Friday, August 06, 2010

Parshat Re'eh - פרשת ראה

The name of our Torah portion is Re'eh, which means, "See." After the Jewish People entered the Land of Israel, the first place that they stopped at was the City of Shechem. Moshe commands the twelve tribes to split up and stand on two adjacent mountains, הר גריזים and הר עיבל, Mount Grizim and Mount Eval (/Aival), where the "Kohanim" and "Levi'im" would express God's blessing to them if they would fulfill the Torah, and God's curse if they sin.

These mountains, adjacent to each other, are unique. Mount Grizim is alive with foliage and vegetation, while Mount Eval is bleak and desolate. (These mountains can be seen today outside the city of Shechem/Nablus.) Six tribes were commanded to ascend Mount Grizim, to the south of Shechem to receive the blessing, and the remaining six tribes were commanded to ascend Mount Eval, to the north of Shechem to receive the curse.

The blessing and curse are visually apparent on the mountains themselves. Mount Grizim, the mountain of blessing, is green and verdant. Mount Eval, on the other hand, is barren and accursed.

Rabbi Hirsch explains the symbolism of these mountains. Although both mountains have the same sunlight, rainfall, and fertility, one is verdant and the second is bare. In Kabbalah, we learn that these two mountains represent two eyes. Mount Grizim represents the right eye of wisdom, from which emanates pure blessing. Mount Eval represents the left eye of understanding, from which judgments, even severe judgments, may manifest.

This symbolizes the concept of free will that our Parsha begins with: "Behold, I have placed before you today the blessing and the curse." (Deut. 11:26) It is possible for two people to have the same exact potential, while one thrives and the other withers. We all must choose the path of blessing or curse, and what we sow is what we reap.

The fact that six tribes stood on Mount Eval means that there was a positive element to the curse. In Hebrew, the word for "curse" is klalah; kuf, lamed, lamed, hei. The root of the hebrew word for curse, קללה - klalah is kalal - קלל; kuf, lamed, lamed, which means "brilliant, shining light," as in the expression nechoshet kalal, "brilliant copper." At its source, a curse is a brilliant, shining light. This brilliance can be blinding, making it impossible for us to understand and incorporate it into our consciousness. Even though a curse is the result of transgression, it is not a punishment or an expression of Divine revenge, God forbid. Rather, the curse that comes from the Torah is from a very high source, whose purpose is to rectify the souls of those who have transgressed.

Wishing you a beautiful שבת שלום ומבורך

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