“The Torah was given to the nation of Israel to reduce evil and generate good in the world. That is, the very existence of the Torah supposes a state of free-will.”
This week´s parshah begins with verse 11:26 of Devarim, Reeh (which means look), “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.” In this manner, Moises closes his great introduction to the mitzvoth, which he explains for the new generations that will settle in the promised land. One of the points that stands out in this parshah is free will, which is like the spinal column of the Torah. Freedom is intimately linked to our acts. These deliver “sechár mitzváh” שכר מצוה which is retribution for fulfilling a commandment, or “sechár haberáh”, שכר עברה which is retribution for committing a transgression.
In this parshah Moises gives the example for when they cross the Jordan River of Mount Gerizin as bountiful and fertile, meanwhile Moint Hebal, even though in the same geographic area and under identical climatic conditions, as receiving a curse. It is an example which makes us realize that it does not depend on external factors, but on our abilities and internal attitudes. God asks us to keep his laws. These are basically summarized as fighting idolatry, destroying the places where other nations have created altars, and only offering sacrifices in the place chosen by Adonai. There is a centralization of sacrifices as well as dates and moments to carry them out. God tells them, “For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the Lord, your God, is giving you.” (Dev. 12:9) In fact, the Mishkan was carried from one place to another historically, and it was not until the monarchy was established and the Temple was built definitively in Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was in Silo, and the pilgrimage festivals were not followed until establishing Jerusalem as the center of worship.
They are about to enter the promised land, and in this parshah the centralization of worship is established as a commandment. But before being able to do so, a king must be designated, the descendants of Amalek must be destroyed, and peace must be established in order to build the Temple. Moises recounts the kashrut laws again, for example the prohibition of consuming blood. He also speaks of the practice of “shemittáh”, which is forgiving all debts every seven years. The objective of this practice was to avoid falling into the trap of materialism and to be able to show mercy.
He repeats the obligation to consecrate the first born of the cattle and sheep. Chapter 16 deals with the calendar of pilgrimage festivals: Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. It mentions the months but not the exact dates of these festivals.
Shabbat Shalom! ~~~~~~~ Deborah
Read the June/July 2015 newsletter from the European Union for Progressive Judaism. Click here to read and download.
Lee Torah from Around the World #285: Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) By Rabbi Jordan D. Cohen D.D., Temple Anshe Sholom, Hamilton, Ontario
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