessing. The Sages are telling us that if one truly mourns the destruction of Yerushalayim, not only will he see the physical rebuilding of it, he will also be deemed worthy of seeing “joy.”


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