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Parashat Re'eh: 

08/22/2014 03:44:47 PM


Individual Actions Matter
                                      by Charles Shenitz & Shamai Leibowitz
רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה. 
See, this day I set before you blessing and curse:
the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day;
and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God (Deut. 11:26)
The first verse of our parasha contains a striking grammatical discrepancy. The word "re'eh" (see) is a singular imperative while "lifneychem" (before you) is in the plural. Why this abrupt change -- in the middle of a sentence -- between singular and plural? 

While we did not see Rashi or any of the other big classical commentators comment about this discrepancy, the sages in the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Kiddushin 40b) taught that a person should always view himself as being able to do good or bad deeds with consequences affecting all of the people of Israel, if not the whole world! Thus, Moshe addresses the Israelites as one nation, but then stresses -- by using the plural - that each person's actions matter. 

In the same vein, Rabbi Moshe Alshich, the 16th-century commentator from Safed, explains:

Unlike an emperor who has a large army at his command, and who is not too concerned if an individual soldier is slack in his duty as long as the army as a whole achieves its objective on time, God is concerned with the individual input by each soldier in His army. Therefore, Moses addresses each individual as part of a whole (Commentary on the Torah, translated and edited by Eliyahu Munk). 
Another explanation, offered by Rabbi Moshe Shields from Olney, Maryland, focuses on the difference between seeing and perceiving. Everyone can see the same thing but how each person perceives it can be vastly different. For example, one child can have the perspective that going back to school is so exciting because of friends, new subjects, and a caring environment, while another can have a perspective of negativity. Our job as parents and teachers is to try our best to create an atmosphere of positive feelings while never ignoring the thoughts and concerns of all children.  
Wed, August 10 2022 13 Av 5782