One of the most valuable faculties G‑d has bestowed on man is vision. Our Sages (Nedarim 64b) tell us that one who, G‑d forbid, lacks it, is like a dead person.

What brings me to talk about this is the fact that our weekly Torah portion is titled “Re’ei” — “See.”

Moshe exclaimed to the Jewish people, “See, I give before you today a blessing and a curse” (11:26). The obvious question is what did Moshe mean for them to see? What did he show them?

Some commentaries explain that Moshe was telling them that in reality there isn’t such a thing that must be classified as a blessing or the opposite. It all depends how one views the world around us and how one views other people. The positive or negative classification of an occurrence or event is contingent on the viewer’s perception.

Some will look with critical eyes, seeking fault and always complaining. Others may see the same thing but with different eyes, and see something completely different.

There is the famous story of Reb Levi Yitzchak Berditchaver, going to shul with his shamash. He passed the stable where a wagon driver was greasing the wagon wheels. It seems he remembered that he had not done this earlier, so in the middle of davening, in tallit and tefillin, the driver went to the stable. The shamash was furious. “Look at that scoundrel. He walked out of shul to grease the wagon wheels!” Reb Levi reacted differently: “Look at an ordinary Jew — even while greasing his wagon wheels, he wears tallit and tefillin and says Shema Yisrael.” The difference between Reb Levi Yitzchak and his shamash was vision, the respective way each of them saw people.

Many have observed an inconsistency in the pasuk: It starts in the singular — “Re’ei” — “See” — and then changes over to the plural “lifneichem” — “before you.”

Many explanations were offered, but this is not the time or place to review them. However, I would like to share a novel interpretation which came to mind and which is particularly appropriate for a newlywed couple. Before I do that, permit me to mention that many also find difficulty in Moshe’s use of the term “Anochi — “I.” Doesn’t it seem unbecoming for the one whom the Torah (Bamidbar 12:3) describes as “the most humble person on earth” to emphasize Anochi — I?

Perhaps Moshe, in addressing K’lal Yisrael, also had in mind a Chatan-Kallah. They are two separate independent individuals who suddenly merge and become one unit. Each one has his or her individuality and each of them now has a vested interest to see oneself and his or her partner, lifneichem — the unit of the two of them — remaining as a long-lasting happy and healthy partnership.

When it comes to finding fault, mortal man usually has a double standard. We do not readily tolerate what others do or say. We are quick to denounce or condemn the actions of other people. Nevertheless, we ignore our own faults. Instinctively, man’s self love prevents him from seeing faults in himself although he does not rationalize the other person’s actions.

A Chatan and Kallah, and a husband and wife, are mortal beings. They are not infallible. They are human and may sometimes condemn one another.

Hence, Moshe cautions, re’ei — the way you look and perceive the actions of your partner can end up being a blessing or, G‑d forbid, the opposite, for lifneichem — the future of the two of you.

Simultaneously, Moshe throws in an interesting piece of advice. You, of course love yourself. Thus, you cannot find fault in yourself and your actions. This was already expressed and confirmed by King Shlomo, the wisest of all man, who said “Love covers all faults.” (Proverbs 10:12). Thus, that being the case, when you see your partner doing something that is not to your liking think of him or her as Anochi — I. Perceive it as if “I” i.e. you, have done it. With such an approach of “seeing” you can rest assured that everything your partner does will be interpreted only as berachah — a blessing — and not, G‑d forbid, the opposite.

In the verse following “Re’ei” — “See” — Moshe speaks of another human faculty — shemi’ah — hearing. He says “et haberachah asher tishme’un” — “it will be a [source] of berachah when you hearken” — “vehakelalah im lo tishme’un” — “and a curse if you do not listen.” This, of course, refers to hearkening to Hashem’s commandments. However, one may also explain homiletically that “hearing” is a metaphor for blessing that and not listening brings the reverse.

How true this is in married life! To hear and to listen to your spouse and not just hearen — listen — but derhearen — understanding your spouse — is a berachah — it will bless your marriage with longevity. On the other hand, to turn a deaf ear and not listen (i.e. understand a spouse) spells the doom of what was to be a happy union.

As I talk here under your Chuppah of the two invaluable human powers, seeing and hearing, let me conclude with a wise saying of a young child I once came across.

The young child returned home with a crayon drawing she had done at school. She almost danced into the kitchen where her busy mother was preparing dinner.

“Mother,” she cried in glee, “you’ll never guess what!”

“Right,” replied the mother not looking up, “I don’t know what.”

“Mother, you’re not listening.”

“Yes, I am, darling,” said the mother as she attended to her pots.

“But, Mother, you’re not listening with your eyes.”

