• Dvar for Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

    This week’s Parsha starts off with the word “Re’eh”, which means “See”. What are we seeing, and why do we need to see it? Rabbi Yehoshua Wender explains that in our lives we are all on a quest for truth. We are looking to find the real meaning behind everything in this world. However, we need to see everything in its proper light. In every thing in this world there is truth, and there could be falseness, and it is our job to not be tricked by the lies.  So how do we know what’s true and what’s not?

    G-d has given us a Torah that contains the ultimate truth, and that same protection from falseness. Living in this world is like being in a room of fun house mirrors. As you walk in, there are curvy mirrors that distort your image.  Some make you look fat, others make you tall, and yet others make you skinny.  The only way to get a true image of yourself is to look in a flat, uncurved mirror.  The Torah is such a mirror: You can look in the Torah and find the truth, untainted, uncurved, undistorted. But it’s also possible to get a true image from looking at a curvy mirror, if you stand in just the right spot, at just the right angle, where you can see your self the way you really are.  The catch is that you won’t know that it’s your real true image unless you’ve looked at yourself in a straight mirror and have that image to compare with.  The world is the same way: It is possible to see the world truthfully using other sources, but unless we have studied the Torah and know what truth looks like, we’ll never know that we’ve really found it.

  • Dvar for Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

    In this week’s Parsha, Re’eh, we start off with the immortal choice:, “Behold I place before you today the blessing and the curse,” i.e., good vs. evil, life vs. death. Why create evil? Wouldn’t we be happier and better off without it?

    Elisha Greenbaum (Torah.org) suggests that removing evil, temptations and the possibility of failure is like removing goal posts from soccer fields and putting everyone on the same team. With no winners or losers, the exercise becomes pointless. G-d could have easily created angels who perform commandments perfectly every time, but instead He made us: We strive, we try. We win, we lose. When we get it right, we move up, closer to G-d, and when we fail, we climb back up. Rewards and growth wouldn’t happen without pitfalls and failures. Ultimately, we hope to grow through what we go through.

  • Dvar for Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

    Parshat Re’eh tells us that “no prophet may advocate idol worship no matter the circumstances. If he does he is considered a false prophet, even if he’s able to perform miracles” (Deuteronomy 13:2-6). The obvious question is: How can a false prophet have the ability to perform miracles?

    Rabbi Akiva (in Talmud Sanhedrin 90a) contends that when the Torah speaks of this prophet performing miracles, the prophet was then a true prophet, and only later did he deflect to the wrong path. Once becoming a false prophet he is no longer able to perform miracles. As Rabbi Avi Weiss extracts, this answer underscores a critical concept in Judaism, especially as the month of Elul, the thirty days of introspection before the High Holidays begin: notwithstanding one’s achievement or spiritual level there is always the possibility of failing (i.e. false prophet), and an equal possibility of improvement (i.e. Teshuva – repentance – before Rosh Hashana). While the Parsha depicts a prophet that has fallen from grace, rising to grace is just as viable. Just like the prophet, we are judged based on where we are now, and how much we’ve improved, not on where we once were.

  • Dvar for Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

    This week’s Parsha starts off with the word “Re’eh”, which means “See”. What are we seeing, and why do we need to see it? Rabbi Yehoshua Wender explains that in our lives we are all on a quest for truth. We are looking to find the real meaning behind everything in this world. However, we need to see everything in its proper light. In every thing in this world there is truth, and there could be falseness, and it is our job to not be tricked by the lies.  So how do we know what’s true and what’s not?

    G-d has given us a Torah that contains the ultimate truth, and that same protection from falseness. Living in this world is like being in a room of fun house mirrors. You walk in, and there are all these curvy mirrors that distort your image.  Some make you look fat, others make you tall, and yet others make you skinny.  The only way to get a true image of yourself is to look in a flat, uncurved mirror.  The Torah is such a mirror: You can look in the Torah and find the truth, untainted, uncurved, undistorted. But it’s also possible to get a true image from looking at a curvy mirror, if you stand in just the right spot, at just the right angle, you can see your self the way you really are.  The catch is that you won’t know that that’s your real true image unless you’ve looked at yourself in a straight mirror and have that image to compare with.  The world is the same way: It is possible to see the world truthfully using other sources, but unless we have studied the Torah and know what truth looks like, we’ll never know if we’ve really found it.

  • Daily Aliya for Re’eh, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The male firstborn of kosher cattle must be consecrated and given to the Kohen to eat. If the animal is unblemished it is first offered as a sacrifice in the Temple. The Torah reading concludes with a discussion regarding the three festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. In addition to some laws regarding each of these festivals individually, we are commanded to rejoice during the festivals and all males must be in attendance in the Holy Temple during these holidays.

    Being commanded to rejoice seems like an oxymoron, but just like the commandment to love G-d, and others, these are what’s known as the “duties of the heart”, which is the result of proper determinations by the mind.

