Parashat Re'eh

What first gives us pause about parashat Re’eh is its name, which means, “See….” As we saw in the preceding two parashiot, Moses asked God to let the Jewish people perceive Divinity as he did—with the same direct clarity associated with sight—but God refused his request. The generation of the conquest (and thus, all subsequent generations until the final Redemption) would only be able to perceive Divinity indirectly—in the manner of hearing. How is it, then, that Moses begins the next portion of his address to the people saying, “See”?

As we explained previously,1 the reason God did not grant Moses’ request, but instead kept the people at the level of hearing, was on account of the inherent advantages of hearing over sight. When a person has to establish and preserve Divine consciousness by struggling against the “din” of the material world, his perception becomes infinitely more profound than it could have been had it been solely based on a direct but external revelation. Inasmuch as the purpose of creation is to infuse Divinity into all strata of reality, it is clear that this goal can only be accomplished if our Divine consciousness assumes command over all of our mental and emotional faculties. This, of course, can only happen if we refine these faculties, re-orienting them away from the materialistic perspective they initially possess.

We further explained that Moses’ request was actually granted on a subtle, subliminal level. We all possess the unshakable conviction of “seeing” Divinity deep within our psyches; based on the extent of the imprint that this vision makes on our perception of reality, we can overcome the clamor of materialism that threatens to confuse us.

But in addition to this, the result of successfully “hearing” Divinity—of meditating and contemplating the reality of God deeply enough to affect and refine our cognitive and emotional faculties—is that the subliminal “sight” that God implanted within us on account of Moses’ prayer surfaces to our consciousness. Our clouded perception of truth is purified by our arduous efforts at clarification, such that our minds and hearts become transparent to our inner point of Divine enlightenment. We “see” Divinity with the same clarity of perception as did the generation of the desert, who experienced direct, Divine revelation. But our advantage is that this “sight” is superimposed on and anchored in the solid, inner conviction born of having methodically refined our conscious faculties on our own. Therefore, after instructing us to “hear,” Moses tells us to “see.”2


Parashat Re’eh comprises a large variety of subject matter. In it, Moses begins his review of the legal matter of the Torah’s preceding three books, covering the laws of sacrifices, idolatry, kashrut, charity, the sabbatical year, slavery, and the festivals. Thus, the focus in this parashah shifts from the basic tenets of Judaism, as discussed in the first parashiot of Deuteronomy, to the specific duties of the Jew. This focus will remain throughout the next three parashiot, as well.

In this light, the brief introduction at the beginning of the parashah—headed by Moses’ sweeping declaration that yes, we can achieve sight-consciousness of Divinity after all—is the transitional nexus bridging the first three parashiot of Deuteronomy and the following four, setting the tone for the legal material that follows. We have been promised that we can ultimately receive the Divine gift of direct perception and relationship with God. We are then told to respond with renewed, ongoing efforts to refine and elevate the world, until it, too, becomes fit to behold Divinity directly, “and the glory of God will be revealed and all flesh will see it together.”3