Re'eh 5773 – Gilayon #810


SHABBAT SHALOM


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Parshat Reeh

For the pauper will not cease from the midst of the

land.

Threfore i charge you, saying,

'You shall surely open your hand to your brother,

To your poor and to your

pauper, in your land.

(Devarim 15:11)

 

R. Yehoshua

taught: The pauper does more for the master of the house than the master does

for the pauper, for Ruth told Naomi (Ruth 2)

'The name of the man with whom I worked [lit. – I did with him] today is Boaz'.

It does not say 'He did with me', but 'I did with him' – she told her 'I

did many actions and kindnesses for him today for the piece [of bread] he gave

me.'

(Vayikra Rabba

34, 8)

 

In a town

with both Jews and idol worshippers, the administrators collect from both Jews

and idol worshippers, for the sake of peace. And they support the indigent of

both idol worshippers and Jews, for the sake of peace. They eulogize and bury

the deceased of idol worshippers, for the sake of peace. They comfort the

mourners of idol worshippers, for the sake of peace.

(Tosefta, Gittin, 3)

 

Therefore I

charge you, saying: 'You shall surely open […] to

your poor and to your pauper in your land'. The word 'in your land' is, at

first glance, superfluous. This may be explained as follows. We always note

that, upon hearing of the poverty if unknown pauper from a distant land we

immediately take pity upon him and contribute. But local, recognized paupers do

not receive such compassion, because he is falsely suspected; we say that he

does not need so much and that his poverty is not so severe as claimed, and

that he brought it upon himself through laziness, etc, and we harden our hearts

and do not give him properly. The truth of the matter is that were we to know

the pauper from the distant land, we would also voice baseless complaints such

as these against him. For, in truth, the [evil] inclination everywhere finds

reasons to dupe us into hardening [our hearts] so as not to observe this major

command, i.e. you shall not harden your heart, but you shall surely give

generously to your brother, to your poor and to your pauper "in your land"

– for the distant one is no better than he, and it is bad enough that he is

poor and must receive from others.

(Chatam Sofer: Torat Moshe, ibid., ibid.)

                                                                       

 

"You are children to the lord your god" (Devarim 14:1-2)

A holy nation – a unique nation

Gil Nativ

This 'dvar Torah' is

dedicated by Ziva and Rabbi Gil Nativ

to the elevation of the soul of Shoshana

Paula Dorchin,

Who died Sabbath Eve, 20 Tammuz 5773.

She was a holocaust

survivor who came to Israel in a boat of illegal

immigrants,

joined pioneering settlements, and died in a ripe age.

The juxtaposition of "You are children to the Lord your God"

with the prohibitions "You shall not gash yourselves nor shall you make a

bald place on the front of your head for the dead" is explained by R.

Hayyim b. Attar, author of the "Ohr Hayyim" commentary: "Severe and painful mourning

customs do not befit the Jewish people, because in our life in this world we

are like children who have been distanced from their father, and therefore,

when we return to Him as we depart this world, we are not to express our sorrow

in such extreme fashion as is practiced by idolaters". S. Y. Agnon ['For those

Killed in Eretz Yisrael'] takes a different approach,

describing the Jewish people as soldiers in the army of the Holy One, blessed

be He; the army is small, and therefore the death of every one of His soldiers "weakens",

as it were, the strength of the Holy One in His world, and therefore we should

deeply grieve the loss of every single Jew…

There is no need to reconcile the seeming contrast between these two

descriptions. Each one describes the relationship between the Jewish people to

its God with a different midrashic image ('children' 'army;),

and it is not necessary to reconcile conflicting midrashim. Scripture itself employs

the image of 'children' without dealing with the obvious question: If we are

His children, what is God's relationship to all others created in His image who are not children of the Covenant? Are they "step-children"?

"Children of the concubines"? All concur

that the use of the "children" image as a metaphor for the relation

between the Jewish people and its God expresses connection and closeness on the

spiritual level, not in the physical-biological sphere. The idea that God's holy spirit can cause impregnation of a woman and birth of a

mortal being is diametrically opposed to the Jewish faith. The tension between

the beginning "Beloved is Man who was created in the image, additional

love is in his awareness that he was created in the image" and the ending

of the Mishneh: "Beloved are Israel were called Children of the

Omnipresent… additional love is in their awareness that they were called

children of the Omnipresent, as is written: "You are children to the Lord

your God" (Aboth

3) engaged the sages throughout the generations. This text was the basis

for the controversy between R. Yehudah and R. Meir (Kiddushin

36a): The former believed that "If you do not behave as children should

– you are not called children", whereas the latter believed the "In

any case you are called children". According to R. Yehudah, election is

not an inherent genetic factor passed on in the Jewish people; it is a

challenge and a goal, for whose realization we are to strive ceaselessly.

