Cantor Eyal Bitton shares a few thoughts on prayer and the parasha of the week.

Being True to Yourself

2023-08-12 Parashat Re’eh

The brilliant Steve Martin encouraged his audiences to repeat the Non-Conformist Oath. He’d call out: “I promise to be different!” And the audience would repeat the statement. Then he’d call out: “I promise to be unique!” And the audience would repeat the statement.

Obviously the idea of a non-conformist having to recite a specific oath is already contradictory and hilarious. When one vows to be different, alongside hundreds of others doing the same, and by repeating the words being delivered by someone else, the claim that one is a non-conformist is completely undermined – and is laughable. That being said, each of us would like to think of ourselves as an independent thinker. 

In the Friday evening service, there is a beautiful prayer called “Tzadik Katamar Yifrach” (Psalm 92). This psalm speaks of the righteous person who flourishes like a palm tree, growing tall like a cedar in Lebanon. It symbolizes the resilience and steadfastness that comes from staying rooted in our values and connected to God.

Reciting this prayer during Shabbat serves as a reminder of the strength and vitality that arise when we adhere to our own principles. Just as the palm tree and cedar grow tall and flourish, we too can thrive when we are firmly grounded in our spiritual identity.

Parashat Re’eh encourages us to open our eyes and ears to the world around us, to observe and learn from the experiences of others. It also emphasizes the significance of remaining steadfast in our commitment to our own values and beliefs. In our lives, whether we are aware of it or not, we are confronted with outside influences that can cloud our judgment and sway us from our authentic path.

We often find ourselves seeking validation and acceptance from others, conforming to societal expectations that may not align with our true selves. But we must ask ourselves, how can we ever find genuine happiness and fulfillment if we are constantly looking to external sources for approval? The answer lies within.

Parashat Re’eh and “Tzadik Katamar Yifrach” remind us to embrace our individuality, to nurture our inner selves, and to stand firm in our commitment to living a life of integrity and authenticity. They remind us that by staying true to our own principles, we not only find personal fulfillment but also become a source of inspiration for others.

Let us be vigilant in our pursuit of self-discovery and unwavering in our dedication to our own values. By doing so, we honor the teachings of our tradition and create a ripple effect that encourages others to do the same.