Parsha Re’eh – ראה – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
This week’s parsha, Re’eh, begins with the line “See (re’eh), I place before you today a blessing and a curse.” Basically, Moses is offering the Israelites two options: follow the rules and be blessed; abandon God and be cursed. Moses instructs the people on the laws of the Temple, Kashrut, tithing, the Sabbatical year, and the three pilgrim festivals of Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot.
I love the idea of holding blessings and curses together. There’s a not so subtle directive that in order to discern between the two and choose a direction, we have to truly see what is placed before us. Through meditation we allow ourselves to create space in our lives to check in with our mind and heart. Sitting with and holding our deepest truths, fears, desires, we often find that it’s complicated. Blessings and curses, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant- the longer we sit with something, the more our judgments and preconceptions shift and blend. We all know of someone who got exactly what they wished for and they still weren’t happy. Many times, we sit with physical pain and find that it’s a gateway to insight.
For most of my childhood, I took painting classes. One of the most important lessons was that if you were going to paint an apple (for example), you have to erase the idea of an apple from your brain and simply paint what you see. Painting an apple based on an established or even subconscious image of what an apple is supposed to look like will hold back your creative process and your resulting work won’t be very good. The art teachers who impacted me the most taught me to draw the space between objects, paint things upside down, and train my brain to see things as they are and not how I remember them or want them to be. When reading this week’s parsha, which starts with the instruction to “see,” these lessons came immediately to mind.
Meditation practice is a way to retrain our minds to see our thoughts, our lives, our histories, as they really are. Following Moshe’s instruction to see before us a blessing and a curse, we see that it’s rarely either/or and often both at the same time. We can mindfully use our Jewish practices, that Moses expounds upon in Re’eh, to know that our seeing and our understanding allows us to find our own path to blessings. As we sit in meditation, we may also find that the path itself is blessed.
A quick kavanah, intention, to guide practice: As you sit, follow your breath. Whenever you find that your mind has wandered, gently return to the present moment. Check in with your breath, your posture, and see what has drawn your attention from your intended focus. Allow yourself to see what you identify as a blessing and a curse and whether these designations shift as you watch them. Remind yourself that this is your task: to see before you blessings and curses and to learn to see them clearly.