Re'eh 5772 – Gilayon #762

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Parshat Reeh

When the lord your god enlarges your territory as he

has spoken to you,

And you say, 'let me eat meat,' when your appetite

craves eating meat,

Wherever you appetitite's

craving may be, you shall eat meat.

Should the place be far away from you

(Devarim 12:20-21)



Connection Between "Expansion of Boundaries",

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


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" (Berachot

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 and to investigate the place of sacrifices. The

reason for all this is "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 his 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



The Torah delivers a veiled admonition

regarding the eating of meat; only after "And you say: I want to eat

meat, because your appetite craves eating meat" – do

we read, "You may slaughter and may eat"The only

way to halt your inclination is by moral control, and this control is still

beyond you; it is still needed for closer circles. (In his famous essay on the

utopian vision of vegetarianism, Rav sees the ideal

future, when men will be companion to animals. In this sentence, Rav Kook says that the spiritual forces essential for

stopping slaughter of animals for food are currently needed for improvement of

man's relations to his fellow man.) And also the distant perfection also

necessitates – after the fall (The reference is to the Great Flood, during

which man developed an appetite for flesh.) – physical

effort, and the replenishing of this [the physical effort] occasionally demands

meat nourishment.

 (Rav Kook: Tallelei Orot, Chap. 8)



To argue, not to split

Jeremy Weil

This dvar Torah is dedicated

to the memory of my and mentor

who died nine and half years ago.

Parashat Reeh was his bar-mitzvah Parasha.


Our parasha

begins with the following three sentences:

See, I set before you today blessing and

curse: the blessing, when you heed the command of the Lord your God with which

I charge you today; the curse if you heed not the command of he Lord your God

and swerve from the way that I charge you             today,

to go after other gods which you did not know.

The first word, "See",

is written in the singular, whereas succeeding second person verbs are written

in the plural. The commentators explain that the blessing and the curse are

given to the entire Jewish nation, but the decision which path to chose is in

the hands of every individual; there is freedom of choice.

According to Nechama Leibowitz, the Torah uses

the concept "sight" ("re'iyah")

in three senses:

In Bereishit,

regarding light: "And God saw that it was good" – meaning that

God saw and that He was happy with his work. Similarly, Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch writes in his commentary on the

opening sentence of our parasha:

"See" – this is not a

teaching (Torah) which you must accept because of another's trustworthiness; I

turn directly to you, on the basis of all that you have seen with your own eyes…

In a second sense – preceding the flood it is written: "And

the Lord saw that the evil of the human creature was great on the earth and

that every scheme of his heart's devising was only perpetually evil." This

is a different kind of sight – one of suffering and empathy. In this sense, Moshe

asks that in every sighting we feel the suffering of others even if the reason

for their distress is that they chose to err and sin.

But there is a third

connotation: Prior to the

birth of Yitzchak, it is written "And the Lord appeared [caused Himself to

be seen] to Abram". This 'seeing' seems to approach "reached an agreement"

or "made a promise". Moshe here is saying to the Children of Israel: God

promised to bring you to the Land

of Israel. God did his part,

and now it is up to you to carry out yours. If you so do

there will be a blessing, and if not, a curse.

Do we really have free will? Determinist

scientists opine that everything is predetermined according the laws of physics

and statistics. If this be so, why is there reward and punishment? Everyone

acts according to clear laws and therefore they have no choice. Karl Marx

argued that in economics, too, the source of all economic behavior depends upon

one's social and economic class.

People behave as though there

is no choice, saying such things as "it's fate"

or "I cannot control my anger" or "there's nothing to be done"

or "it's written in the stars". They should have read Shakespeare, who

wrote (Julius

Caesar I, ii, 134): "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars

but in our selves". The Torah wrote this many years before: "See, I

set before you today blessing and curse". It is all written clearly – you

have the power to decide. Nothing will prevent you from choosing the good or

the bad. We are responsible for our decisions because there resides inside us a

soul capable of deciding.

In Tractate Aboth

(3:19) is

written "All is foreseen and freedom of choice is given". God's

knowledge of the future does not deny us freedom of choice. (Rambam, in Laws of Repentance, Chap. 5, deals with this


Rabbi Shimshon

Rafael Hirsch maintains that it is possible to learn this same lesson from the

mountains themselves. Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Eval are next to each other. Both

have the same type of soil, receive the same rain and dew in equal amounts; yet

Mt. Gerizim has a gentle slope, is green with many

fruit trees, in contrast to Mt. Eval, which is steep,

barren, growing nothing. So it is with human beings. Two people, same childhood,

same education – yet they are able to decide to go in completely opposite


Rav Hirsch goes so far as to say that the Torah

is not dealing with reward and punishment in the accepted sense, but that the

blessing is the Torah and the curse is the very choosing not to live according

to the Torah. In his opinion, this idea is found in the words themselves. The

word "beracha" [blessing] is

etymologically derived from "berech" – knee

(that organ needed in order to move ahead), from "barak"

(creation of electricity from the clouds)… from "peretz"

(to burst forth)… from "perek" (to unload

a burden)…

K'lalahderives from "kal"- light (not weighty),

"kalil" – empty, sans content, lacking

depth, worthless, having no weight,

The opening passage of our parasha is to be read not ". . . the blessing, provided

that you hearken to the commandments", but rather "the blessing is

that you hearken". The 'hearkening" is itself the blessing. Moshe

explains to the Children of Israel why they should choose to act according the God's

laws – "You are children to the Lord your God". You are God's

children – He is your closest friend and relative. Therefore even if we should

err or sin, we continue to be children of God. If we are all children of the

King, we are all princes, and as such we must be models for emulation by all

who observe us.

