For the week ending 7 August 2010 / 26 Av 5770

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 relinquished - 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.


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

When one hears a rabbi exhorting his flock to lead more spiritual lives and spurn the "flesh-pots", the thought might cross one's mind: "What does he know about flesh-pots that he can tell me how much better a spiritual life is? Maybe if he had a Rolls Royce he wouldn't be so quick to reject materialism!" That's what Moshe is hinting to here: "See! Look at me! I was a prince in Egypt; I'm one of the richest men in the world! I know what material wealth is. On the other hand, I've ascended to spiritual realms to which no other mortal has reached. I spent 120 days speaking to G-d 'face-to-face'. As a result I now wear a veil over my face except when I teach Torah, because my face radiates a light that you can't look at! Look at me! I know both worlds and I'm telling you: Choose the spiritual path!"

  • Source: Adapted from the Ohr HaChaim.

"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, that 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 preoccupied trying to find food, that they would have forgotten their Creator, as we see was the case in Egypt, that 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 became successful and self-satisfied and forgot 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 — that is the blessing."

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