  • Daily Aliya for Re’eh, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe commands the Israelites to designate every seventh year as a Shmitah (Sabbatical) Year. During this year, creditors must forgive outstanding loans. The section then discusses the obligation to give charity to the poor with a happy heart, and to lend them money if necessary, even if the Shmitah Year is looming. A Jewish slave must be freed after six years of service and must be given generous severance gifts as he departs.

    Because the Torah prescribes a mandatory seven-year reset button on loans, it’s conceivable that as you get closer to the reset, people would stop lending, knowing if they don’t get repaid shortly, they’ll lose their money. Therefore, the Torah urges us to do whatever we can to help others, and if the recipient refuses to accept donations, find other ways to help, like loans, finding them jobs, and even a spouse!

  • Daily Aliya for Re’eh, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: After giving a tenth of one’s crops to the Levite, a tenth of the remainder — the “Second Tithe” — is to be taken and eaten within the confines of Jerusalem. Provision is made here for people who live far away from Jerusalem for whom it would be unfeasible to transport so much produce. Instead they may exchange the produce for money which is then taken to Jerusalem and spent on food. There is a three-year tithing cycle. After the conclusion of each cycle, we are commanded to purge our homes of any overdue tithes, give them to their intended recipients, and recite a brief prayer.

    We must take the second tithe to Jerusalem and spend it there (forced vacation), and if it’s too much (good problem to have), we may covert it to cash and spend it as we see fit, within the confines of Jerusalem. And this is meant for us to learn to fear G-d all of our days (Passuk 14:23). How exactly does this invoke fear? I believe one possible explanation could be that when we separate tithe from our own produce as G-d instructed, we’ve taken the first step of understanding our place in the world. When we bring it to Jerusalem to enjoy, along with everyone else who’s done the same thing, the experience transforms into a much more shared communal reality. Suddenly all your senses are involved: You see the people and produce others bring (and implied success granted to them), you taste the foods you’ve brought, you smell everyone else’s imported fruits. These individual experience don’t solicit fear, but they do teach us of the ever-present reach that G-d has on everything that we have and are. That realization should lead to love, reverence and ultimately fear of G-d for all that we depend on Him for.

  • Dvar for Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

    Parshat Re’eh tells us that “no prophet may advocate idol worship no matter the circumstances. If he does he is considered a false prophet, even if he’s able to perform miracles” (Deuteronomy 13:2-6). The obvious question is: How can a false prophet have the ability to perform miracles?

    Rabbi Akiva (in Talmud Sanhedrin 90a) contends that when the Torah speaks of this prophet performing miracles, the prophet was then a true prophet, and only later did he deflect to the wrong path. Once becoming a false prophet he is no longer able to perform miracles. As Rabbi Avi Weiss extracts, this answer underscores a critical concept in Judaism, especially as the month of Elul, the thirty days of introspection before the High Holidays begin: notwithstanding one’s achievement or spiritual level there is always the possibility of failing (i.e. false prophet), and an equal possibility of improvement (i.e. Teshuva – repentance – before Rosh Hashana). While the Parsha depicts a prophet that has fallen from grace, rising to grace is just as viable. Just like the prophet, we are judged based on where we are now, and how much we’ve improved, not on where we once were.

  • Daily Aliya for Re’eh, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: As G‑d’s children, we are forbidden to deface our bodies with tattoos or via other forms of mutilation. This section then provides a list of kosher animals and non-kosher fowl. We are also given signs to distinguish between kosher animals and fish and their non-kosher counterparts. The section concludes with the prohibitions against eating meat from an animal which was not properly slaughtered, and against cooking meat with milk.

    In the spirit of the positive commandment to check for kashrut, it appears that this Mitzvah does not only include checking animals, birds and fish for signs, but looking for the kashrut symbol on packaged products or the kashrut certificate in restaurants.

  • Daily Aliya for Re’eh, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe admonishes the Israelites not to be lured by the heathen abominable practices of the Canaanites, and to remain true to the Torah; neither adding to nor subtracting from its laws. A person professing to be a prophet who claims to bring instructions from G‑d to worship idols must be put to death. This is true even if the individual performs supernatural acts or accurately predicts the future. This section also prescribes the death penalty for one who attempts to entice others to idolatry, and the catastrophic price paid by a city which has completely succumbed to idolatry.

    In an extremely loaded Aliya, sometimes the strongest messages are the ones that don’t need to be analyzed. The Passuk (13:5) says that You shall 1) follow G-d, 2) fear Him, 3) keep His commandments, 4) heed His voice, 5) worship Him, and 6) cleave to Him. Since most of these directives seem redundant, Rashi, Sifri and the Gemara team up to explain the different references, as follows: 1) Follow G-d – basic understanding of following the Mitzvot (commandments), 2) Fear Him – fear would be a natural by-product of understand all that G-d controls and provides for us, 3) Keep His commandments – follow the oral tradition (Rashi), 4) Heed His voice – listen to the true prophets (relevant in times of the prophets), 5) Worship Him – in the temple (relevant when temple was around), and most relevant to us today, 6) cleave to him – Cleave to His ways by bestowing kindness, burying the dead, and visiting the sick, just as G-d did (Gemara).

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