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Parshot/Festivals

The blessing of today

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Exegetical license is a powerful tool in the hands of rabbis. (In simpler English, it’s the right to stray from the literal meaning of scripture in a drosha or essay). It even allows us to alter the punctuation of verses to drive a particular point.

The first words of this week’s parsha, “Re’eh” (see) lend themselves perfectly to this exercise. The literal translation is, “Behold I place before you, today, blessing.” Removing the first comma changes the word “today” into the object of the sentence, and “blessing” into an adjective, “Behold I place before you today, [as a] blessing!”

Humans are really good at reminiscing about the past or dreaming about the future. Sometimes, we forget that the most important gift Hashem has given us is to live today to the fullest. As the popular saying goes, that’s why it is called the present.

This is always true, but much more so in 2020. Nostalgia this year doesn’t mean thinking back to how life was a few decades ago or even a few years ago. We think back to how we lived just six months ago, of the many things we took for granted and were accustomed to. Possibly, for good reason, we long for the way it was. But we all know that life has now changed and that we can’t turn the clock back.

Nor do we have a magical machine that can speed up the passage of time and propel us into a future when life will resemble those good-old days once again. (Will it ever?) Postponing pursuits or activities until a later stage (Level 2? When we can travel abroad? When we can meet in person without fear? When?) is just a sophisticated, albeit understandable, procrastination tactic.

We need to appreciate the blessing of the now, even with all the challenges it brings. We have to be the best that we can be, and do the best that we can do, within the restrictions of this crazy “abnormal new”. Each new dawn brings intense potential that we have to strive to maximise. We need to learn, grow, pray, connect (using the best contemporary tools we have), reach out, and care about others. Physical long distance travel isn’t possible but suddenly, the best speakers on topics, religious and secular, are on our screens with the click of a few keys. Many of us are finding ourselves with more available time to take on a quest we had always intended to do but never did.

Thank you Hashem for the gift of today. It’s up to us to turn it into true blessing. And may He bless us in return.

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