Parashat Re’eh– Erev Shabbat 11 August 2023
Week of 6-12 August 2023
Torah portion : Deuteronomy11:26-16:17 Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11-55.5
Theme: You shall rejoice in your Festivals!

In this tremendous moment when the Israelites are about to enter the promised  land, Moses spoke these very important words, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse!” (Dt. 11:26) The people stand on the threshold of entering a new land and a new life. Moses indeed defined reality for them, giving them the big picture – since they are the chosen people who entered into a covenant with God and who received the Torah, they need to live the Torah and to continue to walk with God. He reminded them that it was God who heard their cry of despair, delivered them from Pharaoh, guided them through the desert and brought them to this moment. 

     They need to make the choice…will they keep the covenant and live a life of blessing or will they choose other ways and map out their own course?  The ability to choose is one of the greatest freedoms human beings possess. God’s invitation always allows the person to choose. Moses in his instructions gave the Israelites the ‘why’ they should follow God’s commandments; and that they were to remember God’s powerful action and presence on their journey. 

     This command, see’ calls their attention, saying ‘this is important!’ He reminded them of the rich past of their ancestors; and that they were to love God with all their heart, soul and might. This message was not only for the present but for future generations.  Moses spoke of the fundamentals of life – their relationship with God and their relationship with others. They knew God’s care and the assurance that God was faithful. The second feature is similar to the first. They are to be in relationship with one another too. This is how to live their lives with meaning and purpose, being connected with others. Their day to day living, inter-acting, being there in whatever crisis – this expressed their communal relationship. As Martin Buber stated, “God is found in relationships and one cannot be a fully realized human being alone!” (ETZ,1072) 

      God’s command to remember and to keep the festivals marked an important dimension in their lives. They were God’s people and this was their response to God’s call.  Observance of God’s action in their lives as expressed in their festivals strengthened them in their covenantal commitment and as a caring community. This is their self-identity as a people!  The Israelites knew their total dependence on God when they were freed from slavery in Egypt and this was celebrated in the festival of Passover. It was God’s constant care and presence in their wanderings in the desert that was expressed in the feast of Sukkot. In the festival of Shauvot, they commemorated the giving of the Torah that through God’s Word they will live and be a light unto the nations. This remembrance of God’s love and action in their lives formed and kept them as a people. 

     “No one did this more powerfully than Moses in the way he monumentally framed the choice: between good and bad, life and death, the blessing and the curse, following God on the one hand and choosing the values of neighboring civilizations on the other. That clarity is why the Hittites, Canaanites, Perizzites and Jebusites are no more while the people of Israel still live, despite an unparalleled history of circumstantial change.”  (Sacks, 261)

      In this parashah, we have the words, “Hold fast to him, we cling to God!” (13:5) I have always found these words to be both demanding and yet so comforting. Demanding: in that it requires a total commit-

ment, and comforting because we are united to our source, our very reason to be.  “We cling to God by doing what God does – so to speak; this includes visiting the sick, sustaining the poor, freeing the enslaved and comforting the grieving.” (ETZ, 1069)  Simply put, it is a life lived mindful of the other.

For Reflection and Discussion:  What keeps me grounded in all the circumstances of life?

Bibliography Lieber, David L., Etz Hayim,  (New York, NY, 1999), Sacks, Rabbi Jonathan,  Lessons in Leadership, ( Maggid Books, Jerusalem, Israel, 2015).     

 This week’s Parasha Comentary was prepared by
   Rita Kammermayer, NDS, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2001


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