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Through The Eyes of a Woman

Re'eh: Seeing Is Believing

The Rebbe points out on many occasions that the week when the portion of Re'eh is read always falls on the Shabbos prior to Elul, i.e., Shabbos Mevarchim Elul, when we bless the coming month, or within the first few days of Elul. The Zohar explains that not only is Shabbos the culmination of the six days which precede it; it also sets the tone for the six days which follow it. Accordingly, whether the Shabbos when the portion of Re'eh is read is Shabbos Mevarchim Elul, or whether it falls in the early days of Elul itself, this portion of the Torah is clearly related to Elul. In a general sense, Elul is a month of increase in Torah study, and in the quantity and quality of our performance of the mitzvos, as a preparation for the Yamim Nora'im, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, which follow. It follows that here must be a special teaching regarding Torah and mitzvos, a horaah, which we can learn from the fact that they coincide.

The name of the Torah reading is Re'eh, which means "see," or "look." What does seeing mean? In English there is a saying, "Seeing is believing" -- a picture is worth a thousand words. We have phrases like, "I saw it with my own eyes" -- indicating that once somebody has seen something he cannot be convinced that he did not. He does not doubt what his eyes saw. You cannot tell somebody who witnessed an accident that it didn't happen. For example, imagine you heard someone saying, "You know what happened? I was on my way to work today, and I saw this accident." He described it in great detail, and you could tell that he was not lying, but you didn't see it with your own eyes. Two minutes later, somebody else says, "That person who just told you about the accident is a liar. He didn't see an accident; he just made it up." Now you don't know whom to believe -- the first person or the second person. But it sounded so real, it seems like it was real.

The point is that when you heard it, you could not be 100 percent sure that it really was exactly the way he said it. Maybe he exaggerated, he's a little imaginative, or he doesn't see so well. Only when you have seen it yourself, however, you know it, and no one can tell you that it didn't happen, or that it is not true. Seeing is believing.

However, when you hear something, there is the possibility of forgetting, or misunderstanding. The experience is only indirect. If you hear a song or a story, you may not remember it perfectly or completely later. The power of hearing, Chassidus explains, is weaker than the power of seeing. When you've seen a person's face, you remember that face years later, but when you hear a person's name, you may forget the name easily. So we can understand that seeing and hearing do not have the same effect on a person.

Let us now apply this to the name of the parshah, Re'eh. One idea suggested by this word is that a Jew has to "see" what the Torah is telling him, not just "hear" it. It means that the idea of Yiddishkeit, the concept of G-d's Oneness, and the idea of a person's mission in the world, must affect him so deeply that he can never be convinced that it is not true, or that he has no purpose on earth. He knows it, because he's seen it.

This is in fact what the Torah states: "See, I present you today with a blessing... that you obey the commandments of HaShem, your G-d..." In other words, keep growing until you reach that level of "seeing." Then G-d's blessing will come upon you.

This is what the Rebbe said is the concept of Parshas Re'eh -- to work on attaining that level of vision and clarity.

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