This week’s Torah reading, Re’eh, continues Moses’ second sermon to the Jewish people. It begins with the statement, “See this day I set before you a blessing and a curse” — a blessing if the people obey God’s commandments and a curse if they choose to disobey. Then the reading presents the laws themselves, not in a comprehensive code, but rather in general principles.
Which begs the question: why is there no specific road-map on how we can create a blessed life? Could it be that God wants us to decide how we choose to create lives of blessing? For me, the answer lies in the name of the portion itself, Re’eh.
Re’eh is the Hebrew imperative “see”. We alone have the power to see what is possible in our lives, to create a life of integrity or one of dishonesty. No one can do the work except us. If we are to imagine such a life we need to look within, see our deepest desires and visualize ways we can make a difference in the world around us. Seeing then, encourages us to live each day with greater courage, purpose and fulfillment.
Armed with a compelling vision for the future, the ability to act on that dream is an entirely different story. It can be challenging to reinvent ourselves, particularly as we age. But the example has been clearly set; for thousands of years Judaism has re-contextualized our ancient wisdom in exciting, new ways so as to be relevant in our lives today.
The word Israel means “One who wrestles with God”. To be Jewish is not to accept something unconditionally, but to wrestle with an idea for as long it takes, until a resolution is found. Part of the richness of that thinking is that within the discomfort of the struggle we have the possibility of evolving as individuals, and as a people. Our rabbis say, “Our task is great, our time short. Even though we may not complete the task, we are not free to desist from trying.”
Our tradition also reminds us that we mustn’t allow fear to dissuade us from heeding the call. “The world is a narrow bridge. The main thing to recall is to have no fear at all.” Let us move forward to a new place not through a lens of fear, but of hope, promise and joy.
At this sacred time of year we have the opportunity to reexamine our lives and ask the important questions. Who am I? What am I doing here? Where’s the meaning in my life? And where am I going to find that meaning? I share with you a process that has empowered me to visualize a life of blessing, in the hope it might do the same for you.
Find places of inspiration that take you out of our head and into your heart. Breath in deeply, then out very slowly. Feel your heart open wide. Next, immerse yourself in great literature, art, dance, or music. Seek to be transported, moved. Feel the spark of inspiration. Lastly, surround yourself with the people you love. Be with those who accept you unconditionally and without judgment. Seek those with whom you can speak honestly and fearlessly.
Meditate as long as you wish. Listen for the still, small voice within you. You’re now ready to SEE. Take your time, build a dream leaving no details out. Every piece is vitally important. Share it with someone you love. Then go for it!
Facing these coming High Holy Days as a community in prayer, my prayer is that we will hear what is truly in our collective hearts and build an inspiring vision of what we can achieve together.