Parashat Re‘eh – Erev Shabbat 26 August 2022
Week of 21-27August 2022
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16 :17 Haftarah: Numbers 28 :9-15
Theme: From promise to fulfillment
Parashat Re’eh is made up of two sections:1) The Choice between Blessing and Curse (11:26-32) and 2) the first five chapters (12-16:17, except for vv.19-22) of The Terms of the Covenant (12-28). The word that interests me is Re’eh. Most of the English translations give “See”. The NKJV translates it with “Behold”. My immediate feeling is it sounds something like “take note of”, “pay attention to…”
I stumbled upon sun-sentinel.com/florida-jewish-journal with an interesting article by Rabbi Avi Weiss called “The different meanings of Re’eh” (11 August 2015). In this article he states that re’eh is one of the most powerful terms used in the Torah. He further states that God is described as ‘re’eh’ on three levels. The first time is in Genesis 1:4 “God saw the light”. Rabbi Weiss states that, though an anthropomorphism, because ‘God saw’ we too can see – perceive, intuit.
On a deeper level ‘re’eh’ can mean empathizing with people. His example is from Genesis 6:5: “and the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth.” He explains: “This could mean that God saw with the sense of feeling the pain and horror which was unfolding — the wickedness of (humankind) whom he had created. As God felt the pain of humankind, so too should all people created in God’s image empathize with the other.”
Weiss continues with another understanding: “re’eh may transcend sight, referring more broadly to vision; that is, the covenantal vision of a world redeemed. Indeed, after Abraham and Sarah have been chosen, the Torah states, “and the Lord appeared [va’yera] to Avram and said, ‘To your seed I will give this land’” (Genesis 12:7). We, in turn, are asked to join in partnership with God to help realize the covenantal dream.”
Weiss goes on to say that Re’eh as used in our Parasha seems to echo the covenantal approach. In fact, when God covenantally chooses Abraham, the Torah states, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3). Similar language is used in our portion – “See [Re’eh], I have placed before you a blessing and a curse” (Deuteronomy 11:26).
“Parashat Re’eh discusses how the blessing and curse will be put forth on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, which are in the area of Elon Moreh (Deuteronomy 11:29, 30). Not coincidentally, the portion proceeds to discuss our obligations once we enter the land and reach Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12:1–19).” Thus, re’eh as covenant spans the Torah, moving from promise and each time closer to fulfillment.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Which of the three levels of Re’eh which Weiss describes, speaks most to you about God and why? 2. How do you experience God in your life on the level you have chosen?
Bibliography: Eskenazi, T. C. Weiss, A.L. A Women’s Commentary (New York: 2008); Weiss, Avi. The different meanings of Re’eh (11 August 2015) sun-sentinel.com/florida-jewish-journal
This week’s Parashah Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008