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    Personal & communal choice – Re’eh

    The sidra of Re’eh begins with what looks like a grammatical mix-up:

    Re’eh (singular) Anochi notein lifneichem (plural) ha-yom b’rachah uk’lalah – “Look, I set before you this day blessing and curse…” (Deut. 11:26).

    Why does the verse have a singular followed by a plural?

    The answer is that two different things are happening. God is addressing each individual and telling them that the whole community – of which he or she is a member – faces a choice. It is up to them to decide; remaining indifferent, apathetic or uninvolved is unthinkable.

    One possibility of the moment is for the individual to exert free will and make a personal choice between blessing and curse, regardless of what is chosen by the rest of the community.

    Another explanation is that there are two choices to be made – the personal choice and the communal choice.

    Apart from what the individual decides, based on their personal interests and welfare, the community as an entity must decide what is good for them as a whole. The community has a life of its own.

    As a synagogue rabbi I was sometimes asked, “What sort of congregation do you have?” The questioner was not looking for an analysis of the members of the k’hillah but the overall corporate ethos of the k’hillah.

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