Parashas Re’eh

This week’s parashah begins with Moshe making the following declaration (Devarim 11:26-28):
See, I place before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing – that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God, that I command you today. And the curse – if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God, and you turn aside from the path that I command you today ….”
The Maggid explains that this world is a blessing if we listen to Hashem, and a curse if we do not. In the same vein, Moshe declares later (Devarim 30:19): “I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse.” Sometimes life is a blessing, and sometimes death is a blessing. Thus, Mishnah Sanhedrin 8:5 states: “The death of the wicked is a benefit to them and a benefit to the world.” Similarly, sometimes bounty is a blessing, and sometimes affliction is a blessing.
The Maggid links this idea to the following verse (Tehillim 22:2): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? So far from my salvation, the words of my roar.” In this verse, David asks why God does not answer our prayers. The Maggid interprets the second half of the verse as an answer to this question: What we are requesting is far removed from what will save us. It will not be a blessing. What we need is something else.
The Maggid goes on to say that David later provides us with a supplication that is guaranteed to be answered (Tehillim 130:1-2): “From the depths I call out to You, Hashem. O Lord, listen to my voice, let Your ears be attentive to the sound of my pleas.” The Maggid brings out his idea with a moving parable.
Once a sick man paid a visit to a wealthy and generous doctor, who would always show compassion for everyone who came to him. The man asked the doctor for a lavish meal. The others present were shocked; they said among themselves: “Not only is this man not asking for medicines that will heal him, but he is asking for something that will bring him closer to death!” The doctor responded: “The reason he is not asking for the treatment that will benefit him is because he is so overcome by his illness that he does not understand the nature of his condition. Hence, not only am I not angry at him, but his lack of understanding leads me to pity him all the more, and to strive my best to heal him. I pay no attention to his specific request; I pay attention only to the fact that he is in distress and asking me for help. I know very well what he needs. What difference does it make that he does not know what to ask for?”
Similarly, we should not expect God to grant our specific requests; rather, we should expect that He will do what is truly for our good. When we approach Him, we should declare that we are calling out to him from the depths of confused foolishness – we do not even know how to ask Him for the right thing. We tell Him to listen to our voice, and take note of what a pathetic state we are in – and then, in His compassion, be attentive to our plea for help and give us what will truly save us.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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