The Torah portion Re’eh begins by stating:1 “See, I give you today [both] a blessing and a curse. The blessing [will come] if you obey the commandments… The curse [will come] if you disobey the commandments….”

The word “see” indicates that one must examine the matter closely. Why is it necessary for this matter to be scrutinized in order for it to be “seen”? Seemingly, if one thinks even superficially about being blessed for choosing goodness and cursed for choosing evil, one will readily choose to do good.

Additionally, “I give you today” only seems to apply to the blessing. For the term “I” refers to G‑d’s Essence,2 a province of pure good, where there is no place for the opposite — “curse” — at all. Moreover, the term “give,” as our sages say,3 indicates the provision of goodness in an unstinting manner. It goes without saying that “curse” is the very antithesis of this.

Also, “you” refers to the Jew’s quintessential essence,4 and every Jew is in essence wholly good.5 Furthermore, when the Torah uses the term “today,” it does so as an indication of immutability.6 This can apply only to matters of goodness and holiness, which are eternal. For evil is ultimately a “nonentity”;7 in the Time to Come it shall cease, as the verse states:8 “I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the world.”

So how is it that “I give you today” seems to refer to both blessing and curse?

The reason for the “blessing” and “curse” is to allow man to exercise his free choice, as the verse says:9 “I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life.” In order for man to freely choose to do good, G‑d gave unholiness — which in itself has no substance — the ability to oppose holiness.10

Since freedom of choice is one of the primary qualities of man’s spiritual service,11 and since man attains all his qualities and levels through service and toil, evil therefore opposes holiness at all levels, to the extent that a person may at any time choose to act in a wrong manner,12 even if doing so may cost him his life.13 For all aspects of man are subject to free choice.

In fact, man’s animalistic desire may be even stronger than his desire for holiness, inasmuch as a person’s G‑dly soul (the part that desires holiness) is primarily rational, while the animal soul (the part that desires corporeal matters) is primarily emotional.14

Just as this applies to man, so too with regard to G‑d, as it were; the potential for evil exists at even the highest levels. The negation of evil is solely a result of G‑d’s free choice. Thus the verse states:15 “For Esav is a brother to Yaakov,” i.e., manifest good and manifest evil are both equi-distant from Him. It is solely as a result of His free choice that the verse goes on to state: “I love Yaakov and despise Esav.”

As a result of this free choice, evil is totally negated and impugned Above. Man, too, by freely choosing to do right and eschew evil, nullifies wickedness below. In addition, the free choice to do good causes there to be revealed within man the attribute that led G‑d to freely choose Yaakov over Esav.

In order for man to have free choice, G‑d gave unholiness the ability to oppose holiness at the levels of “I,” “give you,” and “today.” But since this ability exists only to provide a basis for choice, evil ceases to exist when man chooses to do good.

Since the entire purpose of evil’s creation is to enable man to exercise freedom of choice and be rewarded for his effort and toil, G‑d is actually providing goodness in an unstinting manner.

This knowledge — that the entire purpose of unholiness is to be overcome by man, who thereby attains a higher level — makes one’s spiritual service markedly easier.16 Thus, the verse states “see,” indicating that a hard look is necessary to realize that the ultimate purpose of evil (“curse”) is not to oppose holiness, but to help a person attain an even greater degree of sanctity.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. IV, pp. 1339-1342.