By Rabbi Ian Shaffer

כו  רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם–הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה.

26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse:

The first pasuk of our parsha has been the topic of discussion of many mefarshim as to the change from the singular-re’eh’ to the plural-‘lifnaichem’which occurs within the same pasuk. There are 2 suggestions from the school of Kotsk to explain this change. One suggestion is that the Torah is there for everyone-it is ‘lifnaichem’ but each and every individual must find their ‘portion’ in Torah. Another idea is that even though the Torah is there for all to learn, it is only the special individual-re’eh– who really manages to plumb the depths of learning. This idea fits into the elitist philosophy of Kotsk, as is well known.

I was once asked to address the Chatan and Kallah at a wedding in London in 1991 and it occurred to me that this pasuk is the perfect metaphor for marriage and all that it entails. When one enters marriage it is very much as an individual, someone who has imbibed both from the home environment and from school/yeshiva the values which are important in one’s life. Your parents are usually a role model in this respect and in later years this will be added to by the rav/rebbe/morah that one may have been fortunate enough to learn from. The question is: how do we take these 2 distinct individuals-both singular as expressed by the word ‘re’eh’(and also by the word ‘anochi’ which connotes unique individuality, as seen in the aseret hadibrot) and turn them into a unit, ready to face the tribulations of life together?

The answer is found in the next word: ‘notein’-to give. Rav Dessler in vol.1 of Michtav Me’eliahu has a famous ‘kuntreis’ dealing with the attribute of ‘giving-netinah’. He explains that part of our service of God is to imitate the ways of God as shown to us through Torah. One of the key attributes is that of ‘netinah’.God gives us everything we need to exist in this world and it is our task to copy Him and become a ‘giver’ towards others to make the world a better and holier place. It is this element of ‘notain’ which is stressed in our pasuk which becomes the key to turning 2 individuals into one unit. Both giving to each other and to others forms a bond which becomes ‘God-like’ and this creates a unity which becomes stronger and stronger as the years go by.

The verse also adds-‘hayom’ meaning that this is a daily requirement and is not fulfilled by remembering the anniversary once a year(although heaven help you if you forget this date) and through this constant concern for each other, one’s love and appreciation for each other will grow. The verse ends with the plural ‘lifneichem’ to signify that each one has now become a new unit of 2 people who care for each other and for those around them, such as  friends , community etc. Although this a very homiletical interpretation of the pasuk I believe it has many important messages for the newlywed couple and even for some of us who are not so newlywed, because marriage is always a work in progress. This pasuk gives us a little more guidance and inspiration as to how to make the state of wedlock even stronger and holier.

There is a famous gematria (numerical value of Hebrew words) that confirms this idea. The value of ‘Chatan ve Kalla’ is 519, which is also the numerical vale of ‘ohr chadash’-a new light .It is also the combined value of ‘chesed ve’emet’-kindness and truth which are elements brought into the marriage by both the man(emet-Torah) and the woman(chesed-kindness). May every new couple be a shining light for both themselves, their families and ultimately for Klal Yisrael.

Originally posted on YUTorah

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