Therefore is it written "You

shall not gash yourselves nor shall you make a bald place on the front of your head

for the dead". You may not injure yourselves, because

you are children of God – you are responsible to God. The Talmud in Yevamot adds a new idea – again, on the national level – "Do

not gash yourselves" – you may argue among yourselves, but not to the

point of being so enamored of disagreement so as to create "regiments"

intra-communal conflict [Trans. note – the Hebrew root g'd'd' is the root of both "gedid'

to gash, and "g'dud" – a

regiment]. Do not be like that good Jew, stranded on an island, who needs two

synagogues – one in which he prays, and another to which he dare not draw near.

You may not thus behave, because "You are a holy people to the Lord your

God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a treasured people to Him of all the

peoples that are on the face of the earth."

All the words in this passage

are in the singular, indicating that you shall all be unified. Be holy because

God has chosen you, from among all peoples, to be a treasured people.

Perhaps it is fitting that we

pray and act in such a manner as to merit a life of free choice; that we be

able to hold different – even contradictory – points of view, yet still

progress together towards the goal of "a treasured people from all the


Jeremy Weil lives in Beer Sheva, and is a consultant to businesses involved in

international trade.


Rabbi Elazar

ben Azaria says: From where

do we know that one should not say: "I am unable to wear sha'atnez", "I am unable to eat

pork," "I cannot conduct an incestous

relationship." Rather he should say: "I am able! But what can I do? My

father in heaven has decreed [prohibitions]." This is the teaching: "I

have separated you from the people to be mine!" – one

leaves sin and accepts upon himself the kingdom of Heaven.

 (Sifra, Kedoshim, Parasha 10)


 "You are not to eat any abominable

thing" – Is Abomination "Royal Decree" Or Is It "Human



abominable thing" – Any thing which is abominable to the pure soul, such

as that which crawls upon the earth.

(Ibn Ezra, Devarim 14:3)


The meaning of 'abomination' is

that which human nature finds repulsive. But the term 'any

abominable thing' means "everything which I have made abominable to you"

— it is proper that the Jewish soul should consider these abominable, as in "You

are to consider it abominable, yes, abominable." One should train

himself to distance himself from forbidden foods until his soul is actually

disgusted by them. The Sifrei includes in the term 'all

abominable things' all that the Torah designates as 'abomination', such as

blemished sacrificial offerings, which are called "abomination to God."


 (Haamek Davar,

Devarim 14:3)


There shall be no needy among you  For

there will never cease to be needy ones in the land: A Promise? A


Regarding the annulment of loans, it is said: There shall be no needy among you –

since the Lord your God will bless you in the land. Yet regarding charity – the

commandment of Do not

shut your hand… Rather, you must open your hand – it is said: For there will never cease to be

needy ones in the land.

The contradiction between the two verses is only imaginary. There shall be no needy among you should not be understood as a promise,

but rather as a demand addressed to humans. It is incumbent upon us to prevent the

existence of needy people among us by observing the commandments of the

annulment of loans and all the other laws of social significance. Without these

arrangements, which we are required to follow, the other verse will be realized: For there will never cease to be

needy ones in the land. The impoverished do not disappear by themselves, that

is to say: A regime containing poverty does not disappear by itself, and its

removal cannot be set upon the shoulders of He who opens His hand and satiates the

needs of all the living. Rather, God demands of us to see to it that there

should be no needy people in the land.

(Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz z"l, He'arot le'Parshiyot Ha'Shavu'a)


A Holy People and a Treasured

People: Fate, Destiny, or Challenge?

For you are a holy people to the Lord your

God: Sanctify yourself with

what is permitted you. If some things are permitted and others treated them as

prohibited, you are not allowed to treat them as permitted in those others' presence.

(Sifri Re'eh 104)


The RaMBaM, of blessed memory, wrote: All families are

presumed to be of valid descent, and it is permitted to intermarry with them in

the first instance. Nevertheless, should you see two families continually

striving with one another, or a family which is constantly engaged in quarrels

and altercations, or an individual who is exceedingly contentious with everyone,

or is excessively impudent, apprehension should be felt concerning them, and it

is advisable to keep one's distance from them, for these traits are indicative

of invalid descent. Similarly, if a man always casts aspersions upon other

people's descent – for instance, if he alleges that certain families and

individuals are of blemished descent and refers to them as being bastards – suspicion

is justified that he himself may be a bastard. And if he says that they are

slaves, one may suspect that he himself is a slave, since whosoever blemishes

others projects upon them his own blemish. Similarly, if a person exhibits

impudence, cruelty, or misanthropy, and never performs an act of kindness, one

should strongly suspect that he is of Gibeonite descent, since the distinctive traits

of Israel,

the holy nation, are modesty, mercy, and loving-kindness.

(Tur, Even ha'Ezer 2)



shall be holy, for I am holy (Vayikra 19:2) You

shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I the Lord am your God (Vayikra 20:7). These

are supremely exalted commands and goals, yet at the same time no other verses,

expressions, or formulations are as dangerous from the standpoint of faith. They

can be interpreted – and they have been interpreted –sometimes innocently and sometimes

maliciously – as if they are saying that by its very nature, there is something

in the Jewish People which infuses it with

holiness. This conception frees Jews from responsibility, and grants them

confidence in things that a person must never be confident about, because they

are matters of goals, purposes, obligations, missions, and program, rather than

givens. The transformation of the concept of holiness from being thought of as

the role and mission imposed upon the Jewish People to being an intrinsic and

inherit trait of the Jewish People – this is a transformation of faith to

idolatry…We are commanded to be a holy people, but we not already a holy people.

(Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, He'arot le'Parshiyot Ha'Shavua, pp. 77-78)



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