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Home » Re'e

Reeh: Food for Thought for Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on August 24, 2008 – 3:15 amNo Comment | 2,124 views

Sunday: Fortune

Not every country is a superpower nor is every country at the bottom of the totem pole. Mostany are somewhere in the middle; comfortable, but not powerful. Jews, however, are never in the middle; we are either at the very top or at the very bottom. This is because our fortune is determined by G-d in accordance with our behaviour. When we hearken to His voice we are powerful and invincible. When we turn from Him, we are downtrodden and persecuted.

This is the deeper meaning of the words, “See I place before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing [will come to those who] hearken to the commandments.” Ktav Sofer

Monday: The Vegetarian

Reb Itche Gurevitch, better known as Itche the diligent one, rarely if ever ate meat. Once, on a visit to Boston, he was asked why he avoids meat. His response, “Meat? Disgusting!” Itche was not talking about a culinary preference, but a spiritual orientation. He could not fathom a human being succumbing to the allure of animal flesh.

I know many vegetarians who don’t like meat, each for their own reasons. I fully support vegetarians by preference, but I cannot condone ethical vegetarianism. There are those who argue that it is unethical to slaughter an animal for human consumption. To that I respond, who writes the rules of ethics? The believer hands that authority to G-d and though the Torah refers to the desire for meat as a temptation, perhaps even an obscene temptation, it is one that the Torah (in our Parshah) expressly permits.

Tuesday: A New Generation

The Torah speaks of one who entices his relatives or friends to false idols “Unknown to you and to your forefathers.”

One of the common arguments against Jewish law is that it was formed long ago and is irrelevant in a modern society. Electricity, for example, was not extant when the laws of Shabbos were written. If only our ancestors knew what we know today they would have been far more enlightened and would have developed a different set of laws. In this sense we are enticed to false idols (or ideas) with the argument that had our ancestors known of these ideas they too would have accepted it.

Once we recognize that the Torah was authored by G-d who knew the future as we know the past these arguments fall away. Rather than following that which was unknown to our ancestors, we opt to follow the Divine wisdom and oral tradition passed down to us by our ancestors. Taam Vodaas

Wednesday: All in the Family

The Hebrew words, “Lo Titgodedu,” have two interpretations: Do not shave your hair and do not form [opposing] factions. There are Chassidic Jews and non Chassidic Jews, Zionist and non Zionist, Modern Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox; why do we have so many factions?

Armies also have many factions: Marine, Navy, Air Force, Army, Special Forces and Intelligence groups. The army requires many factions to face the enemy wherever he may strike. We too have an enemy; it is the Yetzer Hara, the Evil Inclination. It takes on many guises and we must be prepared to combat it on many fronts. This is why there are multifarious streams of religious worship. Some battle the Yetzer Hara through joy, others through study and yet others through love. Each group introduces a unique approach and together we shall overcome our common enemy.

There is really nothing wrong with factions, but everything is wrong with factionalism. Factions that work together succeed. Factions that oppose each other fail. Chafetz Chaim

Thursday: Heartfelt Giving

”Tithe you shall tithe.” It is noteworthy that many verses associated with charity repeat themselves for emphasis such as “open you shall open your hand.” The message therein is that it is not sufficient to give in a physical sense; we must also give in an emotional sense. The poor person is in need of a smile and a warm heart even more than he is in need of a few dollars. This is synonymous with the verse, “(1) Do not harden your heart and (2) do not close your hand.”  Kli Yakar

Friday: The Blame Game

We are all tempted to play the blame game when we see a panhandler in the street. If he would only work he would not require charity. If I give him money he will use it for drugs. The excuses are endless.

The Torah speaks of one such excuse when it introduces the poor person as “One of your brothers among you.” The poor person is your brother and you must care for him as you would for a brother. Not only is he a brother, he is one of your brothers; the number one brother – the most worthy brother. Don’t judge him to be unworthy on account of his poverty; it is often the most worthy who are struck with poverty. Why was this worthy Jew punished with poverty? This is addressed by the words “among you.” He was destined to live as a poor person alongside you so that you could provide for him. In other words,  he is suffering to give you a chance to perform the mitzvah of charity. Of course you should help him. Ohr Hachayim

Shabbat: First Offering

The first born animal is consecrated at birth and given to the Kohein. Yet in the context of instructing the Israelite to donate his firstborn, the Torah also instructs him, “Before G-d your Lord you shall eat it year by year.” This is curious because the Israelite does not eat the firstborn, the Kohein does.

Another way of understanding this verse (in addition to an instruction to the Kohein on how to eat the firstborn) is as a blessing to the Israelite. He gave away his firstborn and at that point has nothing left for himself. This can only be done when the Israelite trusts implicitly in G-d. The Torah rewards this trust by granting him a blessing of annual, “year by year,” prosperity. Chafetz Chayim