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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Deuteronomy/Dvarim - Re'eh 101
Posted August, 2000
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Parashat Re'eh begins at Perek Yud-Aleph, pasuk chav-vav (Chapter 11, verse 25) and ends with Perek Tet-Zayin, pasuk yud-zayin (Chapter 16, verse 17).  The word re-eh means "to see, observe, perceive, or consider."  In this instance, it is a command - See.  Similar to the more familiar, sh'mah - hear, re'eh is an equivalent word for the sense of sight.

As was done with the previous Parashah, it seems appropriate to focus on the first few verses especially the third.

26. See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse:

27. The blessing - that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you today:

28. And the curse - if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did not know:

As compared to the translation of the Stone Edition Chumas above, Rav Samsom Raphael Hirsch translates pasuk chav-chet (28) a with a slight difference.  His translation is:

28. And the curse, if ye will not listen to the commands of God, your God, but turn aside from the way I command you this day, to after other gods of whom ye know nothing.

The key words here are "turn aside from the way."  During a Chumash class with Rav Yehoshuah Harlig of Chabad, we discussed this particular phrase and these words especially in the context of punishment, i.e., God punishing Klal Yisrael for its failure to live within the dictates of Torah.  Rav Harlig said that Hashem does not actively punish.  Rather, and this is consistent with what we have seen previously, left to itself Klal Yisrael has little strength or resistance to oppression and persecution from other nations.  Provided it has God's protection, life continues with a minimum of problems.  However, if we turn aside, then God will turn aside as well leaving us without that protection that is so necessary to our very survival.

The second point in the third pasuk of this Parashah is the issue, repeated many times, of idolatry.  One might ask why it is that idolatry is consistently singled out.  The answer can be found in the commentaries of Rav Hirsch, wherein he says:

From these words it follows that every acknowledgment of idolatry is to be considered equal to a denial of the whole Torah, and every denial of idolatry equal to an acknowledgment of the whole Torah.  We do not consider it superfluous to remark how, after all, these sentences wish to say the exact contrary of that supposed maxim that "belief in One God" is sufficient to qualify a person as a complete Jew even if otherwise he turns his back to the fulfilling of the dictates of the Torah.  For here it is the acknowledgment of the whole of the Torah - which indeed means that one is in duty bound to fulfill all God's commands - which is made inseparable from acknowledgment of the Unity of God or denying it.  The Jewish "belief in God" is not the mere belief in the existence of God but in His rule over us, which, of course, is inseparable from our submission to His control.  And the Jewish "belief in the Oneness of God" is identical with the submitting the whole of our fate and the whole of our actions under the rule of the One God, so that denial of a plurality of gods, is identical with acknowledging the whole of the Torah.

This explanation covers the reason that idolatry is so often linked with not keeping the commandments of God and the consequences of those actions.  At the same time, this ties in with what was said previously.  We can either choose to submit our fate to God's control or we can choose to submit our fate to the control of others.  It is obvious which choice makes the greater sense.

On to another topic to finish this weeks' commentary.  In Vayikrah (Leviticus), I pointed out a part of a pasuk (verse) that is many times inaccurately quoted to suggest that aveirot (transgressions) can only be forgiven through blood sacrifice.  By quoting the entire pasuk and the surrounding psukim, we sew that this particular section refers to the point that the consumption of blood is forbidden.  With that in mind, here are two more quotes from Parashat Re'eh.  In Perek Yud-Bet (Chapter 12), we see the following:

16. But you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it onto the earth, like water:

Later in pasuk chav-gimel, chav-daled, and chav-hay, this is covered in even greater detail:

23. Only be strong not to eat the blood -- for the blood, it is the life -- and you shall not eat the life with the meat:

24. You shall not eat it, you shall pour it onto the ground like water:

25. You shall not eat it, in order that it be well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the eyes of Hashem:  

Next week's Parashah is Shoftim.  As was the case with both Ekev and Re'eh, the comments will focus on the beginning of the Parashah.

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Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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