From Psalm 118
In distress* I called on the Eternal One;
the Eternal answered me and brought me relief.
[alt.: answered me with great enlargement.]
*Min-hamëtzar (מִן-הַמֵּצַר – Hebrew meaning from the strait/narrows/distress)
PARSHA – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
R’eih [Re’ëh] (רְאֵה – Hebrew for “see” [This Day I Set Before You Blessing and Curse])
- God places both blessing and curse before the Israelites. They are taught that blessing will come through the observance of God’s laws. (11:26–32)
- Moses’ third discourse includes laws about worship in a central place (12:1–28); injunctions against idolatry (12:29–13:19) and self-mutilation (14:1–2); dietary rules (14:3–21); and laws about tithes (14:22–25), debt remission (15:1–11), the release and treatment of Hebrew slaves (15:12–18), and firstlings (15:19–23).
- Moses reviews the correct sacrifices to be offered during the Pilgrim Festivals—Pesach, Sukkot, and Shavuot. (16:1-17)
In the parashah, Moses set before the Israelites the choice between blessing and curse. Moses instructed the Israelites in the laws that they were to observe, including the law of a single centralized place of worship. Moses warned against following other gods and their prophets and set forth the laws of kashrut, tithes, the Sabbatical year, the Hebrew slave, firstborn animals, and the three pilgrim festivals.
Some scholars who follow the Documentary Hypothesis attribute the parashah to two separate sources. These scholars often attribute the material beginning at Deuteronomy 12:1 through the balance of the parashah to the original Deuteronomic Code (sometimes abbreviated Dtn). These scholars then posit that the first Deuteronomistic historian (sometimes abbreviated Dtr 1) added the material at the beginning of the parashah, Deuteronomy 11:26–32, in the edition of Deuteronomy that existed during Josiah’s time.
Isaiah 54:11-55:5 is the third haftarah in the cycle of seven haftarot of consolation after Tisha B’Av, leading up to Rosh Hashanah. This year Rosh Hashanah begins in five weeks on the evening of Friday, September 18, 2020.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
Re’ëh – see
We are now ending the second prologue (Ch. 5-11) and entering the earliest section of Devarim, Chapters 12–26, containing the Deuteronomic Code.
The word “re’ëh” is a form of “ra’ah” (רָאָה), the Hebrew word for “to see; to perceive, to notice, to understand, to determine; to check, to investigate, to examine”. A variety of other words for “see/look” could have been used in this Parsha instead of “re’ëh”, including “hinëh” (here/behold). Although the language used is of reward and punishment, we are asked to carefully consider the consequences of our actions.
In a recent D’var Torah, the “darshanit” (Heb. דַּרְשָׁן or דַּרְשָׁנִית – deliverer of the d’rash), speaking on the rewards and punishments in Ëkev had the following to say, which can apply to this week’s Parsha as well:
“Preschoolers may need the threat of a time-out to learn to share their toys, but I believe adults should do the right thing because it is right, not because God will give us bountiful herds of cattle or a FedEx box full of bitcoins.”
“It is possible to step back from the actual words and take these kinds of rewards and punishments on a symbolic level. We can interpret it as, ‘A society that treats people morally and ethically will flourish.’ Or on an environmental level, ‘If we aren’t careful stewards of the land, the land will cease to be fruitful.’”
The repetition of certain statements in this Parsha certainly seems like a parent warning their child. There are also interesting repetitions of the words “gazelle” and “hart” (deer). These two beautiful and graceful animals are used symbolically in other parts of the Tanach (Jewish Bible) and there may be such a usage involved here too.
However, what are we to make of the passages related to the ceremony that is to take place on the two mountains Gerizim (cut up/rocky) and Ëbal (stripped/baldy)? In August 2018 the “Times of Israel” published a blog by Rabbanit Dena Freundlich entitled “The Real Message of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal/The ceremony that receives more Torah coverage than Creation, the Exodus, or the revelation at Mount Sinai (Re’eh)”. Rabbanit Freundlich is a core member of the faculty at Midreshet Lindenbaum, a Modern Orthodox institution in Jerusalem.
Following are some passages from The Times of Israel – The Blogs by Dena Freundlich
“…This seeming hodge-podge of a book is actually all about one singular event! And that event doesn’t even seem all that significant in the grand scheme of Jewish history; I would venture to guess it wouldn’t make it on anyone’s Top Ten list of the Jewish People’s Greatest Moments. That event is the covenant of Mounts Gerizim and Ebal that God commands the Jewish people to enact there, upon entry to the Promised Land….”
“In fact, the Torah highlights that the main bulk of this book is all one long description of the [covenant] — Brit Har G’rizim V’Har Eival — by beginning and concluding the description of it using virtually identical language, creating a kind of envelope or bookends. The final description of the covenant in 30:15-19 concludes with the phrase: ‘See I have placed before you today… the blessing and the curse,’ which points us back to the opening phrase or bookend in 11:26: ‘See I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.’ Thus, all of what comes in between these two bookends, namely chapters 11-30 (20 of the book’s 34 chapters!) are all part of one grand narrative of the ceremony to be enacted on these two mountains upon entry to the Land….”
“The clear message, I believe, is that the covenant to be enacted on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal upon entry to the Land is the second generation’s Matan Torah [giving of the Torah], the concretizing of their unique relationship with God. THAT is in fact something worthy of virtually an entire book of the Torah….”
“Gone is the passive experience of the generation that leaves Egypt through God’s miraculous intervention and then lives by God’s protection and sustenance in the wilderness. Enter the new generation that will conquer the Land utilizing military ingenuity, and that will then invest herculean efforts to farm that Land. Similarly, the focus at Gerizim and Ebal is no longer on the laws themselves as it is at Mount Sinai. Instead, the emphasis has shifted to the CONSEQUENCES for observing or violating the laws, since this generation will proactively forge their own destinies, rendering the link between their success and their observance of God’s commands less obvious.”
“The powerful message that God and Moses are conveying to the Israelites — and us — is this: Matan Torah — the revelation of the Torah — is not an event frozen in time to be pulled off the shelf of our collective memory every so often, dusted off, and remembered wistfully as something that occurred long ago for our ancestors. Matan Torah is ALIVE. Our relationship with God — both individually and communally — is dynamic, personal, and ever-evolving….”
Some scholars claim Devarim was written about the time of King Josiah (late 7th century BCE), and others at a later date, either during the Babylonian captivity (597-539 BCE) or during the Persian period (539-332 BCE). Many scholars see Devarim as reflecting the economic needs and social status of the Levite caste. We will need to look next time at what was happening during those periods of Jewish history, and if Rabbanit Freundlich’s interpretation makes sense.
In the meantime, interestingly, both the Darshanit and Rabbanit similarly read Moses’ words as those of a parent sending off their children to college for the first time with instructions, cautionary tales, reminiscences, advise and exhortations.
ROSH CHODESH ELUL
Begins at sundown on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Elul is the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar and the twelfth of the civil calendar. It signals a period of preparation for Rosh Hashanah, which is only five short weeks away.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
’ROSH CHODESH – FOR THE NEW MONTH p.519:
Our God and God of our ancestors, may the new month bring us goodness and blessing. May we have long life, peace, prosperity, a life exalted by love of Torah and reverence for the divine; a life in which the longings of our hearts are fulfilled for good.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, natural disasters, war and violence. We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
SHAZOOM: ONLINE SERVICES – 7 PM
You are encouraged to have on hand Shabbat candles, wine/grape juice for Kiddush, and Challah for Motzi for the blessings during the Service.
Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Aug 14, 2020 07:00 PM Arizona
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Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
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Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!