For you are a

holy people to the Lord your God, and you has the Lord chosen from among all

the peoples of the earth to be for him a special nation" – this is a

matter which may be learned from its context: the laws promulgated for the

Israelite people are what separate and consecrate us from all the nations:

commandments which relates to the preservation of the external wholeness of the

body: "You shall not gash nor make a bald place on the front of your head

for the dead" and the food which enters our body: the passages continue to

detail forbidden foods, beginning with the general charge: "You shall not

eat any abomination.

The concept of the election of Israel presents difficulties on two

levels. First, on the theoretical/faith level, – how to reconcile the belief in

a single God, master of the heaven and earth and who created all men in his

image, with belief in the God of Israel, a singular God for a singular people

among all the nations, and on the level of actual/historical experience; there

did exist among the Jews murderers and rapists, and there were righteous

gentiles who evinced in practice the preservation of God's image in themselves.

Yet more. Conversion on the one hand and apostasy on

the other led to admixture of Jewish seed in the nations and the seed of the

nations in Israel.

No genetic examination can prove that Israel

has retained its "purity" and no intelligent person accepts the claim

that the Shekhina – the Holy Presence – rests only

upon "pedigreed families" in Israel.

The prophet Malachi (1:2-3) raises the question of God's discrimination

between His children, even though they be brothers

from the womb and from birth: "Behold, Esav is a

brother to Jacob … and I love Jacob, but Esav I hate…" Is this

discrimination inherent "in the genes" of Jacob and Esav (twin

brothers, but not 'identical twins') or is it a consequence of the differences

in character and behavior; differences which are liable to change dramatically

from generation to generation?

God's partiality for Israel

is the subject of a sermon given by Rav Avira in the name of his mentors, R.

Ami and R. Assi (Berahot 20b):

R. 'Awira discoursed    sometimes in the name of R. Ammi, and

sometimes in the name of R.Assi   as follows: The ministering angels said before

the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, it is written in Your

law, "Who shows no favor… yet you show favor to Israel, as it is written,

"The Lord lift up His countenance upon you"? He replied to them: And

shall I not lift up My countenance for Israel,

seeing that I commanded them in the Torah, "And thou shall eat and be

satisfied and bless the Lord thy God", and they are careful [to say the

grace even] if the quantity is but an olive or an egg.

God's favoritism is due neither to the merit of the fathers of Israel,

nor to the covenant which He cut with them, but rather to the fact the Jewish

people is careful to recite the blessing even over a miniscule amount of food.

This practice indicates that we are not exacting in our relationship with God,

even if has not fed us to satiety, we still thank him very much; this practice encourages

the master of the Universe to favor Israel over the nations.

I have no problem reciting, in the Kiddush, "For you have chosen

us and you have consecrated us from among all the nations", nor do I

hesitate to say, upon going up for the Torah reading, "who chose use from

among all the nations and gave us His Torah", because on these occasions I

give thanks for the special mitzvoth which distinguish Israel from the

other nations. But I do have a problem with our lording it over the nations of

the world in the "Aleinu L'shabeach"

prayer; the words: "Who has not made us like the nations of other lands

and not made us like the families of the earth, etc." and I have no doubt

that the offensive custom of expectoration while reciting these words should be

eradicated (spitting is an expression of scorn intended solely for use in the halitzah procedure). The words of this prayer

(originally this text was intended for the "Malchuyot"

section of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf prayer) can be explained in historical

context; the exiled Jew, pursued and humiliated, had an existential need to

repeat daily "Who did not make us like the nations of the lands… who did

not make our portion as theirs nor our lot like their masses" as a

necessary antidote to the feelings of inferiority to his neighbors, the powerful

gentiles living securely in their lands. For the Israeli Jew who has been privileged

to see the Israeli Defense Forces triumph over our attackers on the

battlefield, this remedy is not only superfluous, it may cause damage, just

like any medicine which a healthy person swallows needlessly. Therefore in our

day we should slur over this sentence in the first part of the "Aleinu" and recite loudly and emphatically the second

part which expresses hope "to repair the world through the kingdom of Shaddai"

and for the day in which all inhabitants of the world will recognize that God

is one and His name is one.

