Parasha / E-Letter

Parashat Re’eh: Building on the Mitzvoth

0 Comments 14 August 2017

In this week’s dvar Torah to Parashat Re’eh, and Haftarah Isaiah 54:11-55:5, Rabbi Miri Gold encourages us to begin to take inventory as the new year arrives, and to once again commit ourselves to peace by building on the mitzvoth.

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By Rabbi Miri Gold

This Torah portion points out that both the nation and the individual are subject to both blessings and curses, and that through free will they will make choices that will determine their future. Chapter 12, verse 1 shows the precautions that the Children of Israel were to take, to make sure that they didn’t fall prey again to the false gods of the surrounding cultures. To secure the unity of the nation, they were to have central worship places, and were not allowed to find other places spontaneously. Today this idea is odd, because we learn that God is in any place, and that we can indeed worship under a leafy tree if we so choose. Nevertheless, we do need institutions, be they synagogues, schools, community centers, Federations, and more, to give us a sense of belonging to our local community and to the Jewish People as a whole. In following God’s laws, we remember that we live within society, and not in secluded monasteries.

A code of behavior is now to be spelled out by Moses, and in this Torah portion, we see the concern regarding places of worship. The idea that one must not add or take away from the laws and ordinances is to be bolstered by the idea of “a fence” around the Torah (chapter 13:1). Yet it was clear that in every generation, the ruling body was to use its judgement when circumstances so dictated. In the early twentieth century, at the time of the Kishinev Pogroms, there were rabbis who performed intermarriages, believing that as Jews were being threatened, killed, and scattered, that it was important to keep the young people part of the community. Today we face similar challenges in attracting young Jews to remain within the Jewish community with a sense of belonging, and we must find creative ways to embrace them, especially as we see more and more Jews the world-over finding partners from other cultures and religions.

If we look at the value of peace, we see the message of this Torah portion to be that if our children will follow in God’s ways, they were have a better chance of achieving peace (Haftarah, Isaiah, 54:13). There are those who say that the word banayich, “your sons”, could be bonayich, your builders, pursuing righteousness and victory (the word tsedaka can mean both).  As we approach the New Year, we all need to find ways, even in small steps, to get closer to peace, by building on the mitzvoth between one human and another, and between the human beings and their Maker.

Rabbi Miri GoldRabbi Miri Gold serves Kehilat Birkat Shalom at Kibbutz Gezer and is a member of Rabbis for Human Rights

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