Re’e: The Jew Is Never “Beinoni”

It is common knowledge that to be a Jew is a great responsibility, yet along with the great privelages that come with it, there are also deep obligations. This double-edged sword hovers over the Jew and obligates him from the moment he is born to the moment of his death.

The question that arises is whether or not a Jew can get up one day and say: “I didn’t choose this destiny. I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t want any part of it.” Perhaps a Jew doesn’t want to be “chosen”, and doesn’t feel anything good about being “special”. He simply wants to be part of “humanity”, free to do as he pleases, without being restricted by the 613 mitzvot of the Torah and the countless ordinances of the rabbis. The fulfillment of his Jewish destiny is not for him – it is too “heavy” for him to handle.

Is such a claim legitimate? Can a Jew ignore his lofty mission, his awesome future – and thus be “exempt”, that is, off the hook from fulfilling this great but difficult destiny? Is it possible for a Jew to cast away the observance of Torah, which includes being a light unto the nations (in the true meaning of the concept), and clinging to G-d.

Obviously, there is no need to answer this question. Without a doubt, a Jew can not escape his destiny. He was born a Jew and he will stay a Jew, with all rights and obligations included. “LaHavdeel”, one can compare it to one who was born a prince. Despite the great “kavod” and greatness that is intrinsically in him the minute he is born, he is also subject to all kinds of edicts and restrictions. There have been many instances when one born into a royal family despised his destiny, feeling miserable and unfortunate, but he had no choice – he was bound forever. This example isn’t really a totally accurate one, since the Jew isn’t “miserable and unfortunate”, as we will soon explain. On the other hand, it is a perfect example since the Jew is indeed a prince, the son of a King! He can never escape his royalty. Even if he becomes a slave, a Jew is still a prince, as Ze’ev Jebotinsky wrote in his famous song: “The Jew – even in poverty is a prince … if slave or wanderer, you were created the son of a King, adorned with David’s crown!”

This entire concept is brought down in the very first verse of our parsha, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d … and a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d.” What is the meaning of such a choice? Does it mean that the Jew is given the right to choose his own way in life, to determine his own destiny? Not quite.

The commentary of the “Sforno” on this verse is the following: “Look (Re’e) and behold, so your eyes WILL NOT BE UPON THE WAY OF THE “BEINONI” (MEDIOCRE) as is the way of most people. For indeed I give before you today the blessing and the curse, and they are two extremes; for the blessing is success way beyond the average good, and the urse is calamity way beyond the average bad, and both these poles lay before you in order to attain – all according to what you choose.” In other words, G-d gives us two options. The first option is to be blessed, the second option is to be cursed. THERE IS NO THIRD OPTION. There is not an option of mediocrity; of being neither blessed nor cursed, but “just one of the guys”. Either he fulfills his destiny, and then he is blessed, or he does evil by not fulfilling his destiny, and he is cursed and consequently punished.

Someone who thinks that he is unfortunate because he was born a Jew andwants to escape it can only be pitied. He really is an unfortunate “nebish” – not because he was born a Jew, but because he does not understand the special greatness that he was intended for. He is similar to the crazy man who finds gold and throws it away in disgust.

We are Jews that recognize the greatness of our special destiny. We have absolutely no complexes about it – “We are fortunate – how good is our portion, how pleasant our lot, and how beautiful our heritage!!”

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