Re’eh

  1. This reading states: “You shall not do like everything that we are doing here today, a man all the straight things in his eyes.” To boil it down, you shouldn’t do everything you see as upright in your own eyes. Instead, you yield to a greater authority. Why? In the Book of Devarim we went from responsibility, to love to circumcising the heart. Now we have another step. We’re need to stay clean. A blessing and curse is one step, getting rid of temptation is another. But so is giving up some autonomy and recognizing you don’t always make the right choices. The Torah gives a reason for not always doing what is upright in your own eyes: when you come to Israel, you will be coming to a place of comfort and inheritance. In a place of comfort and inheritance, you don’t spend your energy fighting about religious direction. Indeed, the prior verses state that you are to spend your energies on the sending of your hands, on your houses and on offerings to Hashem.  than on fighting about individual recipes for serving G-d. If you’re an alcoholic, you can’t spend all your time rejustifying the decision not to drink. You need to accept it and spend your life on other subjects.
  2. This reading states (12:15): “only in all the appeasings of your soul may you slaughter and eat meat like the blessing of Hashem who gave you everything in your gates.” Why is your soul part of it and why gates? Later on in this reading it repeats it – stating that if your soul desires meat, you can eat it. And there the gates come up as well. Why this combination of factors – desires of the soul and gates? I think it is because eating an animal just to please your guf (body) isn’t sufficient reason. Animals are described in Bereshit as nefesh chaya. They too have nephashot. You may eat them – it is a uplifting of them to do so. But not in a sandwich on the road cause you feel like it. You can consume their bodies only to lift your soul. The Jewish people were rebels against Hashem. This parsha is about maintaining stability. Knowing your place if a big part of that.
  3. There is a very strange thing here – the total destruction of an idol worshiping city. It seems unfathomable today. It isn’t exactly a sign of religious freedom. But it actually isn’t so odd. Any successful society has a social code. If you are outside those norms then either you can’t be allowed to be part of the society or you will fundamentally alter it. In the news this week, they analyzed a perfectly preserved mummy of a 13 year-old and two 5-6 year-old retainers. They were sacrificed via exposure at the top of a tall mountain after apparently being fed alcohol and drugs for a year. How would we react to that? What if most of the population of a city within our borders decided this was okay? We might eventually destroy the city – failing to do so could lead to the destruction of our society. We trashed the Branch Davidian Compound for far less. These rebellious cities aren’t in a state of disagreement with a few Rabbanim – they are idol worshippers and adhere to a totally different code that is incompatible with monotheism. It can’t be allowed to happen.
  4. There is a strange word used for non-kosher meat – Toavah. It is the first time it is used for Kashrut and it is different from shekez or tumah. Earlier, it is used to describe Egyptian reaction to shepherds and to Hashem’s reaction to items attached to the worship of other idols. Kashrut here isn’t just about what Jews can and can’t eat. It is about the idea that not keeping these rules betrays a form of idol worship. It shows a deviation in fundamental beliefs. We don’t burn traif cities, but we associate their eating (and thus consumption of life) with alien religion. If you kill the wrong creatures, or bring them into your body, you will not be staying in the appropriate spiritual place.
  5. We spend tithe money in Jerusalem to do more than just stimulate the economy. We spend it in the same way we spend money on Shabbos. By spending in a time and place and time of Kedusha, you commit the positive creative work of your hands to the betterment of your soul. It helps you stay clean.
  6. How does it say: “there will never cease to be needy within the land. “ after saying: “ However, there will be no needy among you” Which is it? We can understand by looking at context. The poor will not cease to be close to the land. But there will be no poor among you. By bringing people among you remove them from the world of poverty. You emulate Hashem by taking in the downtrodden that nobody believed had a chance of an upstanding life. By passing this gift on, you strengthen your own recognition of the gifts you have.
  7. Why do we pour blood on the ground k’mayim – like water? Blood congeals. To pour it out k’mayim, you must pour it out while it is fluid. We retain the guf of the animal when we eat it, but the spirit (represented by blood) it is not our place to consume the spirit. Only in the Temple (where we sprinkle etc.. blood) can the spirit also be maximized. To retain the blood even temporarily is a sin against the animal’s spirit because it has not been maximized.

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