This week’s parshah starts with the word Re’eh, ‘behold’, and concludes with the commandment Yira’eh, “you are to be seen” –to see and to be seen. We start with Moses outlining blessings and curses. The world has suddenly become a world of black and white: obey the commandments and we get the blessings, disobey and the curses will arrive. It’s a chilling moment.
But the entirety of Torah shows us a world that sits between the realities of black and white. Free will is constantly bringing us to the grey areas, and Judaism works best when avoiding extremes. This moment of Torah, Moses’ positioning of stark blessings and curses, is a human moment. As he feels his life is ending, Moses heads to communicating easy choices of paradise or abomination. The portrait he outlines never existed and never will.
But Moses’ message sits within the larger structure that tells us you must ‘see’ and ultimately you must ‘be seen’. In today’s world, many of us sit as observers and if we engage, we know there is the lure of being anonymous on the internet. The problem is that remaining anonymous means no one can be held accountable for what they’ve said or done. In the language of Torah, we are happy to see but we are afraid to be seen.
Judaism acknowledges that we all have moments of fear, we will think we prefer a world of black and white, and the safety of remaining anonymous, but we are wrong. Once all this is outlined to us, the Torah then commands us to “be seen” – to know that each one of us is needed to engage with and to heal the world. Ultimately, we are accountable for each time we choose to express, and we are accountable for each time we choose to be invisible.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.