Reé 5777 – English

By Rabbi Daniel A. Kripper
Beth Israel – Aruba

Whether we like it or not, life is all about making choices.  In every area of human activity – be it private, professional, social, or political – we are forced to decide, ceaselessly and continuously, regardless of our status or social position.

Of course, some decisions are more crucial than others.  But the most important are, without a doubt, those related with the essence and quality of life itself.
The demand and challenge present in the first verse of this Parashah, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse…”, constitute the most categorical affirmation on the moral freedom regarding decision making.

The dilemma appears in emphatic and imperative terms.  There are no nuances, gray areas, commitment options, or false neutral zones.
Moses’ Torah steadily insists on the need to face the world with realism and a sense of commitment.
Re’eh means “See!”, “Look!”, which could very well translate into something like “face life, do not escape reality!”
Many people seek refuge in illusions and build “fantasy islands” as a way to avoid the responsibilities of mundane existence, phenomenon which Erich Fromm called “the fear of freedom.”
It is also true that some political ideologies and certain religious doctrines have served this tendency, encouraging escapist attitudes to a greater or lesser extent.
Since the beginning, the Torah has emphasized the ineluctable compromise of being and serving the world:  people have to assume their duties, conscious of the dark side of personal and social life: there are mourners to comfort, sick persons to visit, destitute to help, wars and hates to banish, the truth that has to be supported against error, anger and envy to deactivate.  As the word goes, the purpose of religion is to comfort the afflicted and rattle the passive.
Judaism does not endorse the thesis of human beings as defenseless victims of their circumstances, environmental slaves or social puppets.
Human beings, beyond any restrictions pertaining to life itself, are owners of their destiny.  They must confront the alternatives that challenge them daily, with a positive, resolved, and sustained spirit.
As rabbi Bunem used to say, decision making can be compared to a chess match.  Before making any movement, the player must consider all its possible consequences with great care, so as to not regret it later.  But once the move has been defined, he must support it without haste and without pause.
The best computer in the world will never replace the divine gift of the capacity to choose, inherent to the human condition.  We know that sometimes, choice turns out to be a blessing, and sometimes, it can turn into a curse.
But at the end we have to decide; there is no place for moral faintheartedness and hesitancy.  Blessing and curse are both in our hands.
Rabbi Daniel Kripper