Re'eh 5770 – Gilayon #662


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Parshat Reeh

And you shall rejoice before the Lord, your God you

and your sons and your daughters and your menservants and your maidservants,

and the Levite who is within your cities, for he has no portion or inheritance

with you. (Devarim

12:12)

 

And the Levite because he has no portion or inheritance

with you – Rabbi Yehudah bar Shimon says: The Holy One, blessed

be He, said – "If you have four members in your household, you have And

you shall rejoice in your Festival – you, and your son, and your daughter,

manservant, and your maidservant. I also have four household members of My

own: the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow. They

all appear in one verse, and if you cause both Mine and yours to rejoice at home

during the holidays I have given you, then I will cause Mine and yours to

rejoice in the Temple, for it is said: And I shall bring them to My holy

mountain and I shall cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer – Amen, so

may it be."

(Tanhuma [Warsaw edition] Re'eh 18)

 

And you shall rejoice before the Lord,

your God… and the Levite who is within your cities, for he has no portion or

inheritance with you. He chose Jerusalem because [otherwise] how could the

Levite rejoice with you while you live in your home and he is only a guest, and

how could he be equal with you in joy? For that reason [it was established]

that by your walking to Jerusalem,

everyone becomes a guest – the people, the priest, and the Levite. That being

so, he is not saddened by being a guest because everyone there is a guest and a

stranger. Therefore the joy is complete and he is not troubled at all.

(Sefer Ahavat Yehonatan

Devarim 12:12)

 

To the resting

place and the inheritance

Eylon Langbeheim

Feeling that the State of Israel has been

twisting down crooked paths and uses a broken political compass (or no compass

at all) to guide its decision-making, I sought good advice regarding how we

should proceed. To that end I set off for those grand mountains of SamariaMount Gerizim and Mount Eval

– from whose peaks the winding path may be viewed. The former is none other

than Har Berakha – the "Mountain

of Blessing" whose

slopes are today the site of a thriving Jewish settlement and its yeshiva,

which until recently sponsored a hesder program. The latter mountain, Mount Eval,

claims Samaria'a highest peak; it sports the antennae of the local army base

and is ringed by Palestinian settlements. These two mountains had been involved

in similar consultations in the past, when the Israelites gathered between them

after Joshua led them into the Land. There the Israelites heard the curses they

would suffer if they failed to heed God's voice and perform His commandments;

they also heard the blessings they would be favored with if they did heed God. This

led me to think there could be no better place to make an accounting of the

state’s political and social path.

Grizim and Eval, what do you think of the

current state of our country?

Grizim: We have been blessed with a

flourishing state, especially in the agricultural and culinary sectors. We have

advanced agriculture, unique irrigation systems and our waste-water treatment

systems are among the best in the world. We also lead in the food department:

anyone who enjoys meat can find juicy steaks in dozens of kosher restaurants

(some popularly priced) and many eating establishments have been awarded stars

by Michelin's Red Guide.

Eval: This flourishing is the vanity of

vanities. Most of the state's populace eats either industrial mass-produced

food that is engineered and full of preservatives, or the product of agriculture

that uses hormones and poisonous sprays. Halakhically strict kashrut practices

such as halak slaughter and kosher food for Passover that is absolutely

lecithin-free are a mockery. True, lambs and calves are not cooked in their

mothers' milk, but they are regularly raised in cages which restrict their

movement in order to make their flesh tender. As for the wonderful restaurants

you mentioned – most of them are not kosher and they brazenly serve rabbit-meat

and sea-food that lacks scales and fins…

Grizim: It's true that there remain some

problems regarding food, but at least we have succeeding in dealing with

idolatry…

Eval: Succeeded in dealing with idolatry [avoda

zarah, literally "alien work"]? Not only do the locals refuse

to do the work performed by foreign workers – they also expel the foreign

workers when their job is done. But seriously, my dear Mount Grizim,

I do not agree with you, idolatry still exists among us, only that it has

changed its form a bit. There are those who sanctify the god of money; they

worship the Tel-Aviv 25 Index, or the Tel-Tech. Others prostrate themselves on

the tombs of the righteous, asking for salvation from that same god of money. And

let's not forget those who sanctify rocks and boulders just because they are in

the no-mans-land of Judea and Samaria.

