Re'eh 5772 – Gilayon #762
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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…
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
– 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
"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
(Rav Kook: Tallelei Orot, Chap. 8)
To argue, not to split
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.
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:
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
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
Caesar I, ii,
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
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
Rafael Hirsch maintains that it is possible to learn this same lesson from the
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
K'lalah – derives 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
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
(Sifra, Kedoshim, Parasha
"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
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."
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.
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
the holy nation, are modesty, mercy, and loving-kindness.
(Tur, Even ha'Ezer
shall be holy, for I am holy… (Vayikra
shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I the Lord am your God (Vayikra
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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