Torah Weekly

For the week ending 11 August 2007 / 27 Av 5767

Parshat Re'eh

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

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 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.

Insights

Inheritance and Bequest

“… you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother…Beware lest there be a lawless thought in your heart.” (15:7/9)

Whenever the two poor brothers would come to the rich man for tzedaka (charity), he would give them a $100 bill each. Once, it happened that after a gap of more than a year one of the brothers returned to the rich man alone.

“Where is your brother?” inquired the rich man. “He passed away two months ago.” “I’m so sorry,” said the rich man, “May the Omnipresent comfort you among the other mourners of Tzion and Yerushalyim.” “Thank you,” said the poor man.

The rich man promptly placed a crisp $100 bill into the poor man’s hand.

“Excuse me,” said the poor man, “but you forgot my brother’s $100.”

“He’s dead,” replied the rich man,

“Yes,” said the poor man, “but I’m his brother; why should you get his inheritance?”

The Torah considers someone who averts his eyes from the needy as though he worshipped idols (Talmud Bavli, Bava Batra 10a).

Ostensibly the connection is difficult to understand; stinginess is a lacking in our relationship with our fellow human beings, whereas idol worship is solely an issue between G-d and us.

Really, every mitzvah that involves giving to our fellow beings is a reflection of our relationship with G-d. As it says “Everything is from You, and it is from Your hand that we have given to You.” (Divrei Hayamim I 29:14)

We have nothing to give except the giving itself. Everything else belongs to G-d.

As the Rosh says, “Do not make gold and silver your folly, for this is the beginning of idol worship” (Orchot Tzaddikim 29)

When we give tzedaka properly we are acknowledging that we are merely the stewards of our wealth; it is not ours. In addition, by using our possessions to serve G-d, we testify to the fact that the world has a purpose, that the point of life is not self-gratification; we acknowledge that we and everything we have is merely one infinitesimal part in G-d’s plan to bring this world to a state of perfection.

That is both our inheritance and our bequest.

  • Sources: Based on Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe and a story heard from Avraham Falk

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