Grizim: It is true that the sanctification of

plots of land has something idolatrous about it, and the cult of placing

caravans under every fresh tree is especially surprising… but you seem to go

too far regarding money. Property can also bring people together and promote

growth. Look around at all the charity projects and social justice

organizations that have recently been established. People of means open their

pockets – poverty has almost been abolished!

Eval: Open your eyes, brother! Those

organizations are only necessary because the state does not grant people the

opportunity to support themselves and it does not legislate the laws needed to

preserve their dignity. The state is even trying to pass laws aimed at

undermining the activities of some of those organizations, claiming that they

cause harm to the state.

Grizim: Old Eval, you depress me a bit; you

only focus on the empty half of the cup and are incapable of joy and

celebration. Look at how the People Israel knows how to celebrate: every

holiday, Passover, Shavu'ot, and Sukkot, is marked by a festival! Festivals of

dance, klezmer music, theatre, and Jewish music! The Samaritans even hold a big

festival in our own honor!

Eval: It is difficult for me to identify with

joy and celebration these days, since that joy merely allows citizens escape

from the injustices which the prophets condemned. So it happens that the State

of Israel is viewed in a negative light by the gentiles and by many Jews. This

is not due to the state's lousy public relations – in the haftara it says that

if we hearken to God and keep his commandments, a nation unknown to you will

call and a nation that does not know you will run to you. Even without P.R.

they will listen to us for the sake of the Lord your

God and for the Holy One of Israel,

for He glorified you.

Grizim: If I weren't acquainted with your

foul disposition, I would despair of conversing with you. You are right: we

have yet to reach the resting place and the inheritance; and so our

conquest of the Land continues and blood continues to flow – and not only our

own. However, you must remember that the first process of entering the land

also took a long time – from the days of Joshua to those of King David – and

the Land was really only at peace during Solomon's reign.

So spoke the two mountains, two conflicting

voices, each expressing a particular attitude towards the state. One is

optimistic and chooses to see the good, the other harsh and critical, mostly

finding the bad. The two opposing voices are combined in the words of the

Prophet Isaiah which we read this week in the haftara. On the one hand he

rebukes the Israelites for their wicked deeds, but on the other he promises

them future redemption. In our parasha, Moses lays the foundations for the

dialectical tool of blessing and curse, and while the biblical ceremony of

reading the blessings and curses is no longer held, it is proper for us – and

especially for our leaders – to keep it in mind.

Eylon Langbeheim teaches physics and is

writing a doctorate on science education.

 

The Connection between "Expansion of Boundaries",

Distancing of "the Place", and the Appetite for Meat

When the Lord enlarges your territory, as He has

promised you, and you say, "I shall eat some meat teaches

that man yearns [to satisfy] his appetite only upon excess expansion, "The

lion does not roar unless he has a vessel full with meat" (Berakhot 32). Therefore He said: When the

Lord enlarges your territory – this will lead to the tearing away of the

mask of shame from your face to the point where you outspokenly declare, I

shall eat some meat. This is somewhat similar to the throwing off of the

yoke of heaven. To investigate the place of sacrifices: The reason for all this

[the rules regarding slaughtering animals] is that the place where the Lord

has chosen to establish his name is too far from you. The closer one is to

God's sanctuary, the greater is one's fear of the Kingdom of Heaven,

as is written, And you shall be in awe of My sanctuary. This means that

the sanctuary will be the source of your awe of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The place… is too far from you distances God from your inner organs,

and therefore you will constantly have a voracious appetite, and you will not

be ashamed to say I shall eat some meat, so I permit it to you, and you

may slaughter from your cattle… as I have instructed you – not at all

times, but only occasionally, when the appetite is overwhelming.

(Kli Yakar, Devarim 12:21)

 

And He shall grant you mercy (Devarim 13:18) – The Psychological Consequences of the

Punishment of the Inhabitants of the Ir Ha-Nidahat

A case of ir ha-nidahat [a town subverted by idolatry] causes

three evils to Israel:

a) The act of killing a person makes one cruel. When an individual is

killed by a court, an emissary of the court is chosen [to execute the

sentence]. However, when an entire town [is sentenced to death], we are forced

to accustom a number of people to killing and to cruelty.

b) It increases hatred within Israel, because there cannot be

even one person in the town who does not have relatives in other towns.

c) It leaves an empty spot and diminishes Israel. That is why Scripture made

sure that you would engage in this without benefiting from the booty in any way

– so that God might turn back from His anger.

