Rav Alon Anava points out the linguistic inconsistency within the introductory line of this week’s Torah reading, Re’eh, and then highlights the incredible significance of G!d’s word choice. רְאֵ֗ה אָֽנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה: In the text, G!d is saying “Behold, I have given for you today a blessing and a curse.” The first word presents itself in singular form, but is contrasted with the plural of לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם. Rav Alon Anava explains that the meaning is that the opportunity for these blessings and curses are open to all. I like to imagine a big bucket of water that hovers over the water park playground…filling slowly yet consistently with abundant blessings and is desired and anticipated by those waiting below. And when it rains it pours. However, this overflow of blessings depends on the drops of water added, which brings us to the opening word of the Parsha. רְאֵ֗ה in singular form represents the power of the individual, the bountiful opportunity exists everywhere but the effort and conviction required is all within.
This is the energy of Parshat Re’eh, the P arsha before Rosh Chodesh Elul.
Parshat Re’eh also teaches us the fundamental truth about mental health. In times of emotional and spiritual vulnerability, pain and trauma, we need to approach our emotions in an authentic fashion.
Instead of following the normalized behavior of “the quick-fix” mentality, or displacing our deeper feelings with superficial issues, Hashem commands us to dive deeper and seek higher.
G!d forbids Bnei Yisrael to engage in any physical harm, especially in times of mourning and sorrow. Our body is a “kli” – a vessel–a physical manifestation of our spiritual intention in this world. G!d commands us to protect the gift of our bodies and even more so, the gift of our emotional and spiritual well being. The Torah guides us to process our emotional and spiritual struggles with clarity, without the need to manipulate them in order to make the process easier.
The Torah uses the example of cutting oneself and ripping out eyelashes as a form of intense physical harm in the context of mourning but, much like everything, the Torah holistically applies to all ages and eras. Today, I believe that this self harm caused by overwhelming pain has evolved into uncontrollable behaviors like emotional overeating and drug abuse. Again, society has fallen victim to the “esc” button of the human experience.
Thank G!d for the Torah. We’ve now been conditioned since receiving the Torah that these behaviors are wrong and the solution exists within ourselves and the opportunity to actualize that potential exists in everything.
We turn to our emunah, our faith. I heard an interesting idea recently regarding emunah; a Rabbi of a beit knesset was sharing that when Americans sing the national anthem, their hands are covering their hearts. Although the novelty of covering the heart has been a cultural stamp forever, only recently we’ve had to take a moment to recognize what the motion really means. When one covers their heart in tribute to something, they are associating their emotional tie, the feelings of love and appreciation are the substance. However, as our modern society has seen significantly over the last few years, an individual can feel disappointed by their country.
An individual can hate their country, and with that the love that once lived in the palm of their hand that rested on their chest now lies in the mark of their knee on the ground.
The Rabbi then beautifully reminded us of the Torah symbol of devotion, the Shema Yisrael. ואפילו בהסתרה. Even when we feel blinded to the bitachon (choice), fragmented from our faith and tested by truth, we cover our eyes and proclaim, “Hear O Israel, The Lord Our G!d, The Lord is One!” When we can’t see, we hear! We proudly proclaim our faith even in moments of absolute darkness and silence.
This mentality brings us back to the energy of Parshat Re’eh. The Torah begs us to be insatiable to surface satisfaction. The Torah begs us to live like a soul, where no physical “quick fix” is the answer. It’s the deep soul searching for us.
The word Emunah holds a lot of weight and meaning in Jewish life. I’d like to analyze the similarity between the words, Emunah and Immune. Although different, they both connect above the barriers of language.
In Eastern medicine, tapping of the chest offers health benefits specifically to the immunity health of the individual. By opening the chest airways, the body is more accepting of strength and improved immunity.
Now when the application of this is understood from a Jewish perspective, we can understand the magnitude of Hashem’s wisdom in all aspects of life.
Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur are approaching rapidly, both being holidays of immense emunah and introspection. Chinese medicine suggests to bring immunity we have to tap on the chest, Judaism believes that in order to improve our Emunah, we bang on our chest, “אשמנו, בגדנו, גזלנו” The practice of banging our heart and chest in order to introspect and address the real emotions of our year and the truth of our identity is what opens our arms to faith. It is the breaking point of Shefa (abundance.)
Rav Shlomo Katz says that during Elul we are capable of receiving the gift of a fresh start; a new Neshama. This pure, pristine soul now grants us the clarity of direction and whether our eyes are open or not we are finally searching for our soul in the right lens.
As we bang on our chest and whisper the words gifted to us we realize that רְאֵ֗ה אָֽנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה is real and in our lives. We actively bind our body and soul, our Kli and Shefa. Starting right now!
With all of this in mind, I want to wish everyone a Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach; a moment of soul and sanctuary. B’ezrat Hashem in the z’chut of our Torah learning and application, we build the spiritual presence of the Beit HaMikdash as well as the physical dwelling.