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Parsha from Brendan Stern

Re’eh – Listen Hear!

Behold, I set before you today blessing and curse. Blessing, that you will listen to the commandments of Hashem your God, which I command you today (Devarim 11:26-27).

Why does the Torah classify bracha as being “that” you will listen to Hashem’s commandments rather than “if” you listen to Hashem’s commandments, as it says regarding the curses (Ibid. 11:28)? Additionally, shouldn’t bracha arrive as a result of fulfilling the mitzvot rather than merely listening to them?

The Ohr HaChaim explains that attentive listening is the foundation of every successful endeavour and venture in life. Bracha is therefore not only a result and corollary of listening to Hashem’s commandments, but rather the ability to listen to Hashem! Thus the Torah does not say that the blessings will come “if” you listen to Hashem, but rather that the blessing is “that” you listen to Hashem, to stress that it is not merely the rote performance of mitzvot that are of importance but (additionally) the relationship developed by tuning in to Hashem’s frequency that imbues our lives with the elixir of existence.

We are surrounded by so much background noise and distraction that we often overlook the blessings in our lives – both large and small. We expend so much energy and investment jumping from one medium of communication to another that we habitually forget to focus on and communicate with that which is directly in front of us.

The bracha of the Torah is to re-sensitise our sense of listening in order to tune in to and process the richness of the world around us. As we usher in the month of Elul and the sound of the Shofar – the harbinger of the Teshuva period – we need to wake up and hear the sound of Hashem and His blessings in our lives!

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