(Ha-NiTziV me-Volozhin, Ha-Amek

Davar on Devarim 13:18)

 

As Sons, as Servants – Human Obligation to Social Justice and the

Improvement of the World

And this is the question which the wicked Tornosrofus asked Rabbi Akiva:

If your God is a lover of the poor, why does He not support them?

He answered him: To save us from punishment in Gehinnom.

He answered him: On the contrary, it makes you liable to punishment in Gehinnom!

I will offer you a parable: What is this like? A mortal king became angry with

his servant and locked him up in prison, ordering that he should not be fed nor

given drink. One man went and fed him and gave him drink. When the king heard,

was he not angry with him? You are called servants, for it is said the

Israelites are servants to Me (Vayikra

25:55)!

Rabbi Akiva answered him: I will offer you a parable: What is this like?

A mortal king became angry with his son and locked him up in prison, ordering

that he should not be fed nor given drink. One man went and fed and gave him

drink. When the king heard, did he not send him a gift? We are called sons, for

it is written: You are sons to the Lord your God (Devarim 14:1).

He answered: You are called sons and are called servants. When you do

God's will you are called sons, and when you do not do God's will you are

called servants. Now you are not doing God's will!

He answered: Behold, he said: It [the fast sought by God] is to share

your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your homes (Isaiah 58:7). When should you take the

wretched poor home? Right now, and as it says, share your bread with the

hungry.

(Bava Batra 10a)

 

Midrashei Tzafon

From the pen of our member, Ronen Ahituv

You shall neither add to it, nor subtract

from it (13;1).

Since it is said, for also their sons and

their daughters they would burn in fire to their gods (12:31), one might say:

The Torah says, and every firstborn of man among your sons, you shall redeem

(Shemot 13:13).

Since the Omnipresent permitted me to redeem my son and not to break his neck,

I shall exceed the requirements of the law and slaughter my son! However, the

verse teaches us – you shall not add.

And one might say, since the Omnipresent does

not desire the death of the wicked, I will exceed the requirements of

the law and never have anyone executed by the court; but the verse teaches us –

nor subtract. And so He says, neither shall you pity him, have mercy upon him, nor

shield him (13:9).

The verse appearing at the midrash's conclusion

bespeaks cruelty and a refusal to take pity on a criminal. The following verses

seem to be of a different quality: But you shall eat them before the Lord,

your God… you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant,

and the Levite who is in your cities, and you shall rejoice before the Lord,

your God, in all your endeavors. Beware, lest you forsake the Levite all your

days upon your land (12:18-19). These verses apparently try to develop a character

that is generous and sensitive to the needs of others. Which character is

favored by Scripture? Is our primary duty to God or to man?

The drasha begins by voicing opposition to man's

extreme devotion to his God, "exceeding the requirements of the law;"

thus it disallows human sacrifice. (True, there were Jews who slaughtered their

children during the Crusades, but they were also severely criticized). The

drasha concludes by opposing the other extreme which requires that mercy be

shown always and to everyone. (This was R. Akiva's attitude; see Mishnah Makot

1:10; and see Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel's critique there.) The bottom line of

the drasha is that we must develop balanced personalities that tend to neither

extreme.

 

Readers Respond

Shlomo Fuchs comments on the Midrashei Tzafon

column from the parashat Devarim issue.

The parashat Devarim issue ends with a piece by

Ronen Ahituv – it should be pointed out that the idea of Mont Hermon being

named after the term herem [a ban] does not originate in Arab folklore. Rather,

it can be found in the apocryphal book of Enoch (I:6):

1. And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in

those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2. And the

angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one

another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget

us children.' 3. And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them:

'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay

the penalty of a great sin.' 4. And they all answered him and said: 'Let us all

swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon

this plan but to do this thing.' 5. Then swore they all together and bound

themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 6. And they were in all two hundred;

who descended [in the days] of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and

they called it Mount Hermon, because they had

sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. (R. Charles translation http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/boe/boe009.htm

)

We thank Shlomo Fuchs for his fascinating

comment.

 

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