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Parshat Re'eh

פרשת ראה starts with a great similarity to פרשת עקב. Moshe lays down the simple contract between עם-ישראל and הקב"ה, but this parsha provides us with two very different strategies to accomplish the great mission, of living as Hashem’s nation.

The parsha starts with a strategy of differing and dividing. Negative phenomenon are dealt with in powerful ways, with the intention of making sure that the problem ends quickly, without getting out of hand. For example, the phenomenon of עיר הנדחת in which a holy city fell off-track, is dealt with harshly, with a very rare punishment. We are told to abolish this city, so even the trees and assets cannot be left. 'ואת כל שללה תקבוץ'. We could have suggested other soft and much more tolerant ways to cope with these types of situations, but the Torah teaches us that this problem is so severe and dangerous that we must fight against it. We can learn from here that when a whole city or community is on a bad path we need to confront it head-on.

We can also learn that sometimes the way to deal with problems is to deactivate them by pushing the problem out of the normal society. We can understand now why the Torah explains דיני מאכלות אסורות with the explanation of 'ובך בחר ה' להיות לו לעם סגולה'. Differentiating ourselves in our kitchens is one tactic in the mission of building a healthy and strong Jewish identity.

But, when we pay attention to the continuation of the parasha we see a very different tactic. The Torah teaches us how to help and reach out to the poor. מצוות צדקה teaches us that one Jew must pay attention to his fellow friend and help him. The rule of 'לא יגוש' teaches us not to bully the loaner to pay his loan. This לאו also educates us to pay attention to the other side and not to ignore his needs. You might think you’re the only one, but if one starts paying attention so these מצוות, it will help to increase our awareness of others.

It seems that the Torah teaches us that there are different ways to deal with problems and we should use them all. 'שמאל דוחה וימין מקרבת'- Sometimes we should intervene when our friend or our children are not behaving correctly, and to let him know that what he’s doing is not ok. The way to make it clear to them is by acting showing that their behavior will not be tolerated. There definitely are times, though, that we should focus on being understanding and patience. The person who is in trouble or distress doesn’t need us to be patronizing or judgmental. We should simply be there for him comforting and loving as much as we can. Every situation and each person should be dealt properly and then, hopefully we could accomplish the goal of being a real עם סגולה.

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