Our parsha opens with the word, “re’eh… See.” Why is this word needed?
Hashem is telling us to open our eyes.
“All human beings are presumed to be in a state of blindness until the Holy One, Blessed be He, enlightens their eyes.” (Midrash Rabbah Beraishis 53:14) Midrash brings this when commenting on Hagar’s failure to perceive the well which was right in front of her eyes. (Beraishis 21:19) These words constitute the formula we recite if we have lost something.
Often we do not see what is directly in front of us. This is true not only with physical objects but – even more significantly – in matters of ruchnius.
“These are the ordinances that you shall observe to perform in the Land that Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers, has given you, to possess it, all the days that you live on the Land. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations that you are driving away worshiped their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills, and under every leafy tree. You shall break apart their alters; you shall smash their pillars and their sacred trees shall you burn in the fire; their carved images shall you cut down and you shall obliterate their names from that place. [But] You shall not do this to Hashem, your G-d….” (Devarim 12:1ff)
After the recent shootings in the United States, I saw an article advocating a national day of introspection so that the United States can try to achieve a sense of unity and perspective, the way Am Yisroel, lehavdil, attains unity and perspective on Tisha B’Av.
My friends, we are not permitted to confuse ourselves with other cultures.
This was the confusion which enveloped the Children of Israel in Biblical Egypt, when at least eighty percent identified with Egyptian culture and refused to follow Moses out of Egypt. And this was the confusion which enveloped the Children of Israel in Europe, when the reformers wanted to assimilate into non-Jewish society and take the remembrance of Yerushalayim out of Jewish hearts. “When Hashem your G-d, will cut down the nations, to which you come to take possession from them … and you will … settle in their land, beware for yourself lest you be attracted after them ... and … seek out their gods…” (Devarim 12:29)
It is time to open our eyes and perceive the emptiness of the culture in which we are submerged.
Hashem assures us!
Afflicted, storm-tossed, unconsoled one, behold, I shall lay your floor stones upon pearls and make your foundation of sapphires ….” (Haftaras Re’eh) All will be well for us if we separate from falsehood and come back in teshuva to our Father and King.