In this weeks Parsha we are told to “See” – Hashem gives us reward for every good deed and (Chas ve shalom) curses for bad deeds.
A look closer at the first verse causes us to ask a fundamental question. The Torah seems to be talking to the individual. It uses language of “Re'eh” in the singular tense, and yet continues a few words later in the plural tense with the word “Lifneichem.”
Why does the Torah change tense, surely it should have finished the sentence in the singular – Lefanecha?
Jewish History has its ups and downs. There was a time in Israel that the Kingdom was ruled by a wicked Jewish king by the name of Menashe. He took it upon himself to ensure the destruction of every Sifrei Torah in Israel, and led the people astray. Needless to say many sinned and the nation sunk to a low .
In 3285 - 476 b.c.e. his grandson Yoshiyahu was proclaimed king of Yehudah. Yoshiyahu was a righteous king who renewed the faith of the nation in G-d and reversed King Menashe's policy of idol worship and the destruction of Torah learning and observance. During his reign, a Sefer Torah was found open to the Pasuk, "Cursed is the one who will not uphold the words of this Torah (27:26). Yoshiyahu tore his garments and exclaimed, "Alai Lehakim", it is incumbent upon me to uphold. He led an unprecedented Teshuva movement which forestalled the process of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash (Melachim II, 22 and 23).
The Prophet Yirmiyahu refers to Yoshiyahu as unique in his devotion to G-d and Torah. The most glorious of his accomplishments was greatest Baal Teshuva movement the world had ever seen. However, he was less successful than he thought and there were many Jews who continued to secretly serve idols.

In 3316 - 445 b.c.e., 22 years before the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash, Yoshiyahu made a tragic strategic error. "In the last year of Yoshiyahu's reign, Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, decided to wage war against Assyria which was northeast of Israel. He asked Yoshiyahu permission to march his troops through his land, (Egypt being southeast) as this was the fastest and shortest route to Assyria. However, Yoshiyahu refused because G-d promised that when the Jewish people do His will, 'a sword will not pass through your land.'(Vayikra 26:6)". However, G-d's promise was predicated on the entire nation doing His will and not serving idols.

Because there were many people who had not repented and continued serving idols, the above promise from did not yet apply. Yirmiyahu, the leading prophet of the time, told Yoshiyahu to let Pharaoh pass through Israel on route to Assyria because the nation was not as deserving as Yoshiyahu believed. Yoshiyahu did not listen to Yirmiyahu and in the end Pharaoh went to war against Israel and Yoshiyahu was killed with 300 spears piercing his holy body. His last words were, "Tzadik Hashem Ki Pihu Mariti”, Hashem is righteous for I have rebelled against his word.

Thus, alas the spiritual revival was cut short by the untimely death of Yoshiyahu.
Our Sages teach that Yirmiyahu dedicated the fourth Perek to Yoshiyahu.
However, on closer inspection, except for one reference to Hashem’s anointed being trapped (4:20), the entire Perek bemoans the fate of Am Yisrael. Why is this called a lament over Yoshiyahu? Moreover, why did he deserve such special recognition if all he achieved was a relatively short delay of the Churban?

The answer lies in the incredibly long-lasting effect of Yoshiyahu’s Teshuva movement. In the fifteen subsequent years of his reign, an entire generation was returned to Torah. Even his wicked successors could not eradicate this influence. Thus, the "precious children of Tziyon" (4:2) owed their exalted state to Yoshiyahu, and the lament for them is a lament for him as well.
When the initial exile took place, the Torah scholars and leaders established themselves in Bavel (Melachim II 24:16). These great men, who developed only because of Yoshiyahu, later led the movement to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash. Since the second Bet Hamikdash was built because of the influence of Yoshiyahu, its subsequent destruction is bemoaned in the Pasuk following the one which describes the king’s untimely death. And the promise of no future exiles, is a measure of consolation in the face of destruction, and the culmination of the amazing influence of Yoshiyahu on Jewish history throughout the ages.
We might not be able to have the same influence as Kings, but our decisions can also have a long-term impact. Every person should say Alay Lehakim - it is incumbent upon me to influence my family and community, now and forever. Only then can he truly be blessed.
The Chatam Sofer brings a Gemara in Kiddushin that states one should live his or her life as if their life is in complete balance between good and evil. If they were to perform even one more Mitzvah, their personal scales would be tipped and they would be guaranteed life. However, the opposite effect holds true as well. By using this mind set, an individual will learn the power of even one of his or her actions on their life.
R’ Akiva later in the Gemara takes this idea a bit farther. He says that not only should one have the mindset that their life is a scale, one should view the entire world as being in complete balance. R’ Akiva is trying to explain that every person should view themselves as being able to individually affect the entire world.
We can now understand why the Torah starts by referring to the individual Re’eh and moves on to the plural Lifneichem. We should see (Re’eh) as individuals the power that we have on the world around us. When we do Mitsvot we need to know that Hashem promises to place before us (Lifneichem) Brachot. Those blessings will affect the entire world and will affect history.

Shabbat Shalom

R Shaul Yonatan Tawil

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