Re’eh 5783 – Lecha Dodi (Corning)
“There’s only us, there’s only this
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss
No other path, no other way
No day but today”
If you know me, you know how much I love musicals. As I was studying this teaching for this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, these words kept singing their way through my mind. At the very beginning of the parsha we read these words:
רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה׃
See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: (Deut. 11:26)
A blessing and a curse – a fork in the road lies before us. And it seems so daunting to confront this choice and not know which path to take. Rather than focusing on the choice, The Vilna Ga’on (HaGaon Rabbenu Eliyahu, 1720-1797) focuses on how we get there – those five words that precede this choice. Perhaps there is more here in this single sentence intro than meets the eye. He says:
And notice that it says “Re’eh” (See) in the singular, so that a person will not say, “Who am I that I alone should choose a good path, if the whole world is behaving badly?!: That is why it says “Re’eh” in the singular, i.e. see what is before you: you do good yourself and don’t supervise/watch over the rest of the world.
“Anochi” (I) – So that a person will not say: “How can I stand up against my evil inclination and its trickery?!” Anochi (God) will be with you as a support and a helper, like it says in the Talmud (Kiddushin 30): The inclination of human beings is attempting to overtake them every day, but the Holy One is there helping them.
“Noten” (Give) – And it doesn’t say “gave,” rather it says “give” in the present tense, because there is always a chance/opportunity for humans to choose a good path, as it is written, “And until the day of their death God waits for them to return, and if they return, God immediately accepts them.”
“Lifneichem” (Before you) – And if a person were to say: “How can I discern a good path from a bad path? Everything is covered and hidden!” Rather the Torah comes and announces: “Lifneichem.” It is before you. Look and search out, listen and see with a discerning eye at all of the things that are happening to the nation and all will become clear before you.
“Hayom” (This day) – Lest a person say: “What repair/correction is there for me? If I am so dirty with sin, what am I to do with all of the transgressions I have done up to this point?!” Therefore it is written, “Hayom” – Every day should be in your eyes like new, and you can begin again that day. One who has repented is like a newborn child.
As we move next week into the month of Elul, we must remember the message of this teaching: Each day we have the opportunity to start anew. Each day we have the personal responsibility to make a change, no matter what the rest of the world is doing. We are not alone in this responsibility – we have God’s presence with us, and we can feel it when we bring goodness into the world. In the last two verses of this section of Lecha Dodi we sing, hitna’ari me’afar kumi, arise and shake off the dust… uri uri shir daberi, wake up wake up and sing out a song! There is always time, and there is no time like the present.
What will you choose to do today?