Modeling Behavior

At the beginning of the Parsha, Moshe presents the Jewish people with a choice. For a blessing, they could listen to the mitzvot of Hashem, and for a curse- they could not. Yet his introduction to the choice seems somewhat unnecessary: “See, I place before you today a blessing and a curse (11:26)”. Why does he not simply say ‘If you want to be blessed’, etc? Why phrase it as “See, I place before you”?

 

The Ohr HaChaim, in his commentary to this verse, explains that these words are not simply a means of introduction. Instead, they should be translated as follows: “Look at me, (who) presents for you a(n example of) a blessing and a curse”. Meaning, Moshe is asking the Jewish people to look at his own life. He, who grew up in Egypt in the lap of luxury, was at the side of one of the most powerful leaders in the world.  He could enjoy all of the pleasures of the world whenever he wanted. With all of that opportunity, however, he chose otherwise. He chose a life of nobility, a life of blessing. And so, he turns to the Jewish people and presents himself as the example of one who had every reason to choose a life without G-d, and instead chose to follow His mitzvot.

 

On the one hand, we all need models of the right behavior. Having a tangible, observable personification of our aspirations allow us to realize not only that it’s possible, but how we can do it ourselves. On the other hand, we not only need to see role models, we also need to serve as role models. Whether it’s our children, students, or even our friends, we should all try to emulate Moshe- not only by what he chose for his life, but how he displayed those choices to others. Of course, our ultimate motivation for mitzvot is to serve and create a relationship with Hashem, but an ancillary value is also to educate. Actions speak louder than words, and, as Moshe teaches us, a life with the right values can bring immense blessing- not only for us, but for those who are watching.