Hillel he

Elder said: When the scholars keep [the teaching of] the Torah among themselves,

you disseminate it, and when they disseminate it – keep it [yours] to

yourselves" (Berachot 63b). We are in a state of transition between

periods: the period of exile and enslavement is passing from the world, the

period of Israel, free in its land, is fashioning a new Jew… to see the

nations of the world not through the eyes of those despised and pursued for

about two thousand years, but to see them foremost as beings created in His

image, this is the most salient evidence that we have been cured of our exile

illnesses. We must do both: try to be "a unique people among all the

nations on the face of the earth" at the same time deepen the awareness

that all inhabitants of the world, Jews and gentiles, were created with the

stamp of the first human, and therefore no Jew has the right to say to a

gentile: "My father is greater than your father…"

Rabbi Gil Nativ serves as

the Rabbi of Beit Warszawa Congregation in Warsaw, Poland.

 

 

"You shall eat no abomination": Who

abominates?

'So

that He shall do good to you and to your children

after you': From here our

Sages expounded [the basis for the concept of] reward for observance of mitzvoth.

If, from refraining from the consumption of blood, which men usually loath,

one merits [reward], then all the more so for refraining from plunder and

sexual impropriety, which man desires and lusts after. For Torah prohibitions

may be divided into three categories. The first applies to behavior which is

natural to man's instinct, such as theft and sexual impropriety. The second

applies to things which man naturally abhors, such as the eating of blood and

crawling things. The third applies to acts which by nature man neither desires

nor abhors, such as the sowing of mixed crops and the wearing of shaatnez

(cloth made of wool and linen) etc. Therefore man, who is warned to refrain

from all three, must distance himself from – and train his nature to – abominate

the desired thing just as he distances himself from and abhors that which is

loathsome. And because of the Master's warning, if for the [refraining from the]

abominable reward is given, then all the more so is there reward for

[refraining from] the desired. Therefore our Sages of the midrash

said 'Let not a person say I cannot eat pig [i.e., because it is abominable to

me], but rather he should say I can eat [and enjoy] it, but what can I do, my

Father in Heaven ordered me [not to].

(Rabeinu Behayey, Devarim

12:28)

 

Limits Upon the Place [of sacrifice] and Precise

Rules were Intended to Minimize the Sacrificial Cult

For one kind

of worship – I mean the offering of sacrifices – even though it was done in His

name, may He be exalted, was not prescribed to us in the way it existed at

first; I mean to say in such a way that sacrifices could be offered in every

place and at every time. Nor could a temple be set up in any fortuitous place,

nor could any fortuitous man offer a sacrifice…On he contrary, He forbade all

this and established one single house [as the temple]…so that sacrifices

should not be offered elsewhere…Also only the offspring of one particular

family can be priests. All this was intended to restrict this kind of worship,

so that only the portion of it should subsist whose

abolition is not required by His wisdom.

(RaMBaM, Guide for the Perplexed III:32, Pines translation)

 

Why Did

the Torah Not Specify the Holy Site?

…In my opinion, there is also no doubt that the place singled out by

Avraham in virtue of prophetic inspiration was known to Moses our Master and to many others. For Avraham had recommended to them that

that place should be a house of worship, just as the translator [Onquelos] sets

forth when he says: Avraham worshipped and prayed in that place and said before

the Lord: Here the generations will worship, etc. The fact that this place is

not stated explicitly when mentioned in the Torah, but only hinted at by means

of the words "Which the Lord shall choose…" is due in

my opinion to three wise considerations. The first- lest nations hold fast to

the place and fight for it with great violence, knowing as they do that this

place is the final purpose of the Law on earth. The second-

lest those who then owned the place ravage and devastate it to the limit of

their power. The third, and the strongest,-

lest every tribe demand that this place be within its allotted portion and seek

to conquer it, which would lead to conflict and sedition, as happened with

regard to the priesthood. Therefore the command was given that the Chosen Temple

will be built only after the elevation of a King, so that only one would be

qualified to give commands and quarrels would cease…

 (Rambam, Guide for the

Perplexed, III, 45)

 

…It is true that only after the establishment of the monarchy in Israel,

and King David's conquering of Yerushalyim

from the Jebusites, did he decide, on the basis of his considerations to

establish it as the chosen place, to order that the Bet Hamikdash be erected

there.

The deciding factor in this case was the royal command. Had the Torah

decreed at the outset that the temple was to be built in the portion of a

specific tribe, it might have led to quarrels and bloodshed because of tribal

envy. Therefore the Torah refrained from setting aside and specifying which

would be the tribe in whose portion the Bet Hamikdash was to be constructed.

(Y. Leibowitz, Seven

Years of Discussions on the Weekly Parasha, pp. 828-829)

 

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? Now, and as it says, share your bread with the hungry.

(Bava Batra 10a)

 

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-NaTziV

me-Volozhin, Ha-Amek Davar on Devarim 13:18)

 

 

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