[Avodah] R'eh Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will. Nehru

Cantor Wolberg cantorwolberg at cox.net
Sun Aug 5 08:14:16 PDT 2018

The opening verse of this portion is the foundation upon 
which the idea of free will is based. The choice between
life and death, blessing or the opposite, is granted us 
through our actions and deeds (good or bad).

The text speaks in the singular (r’ey) as well as in the 
plural (lifneychem) to indicate the two separate avenues
one may choose. The singular symbolizes selfishness 
as opposed to the plural — concern for others. 

Our commentators point to the experience of King Saul 
who sought the advice of the prophet Samuel (after Samuel’s
death). King Saul’s words to his departed leader, show the 
king’s selfish preoccupation with himself, his problems,
worries, etc. 
….vayomer Shaul Tzar lee m’od uflishtim nilchamim bee
Vaylohim sar mayalai….
And Saul said (to Samuel) I am sore distressed; for the 
Philistines make was against me, and God is departed
from me (and answereth me no more)….
(First Samuel: 28:15)

Not for the people’s problems did he plead, but for his own
fallen glory. Blessings are surely not in sight when a leader
transfers his paramount concern from that of his flock, to his
own selfish ends. (Sound familiar)?

The very names by which the two mountains are distinguished
are perhaps indicative of this idea. The hill from where the 
curses came was called Har Eival — the very name expressed
in the singular showing that no blessings can flow from a place 
or an idea that concerns itself with the problems of an individual
rather than the multitude.

The blessings on the other hand were pronounced from the heights of
Har Gerizim — clearly showing that blessed life is one which directs
us from the narrow path of selfishness to the broad highway of altruism
and generosity. 
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