Thursday, August 25, 2011

To See or Not to See, with Your Mind's Eye

A recurring maddening issue in Jewish history is the need to fight reformism. Prior to World War II, the "Haskallah" movement sought to reform Judaism, with their motto, "Be a Jew at home, but blend in among society." In earlier times we had Hellenists and Saduccees, and today we have "Reconstructionist, Conservative and Reform" movements. The Previous Rebbe, while his chassidim fought against Soviet atheism (and finally won), came to America in 1940 to take up the fight to bring religious Judaism to this hemisphere as well. One strategy was, he published the "Reading and Holiness" monthly journal and distributed it freely to all synagogues and Jewish organizations. Here follows an article therefrom, translated from Yiddish, written in Aug. 1941, p. 172.
This week's Torah portion starts out discussing blessings and curses, later to be cited on Mounts Grizim and Eival. The first words are, "See! I offer you today blessings and curses," and the portion's name is "See!"

Understandably, we all prefer blessings over curses, yet most people still bring upon themselves the curses. Spiritual blindness is to blame; We either do not see, or we see the curses as blessings. To recognize the difference between them, we must be able to see.

For the main difference of a blessing and a curse has to do with seeing, for, put a blessing in front of a blind man and beg him to choose it or try to convince him, and he'll purposely choose the curse and do the wrong thing and become cursed, unfortunately.

We don't need a better example of this than the current burning question among most of society regarding the future course of world civilization or the question among Jews regarding the future fate of the Jewish people. Too few people see the cursed direction the world is taking, blind to the destruction that will take place. And too few Jews see the blessing in returning to God and the approaching Era of Ultimate Redemption.

Generally, mankind does not want civilization to decline, yet still it takes the criminal path that undermines civilization. The depiction
"And the earth filled with violence" (Gen. 5:11) prevails and nobody figures to take the blessed path by desisting from all the criminality, all the wars, all the oppression, and removing all the burden imposed upon the weak - the only means by which civilization can be saved.

The same goes for Jews; Most of us do not see blessed path of earnestly returning to God, by which we can avoid the coming "birth pangs of Moshiach" and merit very soon the Era of Ultimate Redemption. This era is definitely arriving, yet despite this, people choose the wrong path, the cursed path, by waiting for a redemption that relies on the dubious hope for social righteousness.

Neither society at large sees where lies its blessing or curse; Nor the Jewish people see the correct path. They all seek blessings but cannot see; And they all hate curses but blindly draw these upon themselves. This is the very issue Torah here addresses: For, in having recourse to blessings or curses lies the danger of not seeing, the danger of not seriously contemplating to see where, in fact, lies the blessing and the curse.

The name of this Torah segment therefore bears a great lesson for us Jews. Each Jew must see, ponder and envision - not go blindly, nor trust dubious hopes, nor take a path that hasn't proved its worth to the Jewish people. The blessing lies in the following (Deut. 11:27): "A blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God." The wrong path too is defined for us: "And a curse, if you do not obey ...."

"See!" - No one should be blind. We can see if we want to see. Were this not so, Torah would never enjoin us to see.

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