Dear readers,

Too many times over the last many weeks I felt like shouting, “Wake up, world! Can’t you see the difference between the good guys and the bad ones? Are you blind?!”

Terror or peace. Darkness or light. Evil or goodness. Hate or love.

The lines are drawn so clearly. This is not just a war fighting for our existence, this is a cosmic confrontation of right and light against wrong and evil.

So, we listened to every morsel of news, cheering our brave troops. United, we reached into our pockets, and even deeper into our hearts, with extra prayers and good deeds. And at the same time, those blinded by hate emerged from the woodwork, viciously inciting violence in the streets or maliciously spreading lies on their airwaves.

This week’s Torah portion begins with the verse “See, I have set before you the blessing and the curse.” The choice is clear. It is something that not only can we understand with our minds or feel in our hearts, but it is so tangible, we can actually “see” (the name of this week’s portion, Re’eh) the disparity.

Perhaps the laws of kashrut, elaborated on in this week’s portion, teach us what qualities are needed to see and bring those blessings into our lives.

On a spiritual level, the laws of kashrut teach us how to avoid assimilating subtle negative character traits. For example, the closed, unsplit hoof of the non-kosher animal represents rigidity, being closed off and untouched by the plight of others. The split hoof of the kosher animal symbolizes approachability and sensitivity to others’ suffering. The kosher animal that chews its cud symbolizes the quality of thoughtfulness and “chewing over” ideas.

To be kosher, fish need both fins and scales. Scales represent integrity; fins represent ambition. Ambition can be positive, providing us with the impetus to maximize our G‑d-given potential and leave our imprint on the world—but only when guided by integrity. Unchecked ambition, without the requisite integrity to follow G‑d’s morals, is a recipe for horrific malevolence.

Over the last several weeks we have witnessed terrible evil, motivated by unchecked ambition and callous, evil indifference. Leaders using their women and children as human shields to promote their agenda were unresponsive to the plight of their impoverished citizens, building tunnels of terror rather than schools and hospitals.

Leaders—and media representatives—spread hostility by caring more about their careers and popularity than exposing the truth.

The Torah teaches us the prerequisite for choosing blessing: moral integrity and sensitivity to the plight of others. Lacking these qualities can result in horrific consequences and becoming so blinded that curses appear as blessings.

“See, I have set before you the blessing and the curse.”

May we finally experience the day when real blessings will be abundant, and when goodness will vanquish all evil.

And may the distinction between the two be clear to all—as clear as sight itself.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW