Really seeing the path to blessings

Rabbi Deana Sussman

By Rabbi Deana Sussman

What does it mean to really see something? In many ways, the old adage “do mine eyes deceive me?” poses an unanswerable question. Our eyes play tricks on us; our senses may not tell us the entire truth.

In Parshat Re’eh, God asks the Israelites to re’eh, to see what is before them and choose the right path – the path to holiness, the path to godliness, the path to blessings. Now, generations later, we still find ourselves at this same crossroads: Do we choose the blessing or the curse? 

We try desperately to see what is before us and make decisions that will lead to a better world for all people. We navigate the many pathways set before us and try to approach each fork in the road with open hearts and minds. Some of the obstructions and roadblocks to holiness and godliness are easy to see; other times, the right path seems to elude us. 

But in truth, there is no single “right” path to follow; there are enough blessings for all. 

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This parshah is an invitation to open ourselves to new ways of seeing the world. It is an opportunity to find the paths to holiness and peace in new and exciting ways. In our own lives, we should wonder, question and challenge the accepted norms with the intention to re’eh, to see, that which is set before us, and to forge new opportunities for engagement in the world around us.  

Even here in St. Louis, we have choices to make. Hunger, homelessness, systematic racism and unequal access to education are just some of our roadblocks to holiness and godliness. And so we, too, stand at a crossroads: Do we continue to look away, or do we choose the blessing, the path of righteousness, to really see the issues and intentionally confront them? 

Rabbi Harold Schulweis (z”l) once said that the most important word in the Hebrew language is “u’le’chen,” which means “and therefore.” We often see this phrase in rabbinic literature. The rabbis expound on a text and, “u’le’chen,” therefore, we act. We become obligated to do something, to act upon the knowledge we have just received. 

When we choose the blessing to re’eh, to see, we must, therefore, act; we cannot turn aside, we cannot un-see. It is only when we engage in this holy work and truly see the world around us that our eyes will no longer have the capacity to deceive us. 

Rabbi Deana Sussman is rabbi educator of Central Reform Congregation and a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.