Seeing is Believing
Seeing is Believing
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse; blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Eternal your God…and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Eternal your God…” (Deuteronomy 11:26).
Though Biblical scholars are adept at interpreting such verses, we’re not ignorant about what this verse calls on us to do. First, we’re all commanded to see in multiple ways what God has set before us. Seeing is more than a matter of sight. Even those without vision are able to intuit, sense, know, and understand their surroundings. Only those who close off their senses, including vision, are doomed to real blindness. Second, blessings and curses represent stark contrasts between what God will do for us and what God will withhold from us. Seeing and understanding the difference is critical to our well-being and future.
Today, we generally don’t “see” the biblical formula as relevant anymore, but we would be foolish not to consider what it can mean to us. After all, when we apply ourselves through hard work, strong ethics, and mindfulness, we’re apt to be rewarded in some meaningful ways. The converse is true, too, because when we don’t apply ourselves but hope for a positive conclusion, we might be disappointed and probably so. True, there are those who prosper despite their lack of effort, but what kind of enduring prosperity or happiness is that, really? There are also those who stumble despite their best efforts, but they might be resilient and try again and again.
This Torah portion highlights the choices we can still make in order to benefit from a bountiful earth, a world of possibilities, and a universe of blessings we can barely know in their entirety, but which God provides “without stint.” As we read in last week’s portion (Deut 8:7ff):
“The Eternal your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing, a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper.”
Still uncertain of their future, these riches and resources provided the Israelites with hope. Their role was to act in good faith towards God and God’s covenant with them. Little has changed, today. We, too, acting in good faith and in covenant with God, should anticipate a bright future reflected in a community, a nation, and a world of opportunities. In Houston, where most of us “lack nothing,” we have reasons to be grateful, and many more reasons to extend our hands to those who struggle with much less. Members of our families, congregations, and communities have faith, too, that their prayers will be answered. Let us be an answer to their prayers so that the New Year, like the Promised Land, might provide for them, “without stint,” a portion of God’s bounty to us all.