FOR ONE AND FOR ALL
“Behold I am setting before you this day a blessing and a curse” [Devarim 11:26]
The opening words of today’s portion have occasioned much discussion amongst the commentators. The nuance of grammatical form of the verse is lost in the English translation. The verse begins with a command in the singular form, Re’eh, “Behold or See” addressed to an individual. The sentence concludes in the plural form, Lifneichem, “I am setting before you (plural)”.
Why does the verse start in the singular, addressing the individual, and conclude in the plural, addressing the community?
One of the many answers is given by the Chatam Sofer, Rabbi Moses Sofer of Pressburg (1762-1839) ancestor of Suzanne Perlman who passed away last week. He points out that all of us carry a responsibility not only for ourselves but also for those around us, and even for the world as a whole. Our deeds and our lives have global implications. Whilst our ecological interconnectedness has only become appreciated in more recent decades, our Sages have understood our wider role for thousands of years. They said that a person should regard himself and the whole world as being in the balance in respect of good deeds and bad deeds. One more good deed on his part can tilt the balance not only for himself but also in favour of the whole world, for the side of good. Conversely, one transgression could tilt the balance in the other direction.
Hence, explains the Chatam Sofer, G-d tells each individual Re’eh, “See and understand each one of you that I am setting before all of you, collectively, a blessing and a curse.” It is within the capacity of each of us to achieve that blessing not only for ourselves but also for humanity as a whole.
Social media now offers us another dimension of this idea – the notion of ‘going viral.’ We can see, vividly, how it possible for small groups or even an individual to exercise an influence far out of proportion to their numbers. It is therefore even more incumbent upon us all to appreciate how the capacity for blessing and curse for the world at large can be within the reach of us all. That one letter to the press or TV, that one tweet or posting on Facebook or Instagram may make all the difference. Behold I am setting before [each of] you this day a blessing and a curse.