Rabbi EnkinLiving Torah by Rabbi Ari Enkin

This week’s Torah portion is Re’eh, which means to “See” or “Behold” (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17). As the reading opens: “Behold, I place before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing will be if you listen to the commandments of God…and the curse if you do not listen to the commandments of God, and turn away from the path that I command you…”

Pretty straightforward, eh? Picture it: This week’s Torah reading comes at the end of forty exhaustive years of wandering in the desert. The Jewish people were about to enter the Land and one of their first stops would take them to the valley in between Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival. For those who have never been to northern Samaria, Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival are pretty much the same today as they were when these words were spoken. Mount Gerizim is the mountain full of life. Mount Eival is barren. Imagine what kind of eyesore it was to stand in between these two mountains. Plant life on one side. Jagged rocks on the other. The curses that appear in this week’s reading would be pronounced while facing Mount Eival, while the blessings would be recited facing Mount Gerizim. The blessing and the curse.

The commentators ask: What is the “Today” that Moses is referring to? What? “Today” was only then, but not “now”? Can’t be. The Torah is eternal. What’s going on here?

It is explained that “today” is referring to the end of the forty years. As our sages teach us, a person doesn’t truly grasp something until after having studied it for forty years. Now that the Jewish people completed their forty year “training” period, they are truly competent to accept the Torah. They’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and everything in between. It has been a true experience; life changing to say the least. They can now look back and say that they understand the whole picture. Now they understand what God’s role is in this world is and what He expects of them. It is appropriate therefore, that at this time, Moses gives them the choice: pick sides. Which will it be? The blessing or the curse?

So of course, “today” is truly every day. As we say in the Shema prayer two or more times a day: “And these words which I command you TODAY shall be on your heart”. We should feel for the Torah everyday as if it were the first day it was given (…Kind of like a warm sweet Challah bread on Shabbat after going a entire week with dry rolls — ahhh it’s as if it’s the first time you’re eating it!) But it was at this time that the Jewish people were able to legitimately and authoritatively accept the Torah upon themselves once more.

This week’s Torah reading is an eternal opportunity for us to do the same. Once again, we can scream out to God: “We want the blessings! We are prepared to follow your Torah.”

….and with this, the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel — the only place in the world where the Jewish people can fully observe the Torah.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Rabbi Ari Enkin