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Re’eh Summaries

Re’eh 5779-2019

“Charity! The Investment That Keeps Giving”
(Revised and updated from Re’eh 5760-2000)

A major theme of this week’s parasha concerns how to deal with the impoverished members of the Jewish community. Rather than an act of kindness, the Torah regards “charity” as the right thing to do and a fundamental concept of life and morality.

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Re’eh 5778-2018

“The Torah’s Definition of True Wealth”

Parashat Re’eh contains among the most exalted texts in human literature concerning caring for the poor and the downtrodden.

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Re’eh 5777-2017

“Coming to Jerusalem–-The Festival Pilgrimages”

The sages maintain that the Torah’s requirement for the Children of Israel to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the three pilgrim festivals, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, is meant to serve as far more than mere communal celebrations.

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Re’eh 5776-2016

“Preserving the Sanctity of Sacred Objects and Sacred Ideas”

The land of Israel, is only one part of the “cult of sanctity” that is central to the Jewish faith. It is, therefore, quite logical to treat all of Judaism’s central features and traditions with utmost awe and sanctity.

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Re’eh 5775-2015

“The Prohibition of Eating the Limb of a Live Animal”

Thousands of years before the idea of not causing undue pain to animals was introduced to the Western world, the Torah warned Jews, and even non-Jews, about eating a limb torn from a living animal because of the exceeding cruelty involved.

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Re’eh 5774-2014

“Giving Charity Kindly and Generously”

The Torah introduced the revolutionary concept of charity to the world. Despite its virtually universal acceptance today, it was not always looked upon favorably in many societies.

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Re’eh 5773-2013

“How Far Must We Go to Avoid Evil?”

How far must contemporary Jews go to separate from the “new paganism,” from the new evils that not only confront us, but seem bent on consuming us?

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Re’eh 5772-2012

“The Gift of Self Esteem”

From the ancient laws of the Hebrew servant, we behold an astounding reality–that the Torah, a document written more than 3,300 years ago, was deeply sensitive to the emotional needs of the downtrodden. What could be a greater gift to give one who is in pain than the gift of self-esteem?

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Re’eh 5771-2011

“Listening to the Message”

How does one remain moral in an increasingly immoral environment? Ethical and moral behavior doesn’t simply develop through osmosis or from preaching. Judaism maintains that living a religiously observant life results in the ability to hear G-d’s voice among the conflicting messages competing for one’s attention in a noisy world.

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Re’eh 5770-2010

“The Blessing and the Curse”

Is Moses setting out a choice before the people of blessing or curse, or is he simply stating that life always consists of elements that are bitter as well as those that are sweet?

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Re’eh 5769-2009

“The Chosen People–Again!”

Four times the Torah reminds the Jewish people that they are a special treasure to G-d. What does this idea mean, and what do the people need to do to safeguard their special status with G-d?

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Re’eh 5768-2008

“A Tale of Two Mountains”

In parashat Re’eh, we encounter the two mountains that surround the city of Shechem (Nablus), Gerizim and Ebal. Eventually, it was on Mount Gerizim that blessings were recited while the curses were pronounced on Mount Ebal. G-d’s message, however, is communicated not only through the blessings and the curses, but through the very nature of the mountains themselves.

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Re’eh 5767-2007

“Prohibition Against Excessive Grief”

In parashat Re’eh, the Torah warns Jews not to mourn excessively–not to cut themselves or pull out their hair as a sign of mourning for the dead. Judaism’s unique view of death and the deceased’s relationship with the Heavenly Father is a great source of comfort to mourners, underscoring the senselessness of causing physical pain to those who remain behind.

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Re’eh 5766-2006

“Adding or Subtracting”

In parashat Re’eh, we learn of the prohibition of adding or subtracting from the Torah. Any attempt to manipulate the Biblical text would imply that the Commandments are imperfect or irrelevant. And yet, rabbis throughout the ages built fences around the mitzvot and added festivals and observances. How can that be justified?

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Re’eh 5765-2005

“The Sanctity of Land and its Implications”

In parashat Re’eh, we find a number of verses underscoring the sanctity of the Land of Israel. Because of the land’s sanctity, the Jewish people are required to wipe out all vestiges of idolatry. They are also enjoined not to do so to the Lord, their G-d. From this the rabbis deduce the absolute sanctity of the Temple and of G-d’s name. The prohibition of violating the sanctity of holy places has contemporary ramifications with regard to the evacuation of the synagogues in Gush Katif.

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Re’eh 5764-2004

“Identifying a True Prophet”

Identifying and distinguishing a true prophet from a false prophet is rather difficult. It is particularly complicated because the Torah maintains that the prophecies and predictions of false prophets may come true, and that the message of even a true prophet may, at times, not be fulfilled. The issue of identifying true prophecy has been fraught with danger for the Jews, especially during the last 2000 years of Christian history.

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Re’eh 5763-2003

“The Elusive Blessing of ‘Peace'”

In parashat Re’eh, we read of the “simple” formula for bringing peace to the Jewish people: “hearken to the commands of the Lord.” Over 3,000 years of empirical evidence confirms the fact that there has never been a period of peace for the Jewish people without a concomitant return to G-d. The elusive blessing of peace would be ours if we would only “hearken.”

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Re’eh 5762-2002

“Changing and Updating Jewish Law”

In parashat Re’eh, we learn about the practice of forgiving debts in the seventh year of the Sabbatical cycle known as shmitat k’safim. However, because of a proclamation known as pruzbul, by Hillel the Elder, the law of forgiving the debts has hardly ever been practiced. How was Hillel able to cancel a law of the Torah through what seem to be legal devices and loopholes?

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Re’eh 5761-2001

“Charity! The Investment with the Greatest Return”

In this parasha, the Jewish people are told to care for their poor. “Thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut their hand from thy poor brother.” Judaism has a rather unique understanding of charity, arguing that the poor person is doing a kindness to the donor, rather than the other way around. It is no wonder that with this deeply ingrained charitable philosophy, the Jewish people have always excelled in charitability. Unfortunately, as Jews move further away from tradition, they have become less and less charitable.

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