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Parshat Re'eh: Deuteronomy 11:26-
16:17; Isaiah 54:11-55:5.
ne of the primary distin-
guishing characteristics of
human beings setting us
apart from other species is our ability
to thoughtfully choose the values by
which we live.
We consciously select to behave in
a kind, caring, compassionate, gener-
ous, thoughtful and humble way. Yet,
sometimes we choose to be and do the
The week's Torah portion,
Re'eh, opens with a very
important choice placed
before the Israelites. In the
first verse of our parshah,
Moses quotes God: "Re'eh
Anochi Notein lifneichem
hayom bracha u'klala — I
set before you this day the
choice to live a blessed
life or the choice to live a
From the outset of the
sedrah, Moses clearly and
concisely presents the
Israelites with two distinct
possibilities: either choose to follow
the commandments of the Torah or,
alternatively, choose to ignore them.
The Torah commentator Sforno
explains that these two choices are
blunt and unambiguous, reflecting
opposite extremes and positions.
A blessed life is defined as expe-
riencing a success greater than that
which is needed simply to survive.
Conversely, a cursed life reflects some
kind of shortage or deficiency.
Hoping the people will choose to
live a blessed life, Moses prompts the
people to consider that while following
the Torah's commandments will bring
them abundant rewards, abandoning
them will result in negative conse-
quences. Either way, the people are
asked to choose how they want to live,
offering them a choice that each one of
the Israelites has to make.
Inherent in this verse is an under-
lying lesson: the paths we follow as
well as the choices and decisions we
make are entirely up to us. As such, it
is primarily in our hands individually
to determine whether our lives will
be blessed or cursed not only by the
way we choose to live but also by how
we respond to the situations and the
people we encounter.
The real power of choosing the
blessings over the curses is more about
personal transformation than anything
else, and this is manifest most signifi-
cantly in how (and if) we confront our
hardships and our challenges.
When something bad happens,
often our first reaction is to feel sorry
for ourselves or to point our
blame finger outward and
attempt to accuse some-
one else of messing up our
lives. But our Torah portion
reminds us that we can-
not allow ourselves to get
away with such misdirected
The truth is that adver-
sity is often a state of mind
— and each of us faces
multiple misfortunes of
different grades and levels
from time to time that, if
not confronted head-on,
have the ability to tackle us and send
us into a tailspin.
The real test here, then, is for us
to understand that we can live a life
filled with true blessings only when we
learn how to transform our setbacks
into amazing opportunities. For in so
doing, not only do we decide how we
will respond, but we simultaneously
summon the innate power to live our
best lives. So may it be God's will. ❑
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Joseph H. Krakoff is a rabbi at
Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.
• What are some of the blessings
in your life? What might be some
of the "curses"?
• When something bad or dis-
appointing happens, how do you
• What is one setback you ex-
perienced recently that you
turned into a blessing?
"turning moments into memories"
* r— f
August 1 • 2013