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A Symphony of Sight
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A Symphony of Sight

This throwback Dvar Torah on Parshat Re’eh focuses on the difference between "seeing" and "hearing" as it relates to Moshe's final sermon to Bnei Israel.

The last few chapters in Devarim have – appropriately – been all about listening while Moshe is delivering his final sermon to Bnei Yisrael. Here are some quotes:

And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and unto the ordinances… [Deut 4:1] וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל, שְׁמַע אֶל-הַחֻקִּים וְאֶל-הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים… [דברים ד:א]
Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one. [Deut 6:4] שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל:  ה’ אֱלֹקֵינוּ, ה’ אֶחָד:

[דברים ו:ד]

Hear, O Israel: you are about to pass over the Jordan on this day…  [Deut 9:1] שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, אַתָּה עֹבֵר הַיּוֹם אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן… [דברים ט:א]

So it is curious that Moshe uses a different verb to present the next part of his speech:

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse. [Deut. 11:26] רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם–הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה. [דברים יא:כו]

The Netivot Shalom asks this question on the opening verse in Parshat Re’eh: 

  • Why does the Torah use the word see?
    It would be more logical to use: listen or know!

The Tur offers this explanation:

The verb ‘see’ is similar to what we found at the experience on Mount Sinai: 

And all the people saw the sounds, the flames, the blast of the ram’s horn and the mountain smoking; the people saw and trembled and stood from afar. [Ex. 20:14] וְכָל-הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת-הַקּוֹלֹת וְאֶת-הַלַּפִּידִם, וְאֵת קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר, וְאֶת-הָהָר, עָשֵׁן; וַיַּרְא הָעָם וַיָּנֻעוּ, וַיַּעַמְדוּ מֵרָחֹק: [שמות כ:יד]

On Har Sinai, our hearing was heightened and elevated to the level of seeing

What does this mean?

Hearing is done linearly, in one-dimension. We hear a sound; we put it together with other sounds, which then make up a word. We put the words together and we get to a sentence, then a paragraph, a concept, a plot, a story and so on. Listening is done sequentially – not in parallel. If two people speak at once, typically one cannot understand either of them. Hearing is made up of disparate pieces of information that we may or may not put together into a larger piece.

Seeing, on the other hand, is done three-dimensionally. We take a snapshot with our eyes and see a multitude of details: color, depth, close-up, far away, straight ahead and peripheral vision. We see many tiny details yet we also integrate them into a big picture.

Seeing, on the other hand, is done three-dimensionally. We take a snapshot with our eyes and see a multitude of details: color, depth, close-up, far away, straight ahead and peripheral vision. We see many tiny details yet we also integrate them into a big picture.

During the revelation on Har Sinai, God gave us the ability to hear the way we see, the ability to take in a multitude of details through our hearing and make sense of it. This is why we could hear זכור ושמור בדבור אחד – “remember and guard at the same time”. On one level we could hear both words being spoken at the same moment; on another level we could assimilate those disparate pieces into the broader concept of Shabbat.

One way of understanding this is likening it to a musical symphony. Each instrument adds to the orchestration and plays a necessary role, yet the overall fusion of the music is what brings the beauty of the notes and the chords to life. There is something magical about the way the different sections blend together to create a sum that is greater than each of its parts. From the lowly triangle to the grand piano, each adds to the acoustic harmony that transcends and fills the air. 

The Torah is comprised of many, many details that we hear. There are stories, laws, traditions and chronicles of our history. Moshe is asking us and tasking us to take a step back from all the details and see a bigger picture that will allow us to choose our path forward wisely. 

The Torah is comprised of many, many details that we hear. There are stories, laws, traditions and chronicles of our history. Moshe is asking us and tasking us to take a step back from all the details and see a bigger picture that will allow us to choose our path forward wisely. 

Moshe has spent much time teaching the nation all the details and mitzvot strewn along their path ahead. Now he says: “There is something greater than each individual piece in the Torah! Put all these mitzvot together to see the whole picture so that you may choose your path towards blessing.”

Looking at the Torah as a symphony of mitzvot, what themes do you see? 

Do you connect with the emphasis placed on family values? 

Are there ethical or moral codes that speak to you?

Perhaps it is the emphasis on community or social justice that pulls you in? 

Or maybe the way chessed (acts of kindness) are an integral part of being Jewish?

This Shabbat, let us take a step back from the details and tap into the grand symphony called Torah.

 

 

Rabbanit Bracha Jaffe serves as an Associate Rabba at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in Riverdale, NY. Previously she served as a Community Educator and Director of Mercaz Center for Adult Education in Beth Tfiloh synagogue in Baltimore, MD. She is a dynamic and thoughtful educator who is adding her experience to the richness and depth of the Mercaz programs. Rabbanit Bracha has spearheaded a variety of new educational opportunities for Beth Tfiloh men and women, on Shabbat and during the week.

Her love of tefilla and ritual led her to be an experienced gaba’it and organizer of women’s tefilla groups. She has taught many women and girls to leyn and is the voice of the JOFA Megillat Esther App. Rabbanit Bracha delights in learning with people of all ages, whether leading discussion groups with Bat Mitzvah girls and their moms, engaging with empty nesters, facilitating ‘Wise Aging’ programs, leading bereavement groups or simply teaching Torah and inspiring others to learn. Rabbanit Bracha interned at United Orthodox Synagogue in Houston, Texas and at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York. She participated in chaplaincy programs at New York Presbyterian Hospital and at a maximum security women’s prison.
Rabbanit Bracha is a 2017 graduate of Yeshivat Maharat, following a long career in hi-tech in Israel. She feels blessed to be following this path which nourishes and fills her soul.

Posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.

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