For the week ending 15 August 2015 / 30 Av 5775

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 be eaten only in Jerusalem. He warns the nation against copying ways of the other nations. Since the Torah is complete and perfect, nothing may be added to 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.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Due to Circumstances beyond Our Control…

“The blessing that you listen to the commandments And the curse that you do not listen and turn aside from the way” (11:27-8)

I remember being the grateful father of a newborn son.

There are very few occasions that compare with the joy of a brit mila, the spiritual rite of passage when a Jewish boy is brought into the covenant of Avraham on the eighth day of his life. A feeling of expectancy filled the house. Relatives came from thousands of miles away. The sage and the saintly were duly informed of the time and the place.

Everything was set.

However, as happens quite often, the baby decided to develop non-threatening infant jaundice. It cleared up within a couple of weeks and, with great joy, I brought our young son into the Covenant of Avraham. By that time, however, the eighth day had already come and gone.

In a certain sense, however, I really had brought my son into the brit on that eighth day.

At the beginning of this week’s Torah reading, when describing the blessings that come from following the Torah path of spirituality, it sats that you will listen. However, when speaking about the devastation caused by not listening to the Torah, it adds the phrase and you will turn aside from the way.

Why the additional phrase?

Sometimes we want to do a mitzvah, like bringing our son into the covenant on the eighth day as the Torah mandates, but circumstances beyond our control prevent us. However, G-d, in His infinite kindness, fuses our desire to do with the doing, and considers the mitzvah as though it was actually done it.

The mere thought of doing a mitzvah that you will listen is itself a mitzvah. However, when a person thinks about doing a sin, until he actualizes his thought, until he turns aside from the way it doesn’t get marked down on his scorecard against him.

  • Sources: Be’er Mayim Chaim; Malbim; Mayana shel Torah

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