There is an old saying, “Seeing is believing.” In Judaism, this statement is only partially true.
The parashah begins with a graphic visual lesson. Upon entering the Promised Land, the Israelites are to stand between two mountains. Blessings would be pronounced from Mount Gerizim, curses would be enunciated from Mount Ebal.
Placed strategically between two high spots, it would be easy for the people to grasp the significance of the verse, “See, I have set before you blessing and curse.” (Dt. 11. 26)
However, to choose blessings rather than curses, a person needs more than a vision of paradise. One must make a decision of the heart as much as the eyes.
The central affirmation of Judaism is the Shema. The word, Shema, means, “hear.” Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. Hear O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.
Seeing involves responding to visual stimulation. Hearing entails attuning one’s inner self to receiving a message. Through concentration and receptivity, we absorb into our souls the message of Torah as it is read aloud.
“The inclination to evil rules over what the eyes behold,” (Talmud Sanhedrin 55) but “one who listens to wise instruction will abide among the wise.” (Proverbs 15.31)