This week's parsha
The Eye of the Soul
"See, I give you today blessing and curse" (Deuteronomy 11:26).
"Blessing" is a very important word. We need to know that there is goodness in the world, and that this goodness has been given to us and made accessible to us.
"Curse" is an important word, too. We need to know that there are negative things we must disavow and defeat. That's what being a moral creature is all about: knowing that there is good and there is bad, knowing the one from the other, and knowing to embrace the former and reject the latter.
"You" is a very important word, too. We must know that the choice is ours, that we, alone, are responsible for our choices. That the world has been placed in our hearts, and in our hands.
"Today" is also important. Our actions are not a stab in the dark, noted in the depths of heaven by an invisible Hand, to be accounted for in a distant afterlife. The implications of our choices are present and immediate.
But the most important word in the above-quoted verse is the three letter verb that opens the sentence — and opens the Torah section of Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), giving the parshah its name. The word "see."
Of all our senses and faculties, sight is the most real and absolute. Hence the law (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 27a) that "a witness cannot be a judge." A judge must be open to arguments in defense of the accused; having seen the act committed, this would-be judge has too powerful an impression of the man's guilt — he is no longer capable of finding sympathy or justification for the deed.
When we hear something, smell something, feel something or deduce something logically, we know it to be true. But it is never an absolute knowledge. There always remains some reservation, some inkling of doubt, some vestige of "yes, but..." But not when something is seen. Sight is the "perfect experience."
This is why the prophets describe the messianic era as a time of seeing: "Your eyes will see your Master" (Isaiah 30:20); "All flesh will together see that the mouth of G‑d has spoken" (ibid. 40:5). To "see" is to inhabit a world in its ultimate state of perfection, a world which has realized its Divine purpose and attained a total and absolute knowledge of its Creator.
Thus the Torah proclaims: "See, I give you today blessing and curse."
See the blessing. Gain intimate, absolute knowledge of the essential goodness of your Creator, your world, your own soul. It is there; see it.
See the curse. See that it is not truly accursed, for evil is a nonentity, a mere absence as darkness is but a withdrawal of light. See that it "exists" only to challenge you to defeat it, only to provoke your passion for good, only to rouse your most profound loyalties and convictions and powers. See it for what it really isn't and you shall conquer it. See it for what it really is and you shall transform it into even greater blessing.
See yourself. Know who and what you are, and know it absolutely: a child of G‑d, granted the power to be His partner in creation and perfect His world. All hindrance and limitation, all failure, is only the failure to see your true potential. See yourself, and there is nothing you cannot achieve.
See today. Do not merely "hear" goodness and G‑dliness as an abstract concept; see it in the here and now, see its immediacy and its realizability. See it coming to light today.
In recent years, the Rebbe repeatedly asked: what remains to be done?
Abraham has been here, and so has Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, Elijah and Ezra, Maimonides and the Baal Shem Tov. They each did their thing to make our world a home for G‑d. We've had our Exodus, our Revelation at Sinai, we settled the Promised Land, built the Holy Temple, wrote a Talmud, were scattered to the four corners of the earth, endured every test and trial imaginable, survived a Holocaust. What remains to be done?
It's all been done, said the Rebbe. We just need to open our eyes and see.