Torah Weekly

For the week ending 3 September 2016 / 30 Av 5776

Parshat Re'eh

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
Library Library Library


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.


A Promise of Eternity

“...You are children to the L-rd, your G-d — you shall not cut yourselves and you shall not make a bald spot between your eyes for a dead person.” (14:1-2)

The fact that the Jewish People are a holy people promises them eternity.

It's axiomatic that G-d doesn't waste His time, so to speak. Why would He create a holy nation to then assign them to oblivion? What would be the point of infusing them with His own Holiness, and then have them evaporate like a mist after a few score years?

Thus, it is not fit to allow our mourning to break the bounds of reason, to cut and mutilate our bodies as was the way of other cultures, and even for the death of a child, G-d forbid. The fact that we are "children of G-d..." reveals our promise of eternity.

However, to cry and to mourn is only natural when taking our leave of a loved one, and thus our Sages prohibited only excessive mourning, but to mourn a loved one is only a proper and natural expression of our own loss, not the fate of the departed one who has returned to our Father.

  • Source: based on the Ramban

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