For the week ending 30 August 2008 / 29 Av 5768

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.


Look At Me!

“See!I am putting in front of you today a blessing and curse....” (11:26)

When you hear a Rabbi exhorting his flock to lead more spiritual lives and spurn the “flesh-pots,” you might think:“What does he know about flesh-pots!Maybe if he had a Rolls Royce, he wouldn’t be so quick to reject materialism!”

If anyone knew the fleshpots, it was Moshe. Moshe grew up with an Egyptian ‘gold spoon’ in his mouth. Moshe was one of the richest men in the world; a prince of Egypt. He knew what materialism was. He knew what luxury was.

On the other hand, he didn’t encourage the Jewish People to embrace the spiritual path just because he hated materialism. Moshe knew better than any man that ever lived what the spiritual world has to offer. He had been up to heaven three times, a total of 120 days — 4 months amongst the angels! Moshe knew both sides of the coin as no one before or since.

In Hebrew you can read the first lines of this week’s parsha two ways. “Look, I am placing before you...” or “Look at me I am placing before you the blessing and the curse”. In other words, Moshe when was saying “When you come to make your life-decisions, when you choose your path — Look at me! I’ve been in both places, and I can tell you. Choose the spiritual path!”

  • Source: Kli Yakar

Knife Edge

“See! I am putting in front of you today a blessing and curse....” (11:26)

Our Sages teach us that a person should constantly imagine that the whole world is in a state of precise balance — half meritorious and half culpable. He should consider that if he does just one mitzvah he will tip the world’s scales of judgment to the side of credit, but if he does one aveirah (transgression) he will tip the scales to the negative side (Kiddushin 40).

Consequently, the Torah tells each individual here “See!” Every single action that you do “I am putting in front of you a blessing and a curse” that you have the power to tip the scales in either direction.

  • Source: Toras Moshe

Rags and Riches

“See! I am putting in front of you today a blessing and curse....” (11:26)

Wealth and poverty do not always have the same effect on a person.

There are those whose wealth influences them for the good and through the blessing of their wealth they come to a greater appreciation of G-d. However, had they been poor they would have been so occupied trying to find food that they would have forgotten their Creator. This was the case in Egypt where the Bnei Yisrael were so exhausted by the hard labor that they didn’t listen to Moshe.

On the other hand, there are those whom wealth removes from the path of righteousness as we see so often in our history that the Jewish people become successful and self-satisfied and forget Who gave them what they have. However, when a person is poor and “broken,” G-d never ignores his supplications.

That’s what the verse is saying here: “See — I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse” — and don’t think that the blessing is wealth and the curse is poverty; rather everything depends on how a person deals with his riches or poverty. And whether he be rich or poor, if he turns his focus to the Torah and mitzvot, then, whatever his status is in life, he receives the blessing.

  • Source: Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin in L’Torah U’Moadim

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