My dear Chatan and Kallah, if you will always “listen to each other with your eyes,” see each other face to face and perceive everything in a positive way, then you have the assurance of our great leader Moshe Rabbeinu that your marriage will be blessed and a source of blessing to you, your families, and all well-wishers.


Some may think that to describe the love in the eyes of a Chatan and Kallah to one another as comparable to two loving birds is a modern-day phraseology. The truth is, however, that more than one hundred fifty years ago, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi in his discourses in Likkutei Torah on Shir Hashirim (35:4) already used that analogy. Thus, gazing at your happy countenances and eyes filled with hope and joy it makes me comfortable to say that before me presently stand the two happiest birds in the world.

It may be of interest to note, that in the Torah portion of this week, parshat Re’ei, there is a section dedicated to birds. It lists the names of birds which are not kosher for our consumption. Due to our various exiles and dispersions, the exact identities of these birds is somewhat doubtful and a subject of much discussion. However, I will rely on the popularly accepted English translation of their Biblical names.

To discuss now all of the birds would be a difficult task and time consuming. But permit me to discuss two birds which you should distance yourself from since doing so will bring you much happiness.

One of the birds is called ra’ah. Rashi in his commentary tell us that this particular bird has the uniqueness that “ro’eh beyoteir — it sees exceedingly well.” Thus, the word “ra’ah” connotes eyesight, and this forbidden bird acquired its name thanks to its exceptional eyesight.

The laws of kosher and non-kosher are a part of the chukim — Biblical statutes — and we do not have a rational for them. We observe these laws not for hygienic or health reasons, but rather because the Torah dictated so, and such is the Divine will. Nevertheless, over the years, mortal men endeavored to add some insight in this regard.

The RambanNachmanides — in his commentary to Vayikra (11:13), where there is the first discussion of the forbidden fowl, observed that the forbidden fowl are predatory. Since man is what he eats, the Torah forbade certain fowl and animals that possess bad character traits because by eating them they may badly influence our character.

If so, what is wrong with consuming a bird that “sees exceedingly well”? On the contrary, shouldn’t we be encouraged to eat such a bird? People nowadays spend billions of dollars annually on their vision impairments. In school we are taught to eat carrots because of the vitamins they contain have a good effect on our vision. Why not eat these birds and thereby perhaps lessen our dependency on the optometrist and ophthalmologist?

After doing some research, I found that Rashi’s definition is from the Gemara (Chullin 63b), but there I found an additional few words that Rashi does not quote. There the Gemara tells us that this bird has such powerful vision that it can stand in Babylon (which is a valley) and see a carcass in the Land of Israel. In other words this bird indeed has exceptional vision but it is unclean because it uses its powerful vision only to view negativity and find deficiencies.

This is a character trait the Torah doesn’t want Jewish people to acquire. A person should not use his vision to detect faults and shortcomings. Instead he should try to see only the good things about others.

A story is told of a critical housewife who always faulted the work of her maid that the house was not cleaned and dusted properly. One time, the maid who couldn’t take it anymore, blushed in astonishment, for all looked immaculate. Finally, she turned to the housewife and said, “Madam, I think the dust you see is in your own glasses.” The woman removed her glasses, and, sure enough, the lenses were covered with dust.

The second bird I want to talk about is the “chassidah” — popularly translated as “stork.” Rashi says that this bird “is helpful to its friends, and shares food with them.”

In this case, asks the Gerrer Rebbe zt”l, (known as the Imrei Emet) since the bird is kindly and sympathetic, then according to Nachmanides it belongs among the kosher instead of the forbidden fowl?

The Gerrer Rebbe drew an interesting moral from this. The chassidah is helpful to its friends, but is indifferent to the plight of birds of another feather. Kindliness toward one’s own is not enough. If we differentiate between a friend in need and a stranger in like circumstances, between our kind and another, we are not kindly. Goodness must be indiscriminate — whoever needs help is deserving.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, as you set out to construct your new home, I pray that you will always be two loving birds between yourselves and in the eyes of others. To achieve this, distance yourselves from these from the character traits of these two predatory birds we discussed. Always see the good in each other and your community. View everything with a good eye. Also, don’t just be kind and devoted only to each other and selfish to others; rather your home should be like the Chuppah you are standing under — a place that is open to all sides. Your home should be a place that everyone is welcome to come into and where people benefit from your graciousness. It should be a place from which your kindness and generosity will flow and emanate to all sides of the world.

In conclusion I want to wish you the following berachah. In Hebrew the word for bird is “tzipor” (צפור), which has the numerical value of 376. This is also the numerical value of the word “shalom” (שלום) — peace. Two birds, thus, add up to 752, which in Hebrew numerals is zahav (זהב) — gold. May there always be peace in the abode of you two birds, and thus you will enjoy a “golden life” materially and spiritually.