BS"D This week's parshah contains the famous words from G-d to the Jewish people: 
"see I have set before you...blessing and curse." In short, the Jewish people are about to enter the land of Israel after 40 yrs in the Desert, and Hashem is preparing them to conduct themselves properly in their new surroundings. If they act righteously, then they have the assurance of "blessing" and "life," with the converse if they do the opposite. 

On a really fascinating note, what is so special about the faculty of sight? Why did Hashem say, 'see'?? How about, 'contemplate,' or 'study'?? 

An interesting way of looking at it centers on the unique power of sight, which is a theme in Torah. Sight has a particular type of effect on the soul, for good and for the opposite. This is why it is so important to guard our eyes from negativity- recently my Professor, a trauma specialist, told our class never to look out the car window as we pass an accident on the highway. The same goes for watching coverage of natural disasters on television- especially when children are concerned. 

What is the big deal?? The point here is that it is possible, G-d forbid, to become traumatized without ever being directly involved in a tragedy. Similarly, scholars of the scientific method have bemoaned the ways in which the 'vividness effect' of personal testimony causes us to make bad decisions. Even if we have the results of three huge double-blind clinical trials in front of us, if our friend tells something different to our face, then we will believe this single person and ignore the thousands of others. 

Halacha (Jewish law) recognizes this by forbidding witnesses to a crime from acting as judges in the same trial. This is because there is a fundamental difference between hearing and vision. If a judge hears evidence from others, etc, then they can still remain pretty removed and objective. But if  they witness the event, then there is no way that they could impartially consider the two sides of the story. 

The Lubavitcher brings the above example to bear on this week's parshah. In relation to the two options presented to the people right before entering the Land, 'seeing' can be interpreted in at least two ways. 
1) "When a person sees the nature of the good that he can achieve through positive choice, and when he sees that the entire reason evil has been given existence is to allow him to make that choice, he will surely choose positively." 

2) " a command...the objective of man's Divine serivce should be to labor to reach a state that he sees Divine purpose in his life. When this purpose is 'seen' and not merely comprehended intellectually, he will feel inspired to carry out his Divine service with increased vitality. Moreover, the word 'see' can be interpreted as a promise that we will in fact reach this level of awareness." 

So let's all become a little more aware of the power of sight, and harness it- avoiding violence and negativity, and only gazing at uplifting things!! 
Have a great Shabbos!!!!!!!!!!!!

the quotes are found in "In the Garden of the Torah," in the section subtitled "Re'ei 5754. 

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    Yaakov Grossman is a Jewish educator, author, private tutor/child care professional, and student in the Metro New York area. Professional inquiries should be addressed to

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    September 2011
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    Modern Orthodoxy