For the week ending 19 August 2006 / 25 Av 5766

Parshat Re'eh

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Moshe presents to the nation the blessing of a spiritually oriented life, and the curse of becoming disconnected from Hashem. When the nation enters Eretz Yisrael they must burn down any trees that had been used for idol-worship, and destroy all idolatrous statues. Hashem will choose only one place where the Divine Presence will dwell. Offerings may be brought only there; not to a private altar. Moshe repeatedly warns against eating animal blood. In the desert, all meat was slaughtered in the Mishkan, but in Eretz Yisrael meat may be shechted anywhere. Moshe lists the categories of food that may only be eaten in Jerusalem. He warns the nation against copying ways of the other nations. Since the Torah is complete and perfect, nothing may be added or subtracted from it. If a "prophet" tells the people to permanently abandon a Torah law or indulge in idol worship, he is to be put to death. One who entices others to worship idols is to be put to death. A city of idolatry must be razed. It is prohibited to show excessive signs of mourning, such as marking the skin or making a bald spot. Moshe reiterates the classifications of kosher and non-kosher food and the prohibition of cooking meat and milk. Produce of the second tithe must be eaten in Jerusalem, and if the amount is too large to carry, it may be exchanged for money with which food is bought in Jerusalem. In certain years this tithe is given to the poor. Bnei Yisrael are instructed to always be open-hearted, and in the seventh year any loans must be discounted -- Hashem will bless the person in all ways. A Jewish bondsman is released after six years, and must be sent away with generous provisions. If he refuses to leave, his ear is pierced with an awl at the door post and he remains a bondsman until the Jubilee year. The Parsha ends with a description of the three pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Succot.


Do You Really Want To Do This?

“And the curse – if you do not listen and turn aside from the way…” (11:28)

One of my favorite messages from my friendly computer is, “Do you really want to do this?”

One mouse click away from reformatting my entire hard drive of more than 15 years of hard work: essays, letters, accounts, projects and random musings (they’re the hardest work), when that little voice of sanity pops up on my screen and enquires politely, “Do you really want to do this?”

G-d loves His people as no one else.

In this week’s portion, describing the path of blessing, the Torah says – that you hearken to the commandments of G-d.”(26:27)When warning us about the alternative, the Torah talks of “…the curse — if you do not listen and turn aside from the way…. Why, when speaking about the negative consequences of rejecting the Torah, did the Torah add the seemingly extra words “and turn aside from the way?

When we think of doing a mitzvah, of feeding the poor, visiting the sick, putting on tefillin, or learning Torah, G-d already considers it virtually a done deal. Even if, for reasons beyond our control, we never manage to perform the mitzvah, it’s as though we had already done it.

On the other hand, the thought of doing an aveira (spiritual transgression), by itself does not render us liable until it becomes concrete action.

How thankful we should be to G-d that He gives us the chance to say to ourselves, “Do you really want to do this?”!

  • Sources: Be’er Mayim Chaim; Malbim

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