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    Sight & insight – Re’eh

    The first word in the sidra is so simple that it is almost deceptive: Re’eh – “see” (Deut. 11:26).

    The surface meaning of the word has to do with our eyes and eyesight, recalling the morning blessing that praises the Creator for opening our eyes.

    But what we are being commanded to see here is not the trees and animals, the rivers and plants, or even our fellow human beings, not that any of these is unimportant. We have to see what God has placed before us – the choice between obedience and defiance, blessing and curse.

    In this sense, “see” means “discern”, “perceive”. The sense of the word is not so much sight as insight. It tells us that every moment of our lives confronts us with the need to choose between alternatives. Yet exercising free will is made complicated by the fact that some things are beyond our control.

    A classical distinction is made by Maimonides in his Eight Chapters on Ethics when he distinguishes between physical and moral decisions. Physical things such as whether we will be human or animal, male or female, tall or short, fat or thin, are decided by God. What is up to us is the “internal event”, our response to the “external event”.

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