The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Av 21, 5769/ August 11, 2009

"See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse."
(Deuteronomy 11:26)

A blessing and a curse imply both the freedom (privilege), and the responsibility of choice. It is our privilege to choose good or bad, right or wrong, blessing or curse, but it is our responsibility to choose always the former. The freedom of choice is a gift outright from G-d, who created man in His image and endowed him with the ability, (by choice), to emulate G-d by doing His will and walking in His ways.

Thus begins this week's Torah reading of Re'eh, a word which means "See! Envision! Understand!" Torah sharpens the picture for us some verses later when it states simply, "You are children of the L-rd, your G-d." (ibid 14:1) Yes, as children of G-d we too have a share in the eternal, notwithstanding the mortal clay from which our our bodies are fashioned. But to exist beyond our own finite selves, we need to focus, to see ourselves in the context not of our own limited lifetimes, but in the context of the generational continuum of mankind. For what we choose to do, or not to do, in our lifetimes resonates and reverberates in the generations that will follow. By doing what is right in G-d's eye, by embracing the blessing and rejecting the curse, we truly become His children, transcending death and time itself.

Elsewhere in the portion of Re'eh, the portion of "seeing clearly," we are presented with another choice. This time, however, the choice in not defined as our choice, but as G-d's choice:

"But only to the place which the L-rd your G-d shall choose from all your tribes, to set His name there; you shall inquire after His dwelling and come there. And there you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and the separation by your hand, and your vows and your donations, and the firstborn of your cattle and of your sheep. And there you shall eat before the L-rd, your G-d, and you shall rejoice in all your endeavors you and your households, as the L-rd, your G-d, has blessed you." (ibid 11:5-7)

How are we to understand this? The entire Torah is predicated on the principle of man's freedom to choose. The entire Torah is dedicated to teaching man to choose responsibly. This Torah imperative can be seen in the very creation of man himself, and in the first actions taken by Adam and Eve, right up to the final words uttered by Moses on the day of his death, at the close of the book of Deuteronomy. Man's choice, not G-d's! G-d's will is fixed, immutable. Yet now we are told that G-d will choose a single place on earth where His commandment, "Build Me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them," (Exodus 25:8) will be fulfilled.

We are G-d's children, and our Father only wants what is best for us. Just as any father has a vision of what is best for his children and tries to imbue them with that vision, so too, G-d places before us the clear vision of what He knows is best for us. By making G-d's choice our choice, by seeking out that "place" where His presence dwells, we become the children He desires. This is the very place that Avraham called, "The L-rd will see, as it is said to this day: On the mountain, the L-rd will be seen." (Genesis 22:14)

Let's try seeing things G-d's way, making His choice our choice. Today we know precisely the location of the mountain where "the L-rd will be seen:" Mount Moriah, Jerusalem. By making our own presence felt there, by going up and being seen by G-d on that spot, we will at last be making His choice our choice, embracing His blessing, and gaining our share in His eternity.

Tune in to the week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven examine the two episodes wherein Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Tablets of the Law, and explore the cycle of birth, life, and death, the continuum of parents and children, and the true nature of our relationship with G-d.

Part 1
Part 2