Parshas Re’eh: A Parsha Lesson for Chodesh Elul

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Re’eh, Moshe Rabbeinu’s soliloquy to the nation continues.  The parsha begins with the following stirring words: 

רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה, See I place before you today blessing and curse; אֶֽת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ האֱלֹֽקְיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹםthe blessing, that you will listen to the commandments of Hashem your G-d that I command you today; וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ האֱלֹֽקְיכֶ֔ם, and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of Hashem your G-d, and you turn from the path that I am commanding you today to go after the gods of others that you did not know (Devarim 11:26-28). 

The Ibn Ezra comments: ראה. לכל אחד ידבר – “See I place before you today blessing and curse: Moshe speaks to each and every individual.”

Every person is a unique individual, Moshe tells us, and each of us has a choice in life.  Moshe is speaking to each and every person in each and every generation.  

He reminds us that we can choose the path of Torah, mitzvos, and chessed, which is the path of blessing and eternal life, or we can choose the other way, R”L.  If we choose the former, Hashem will shower His blessing upon us, and if we choose the latter, the curses will come.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin teaches an important mussar lesson from the opening verses of Parshas Re’eh.  R’ Pliskin writes, “On the first word of the parsha, the Ibn Ezra comments: ‘He (Moshe) is talking to each one individually.’  

“Although Moshe was speaking to the entire Jewish people, he started off in the singular to tell everyone that they should listen to what he had to say as if he were speaking to him (or her) alone.”

We learn a great lesson from here, R’ Pliskin notes. “When someone is delivering a lecture or giving a class, it is easy to think, ‘Oh, the speaker is speaking to someone else!  He is speaking to everyone else who is here!  I don’t have to take what he says seriously since he is not really directing his words to me.’  But this is an error.  The way to grow from lectures (shiurim) and Torah classes is to view the words of the speaker as if they were directed only to you!  Try it out.  The next time you are in an audience listening to the inspiring words of the lecturer, tell yourself: ‘The speaker has me in mind.  Let me see how I can utilize what he says for my own self-improvement” (Growth Through Torah, p.413).

Instead of thinking of how the speaker’s words and message can help your friend improve, think of how it can help you improve!

Rabbi Zev Leff shlita (Rav of Moshav Mattityahu) teaches this very lesson with a proof from Sefer Bereishis.  

Upon the birth of Kayin and Hevel, animosity and jealousy grew between the first brothers.  While G-d turned to Hevel and his offering, He did not turn to Kayin and his offering.  Seeing Kayin’s jealousy and fallen face, Hashem came to Kayin and gave him, what Rabbi Leff calls, “the world’s first mussar shmooze.”  And Hashem said to Kayin: Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  הֲלוֹא אִםתֵּיטִיב, שְׂאֵת, וְאִם לֹא תֵיטִיב, לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ; וְאֵלֶיךָ, תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ וְאַתָּה, תִּמְשָׁלבּוֹIs it not so that if you improve, you will be lifted up? And if you do not improve, sin crouches at the entrance, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it!  (Bereishis 4:6-7).  

Kayin does not reply or answer G-d.  And the very next pasuk, seemingly out of place, records: וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יו וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּֽהְיוֹתָ֣ם בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה וַיָּ֥קָם קַ֛יִן אֶל־הֶ֥בֶל אָחִ֖יו וַיַּֽהַרְגֵֽהוּand Kayin said to Hevel his brother.  And it was when they were in the field, and Kayin got up to Hevel his brother and he killed him (v.8).  

What did Kayin say to Hevel when they were in the field!?  The Torah does not tell us.  But he surely told him something before he killed him; the pasuk records that Kayin did indeed say something to Hevel.  

Rabbi Leff teaches that the pshat of the pasukim comes to teach us something very important.  Hashem just gave Kayin a mussar shmooze, the first inspirational lecture delivered by HKB”H Himself!  “Why are you upset Kayin? If you improve you will be lifted up!  Work on yourself to be better and your life will change for the better!”

And what did Kayin say to himself? Wow! What a great lecture!  My brother, Hevel, he is the one who really needs to hear this!  וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יו וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּֽהְיוֹתָ֣ם בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה – “and Kayin said to Hevel his brother, while they were in the field: you better hear this mussar Hashem just said – it’s definitely relevant for you and your life!”  And when Hevel did not apply it to his life (for G-d was actually speaking to Kayin), his brother rose up and killed him.

It’s so easy in life to forward the blame to others.  It’s so easy to see the faults and weaknesses in others and see perfection in ourselves.  It’s so easy to hear even a shmooze from the greatest prophet of all, Moshe Rabbeinu, and think “Wow, does my friend ever need to hear this!”  

Re’eh – “See I place before YOU today the blessing and the curse”.  Notes the Ibn Ezra, Moshe was speaking to each and every yachid (individual).  We must take the inspiration to our own hearts, for our own selves, and work on improving ourselves. 

What an apropos lesson for Chodesh Elul, the final month of the year and a time of introspection and repentance.  The path back to the RS”O is when each and every person understands that Hashem, the Torah, and our teachers are speaking to *me*.  And when I use that as impetus for change, then b’ezrat Hashem each and every one of us will merit repentance, renewal and a shana tova u’mesuka!

בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום, 


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