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Parshas Reeh

In Our Mind’s Eye

By Rabbi Label Lam

See I place before you today blessing and curse. (Devarim 11:26)

It has been said that if someone wants to believe in G-d he has to explain the suffering that goes on in the world but if he wants to not believe in a Creator then he has to explain everything else.

Now for those for whom the troubles and tribulations of this world eclipse the blessing, the Chovos HaLevavos offers the following surrealistic account of the human condition: “How closely they resemble in this regard to blind men who are brought to a house prepared for them with everything that could benefit them; everything in it is arranged perfectly; it is fully equipped and ideally suited to benefit them and provide for their welfare. In addition, effective medications and a skilled physician to administer them are provided for their treatment, so that their sight might be restored. Nevertheless, the men neglect to undergo treatment for their eyes and disregard the advice of the physician who had been treating them. They walk about the house handicapped greatly by their blindness, stumbling over the very things that had been prepared for their benefit, falling on their faces; some suffer bruises, and others broken limbs. They suffer much and their troubles are compounded. They complain bitterly about the owner and builder of the house and condemn his actions. In their eyes he has been negligent and a poor leader, and they believe that his motivation had not been to do them good and show them kindliness but to cause them pain and injury. This leads them to deny the benevolence and the kindliness of the owner.”

If we learn nothing else from this parable of the Chovos HaLevavos it is that the world is actually an “eye hospital”. It’s no wonder an appeal is made to the sense of sight at the beginning of this week’s Torah Portion, “See, I place before you today blessing and curse.” The entire nation at that time was treated to a visual display of two distinct mountains, with dramatic differences. Mount Aivil was barren, arid, and fruitless while Mount Grizim was flowering, fruitful, and lush. Everyone could see with their eyes the fruits of either grand success or miserable failure. Like a person on a serious diet must keep a mental image of how they will look and feel as long as they remain compliant with the food plan and simultaneously how decrepit they will look and badly they will feel if they deviate.

Another proof, perhaps that the “eye hospital” analogy is not just an arbitrary notion is that the entire Torah concludes with no other words but with superlatives of praise being heaped upon Moshe our teacher for all the great wonders he performed that impacted the “eyes of Israel”. Rashi explains that this refers to the breaking of the Tablets after the sin of the Golden Calf. It was a sort of shock treatment that somehow was meant to install an all-time lesson in the eyes of the Jewish People and change the way they look at things. What is that lesson?

Cecil B. Demil, the one that produced the movie “The Ten Commandments” had wisely observed, “We cannot break the law, we can only break ourselves against the law.” Moshe, the one who wrote the book, with that singular deed is congratulated by HASHEM at the finale’ of the Chumash for having impressed us with the notion that the even the most obvious gifts from HASHEM, i.e. Torah, in concrete terms, if neglected and unappreciated can be fumbled and shattered. Now both of those images, of the “Tablets Whole” and the “Tablets Broken”, are to be etched like a blessing and a curse in our mind’s eye.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and

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