There is an old story of 5 blind men who are asked to describe an elephant just by touching it. One by one, each gives a report. Their descriptions were all very different. Rope, fan, pillar, wall, and hose were each defining descriptions depending on what part of the elephant was being touched.
Of course, each of the five men correctly described what they were feeling, but each was also blind to the bigger picture. Such blindness can be true of us as well – for it is often true that limited perceptions of the world can prevent us from understanding a much bigger landscape.
In our Torah portion this week (R’eih), Moses repeatedly tries to remind the Israelites of the big picture regarding living a life of Torah. Moses recognizes that with so many laws the Israelites could easily get overwhelmed. In his wisdom, Moses warns against getting stuck in the weeds of the what and how of rituals and laws and tries to help us understand the why.
In many ways, Moeses is trying to help us see the elephant. Through his words we come to understand that all of the laws and directives, which have been given to us, ultimately serve to define us as a sacred community and help guide us to become better partners with God in making this world a better place.