Weekly Torah Commentary – Re-eh August 26, 2011

“See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse…”  (Dev. 11:26)

This short sentence has so much to say to us.  We are taught that Hashem gives every person the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, between a blessing and a curse.  We not only have the intelligence to discern the difference but most importantly, the ability (free will) to make the correct and appropriate choice.

Why, then, do we often make unwise decisions to our own detriment?

Rabbi Twerski says that the reason we do so is because our judgment is distorted by what we would like to believe, not what is actually the reality.  This is why, for example, a person will accept the painful process of a surgical procedure to save their lives yet refuse to make the decision to change the behaviors or habits that put their lives in danger – like gluttony, smoking, alcoholism and the like.  According to Rabbi Twerski, who is a rabbi and a medical doctor, this is true of every unwise decision.  Our thinking is muddled by a distorted perception of reality.  Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, when warned about a danger to their health, “Oh that won’t happen to me.”

Hashem has set before us a blessing and a curse.  There is no middle ground.  We need to overcome the blindness of our personal biases, realize our vulnerability to self-deception, and choose His ways at all times.

This principle – that there is no middle ground, only blessing or curse – is taught by our sages.  Sforno has written, in fact, “Be cautious that you not be like other peoples who have a middle ground.”

How does this play out in our life?  Many people tend to think we have mitzvot: things which are obligatory,  and sins: things which are forbidden.  But in truth, there are many other things we do in life which we might consider ‘neutral’.

However, the Torah principle of living is this: ‘Know Hashem in all your ways.’ (Mishle 3:6)  Having the awareness that we have been put on this earth with a personal mission to accomplish should direct our attention towards fulfillment of our divine purpose – to serve Hashem with all our heart and soul.  This requires food and rest in order to have a healthy body with which to serve Hashem.  We can enjoy the pleasures of food and sleep as ends in themselves but that would fall short of “knowing Hashem in all our ways.”

Instead, if we live with the awareness that Hashem has set before us a blessing and a curse, and that He longs for us to choose Life and live, healthy and productive, even our food and our sleep become conscious choices for a higher purpose – to enable us to fulfill our mission in this life.

“See, I have set before you a blessing and a curse…”  Which will we choose?

In Tune with Torah this week = examining our own perspective to see if there be any wilful blindness in our decision making processes and if so, to repent and choose to do all that we do to honor Hashem.

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