Weekly Reading Insights: Re'eh

Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Re'eh - 30 Menacham Av 5782 /Aug. 27
Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Elul

Torah: Deut. 11:26-16:17
Haftorah: Isaiah 66:1-24; Isaiah 66:23; Samuel I 20:18; Samuel I 20:42
Pirkei Avot:  Chapter 5

Re'eh is the 4th Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and it contains 7442 letters, in 1932 words, in 126 verses

Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17) opens with a blessing and curse being placed before the Jewish people - our actions determine the outcome! The Jews are reminded to obliterate idolatry from the Land and to offer sacrifices only where permitted. Laws are given concerning slaughtering and eating meat. The Jews are warned not to worship as the idolaters did. Punishments of false prophets, missionaries, and apostate cities are discussed. G-d calls the Jews His "children" and a "special nation" which He chose from all the other nations. Next are listed laws of kosher animals, fowl, fish and insects and the prohibition for cooking milk and meat together. Also, laws of tithes and the Sabbatical year are relayed, in particular, the relinquishing of debts. The Jews are reminded not to withhold giving loans because of this, and will receive G-d's blessing for doing so. Following this is a list of laws regarding slaves. Additional laws that are listed: first-born "clean" animals are dedicated to G-d; blemished animals are forbidden to be offered; consuming blood is forbidden. Re'eh concludes with the laws of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.

An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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In this week’s Torah portion, Moshe verbally prepares the Jewish people for their entry to the land of Israel…to the resting place and to the inheritance” (12/9). The ‘resting place’ and ‘inheritance’ in this verse refers to the town of Shiloh, where the Tabernacle stood for 369 years, and to Yerushalayim, where the Temples would be built. It has also been used to refer, tongue in cheek, to any desired destination.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe used the expression often referring to his chassidim’s exaggerated involvement in their weekend trips to the “Catskill Mountains” during the summer. (a few hours’ drive from Brooklyn, NY that is referred to as ‘the country’). He would chide them that this was at the expense of their home, work and, more important, their day to day Divine service. While the Rebbe did not suggest this to anyone, it is known he did not take a vacation once in his 44 years of leadership.

At the end of a fabrengen (Chassidic gathering) on 12th of Tamuz 5714 (July 1954) early in the Rebbe’s leadership, he said the following. "Someone came to me and asked, “lamenting”, what can he do? …Such an unfortunate… His wife is insisting they go to the country. He (the chassid) does not say that he wants to go to the ‘country’, although that certainly is the case. He presents it as if his wife wants to go. He tells himself, that for the sake of ‘peace in the home’ you have to make some “sacrifices”. Doesn’t the Torah teach us that in order to make peace between a husband and wife, G-d even says, “I will erase my name in the water” (part of the ceremony involving a Sotah)?

"My father in law told a story that once a person came to the Rebbe Maharash for a private audience. He asked for a tikun, soul repair for a person who did an extremely unpleasant and inappropriate thing. He was embarrassed to say that it was actually he who had done this terrible thing. However since he truly felt bad about it and needed to know how to repair the damage he needed to tell the Rebbe what it was. He tried to be clever and said he had a dear friend who trusted him implicitly, and since “the friend” was embarrassed to tell the Rebbe what he had done the friend sent him on his behalf.

"The Rebbe looked at him and said, “Why did he have to send you? He could have just come himself and said that he was coming for you…?”

The Rebbe continued, "Similar to this situation is the first person we mentioned. He says like this, we are approaching the 4th of July, and the day after is the 5th of July when also everyone is away, and it is already a few weeks that my wife does not stop talking about the absolute necessity to go to ‘the country’, etc etc, what should I do?
What can I answer? Lets accept for the moment that the trip to ‘the country’ is not non-essential for a reasonable quality life, but is something clearly needed. But why", the Rebbe asks, "does it have to be something that a person is drawn into with all of his inner self? Why does a person need to invest all of his enthusiasm and fire into his vacation, which automatically makes him forget about what should be his main focus, his Torah study [and observance of the commandments].

"I bless you" , the Rebbe said, "to travel peacefully, those who have not yet left and those who already went but came back for the fabrengen (but who look at their watch every few minutes wondering which train or bus they will be able to catch, will it be the 1pm, or the 1:15pm). Just so long as they have a happy and healthy summer.
But with one caveat; first and foremost, even in the country, on vacation, a person can still fulfill his spiritual mission for the Holy One Blessed Be He: learning Torah, praying and doing the commandments. And when the Yetzer Hara, the personal and collective Evil Inclination. sees that really one is going on vacation with a divine purpose, to fulfill our divine mission for G-d, that will help him ‘free’ a few more of the Jews, and even the married person we spoke of above from going at all, since, really, they did not want to go in the first place!
And for those who are already there and accomplish all that you went there to accomplish physically and even spiritually, think just a bit about why after it all, do you have to be so ‘into’ it? For what reason does the ‘country’ pleasures have to consume you?
True, every day when you wake up you can breathe the fresh air and even bless the Al-mighty that You made Your world in such a wonderful way. Thank you G-d that in the United States there are mountains that are called the Catskills, and (at least for now) Jews, even Jews with beards and payos and even a child wearing tzitzit, they still allow us to travel there. This is truly one of Gd’s wonders!
Yet we know that a Jews real place is in the study hall and yeshiva and involved in doing G-d’s commandments, and not so much in the Catskills and involved exclusively in ‘healthy bodies’. The Al-mighty can still give a Jew all he needs without having to travel to the air of the mountain that are such and such amount of feet high above the sea line, even 500 feet above….
When after it all, it still happens that you are there on vacation, you do not have to get so carried away…
Although this period is called “vacation time” and a time for rest and recreation, etc., clearly in regard to Yiddishkeit there can be no “vacation,” both in regard to one’s self and family, as well as in regard to benefits to others."


On the contrary, inasmuch as this is a period of time when other pressures and duties are lessened, and one has more free time available, it provides a particularly good opportunity to intensify all activities relating to Torah and mitzvoth [wherever you are]. Since the Torah and mitzvoth “are our life and the length of our days,” there can be no interruption, G-d forbid, in life and vitality. On the surface it might seem that any particular limb or aspect of the body is in a state of suspended animation. It must not be allowed to remain so for long, and should again be stimulated into activity and vitality.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more, click to Re'eh

one sample:

Mystical Classics

The Enticer Within

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

Enticement to sin is not only due to external sources but may be due to some force within us from birth. In addition, man creates a spiritually negative force every time he sins; the more man sins, the more powerful the forces which urge him to sin become.

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