Friday, September 2, 2016

Parshas Re'eh

This Week’s Parsha – Re’eh:

This week’s parsha is Re’eh, and it discusses a lot of things. The first thing that Moshe tells the Jews is about the Bracha/blessing and the Klallah/curse. We get the blessing if we keep the Commandments and serve Hashem, and we get the curse if we don’t, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. Though we know that if we, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem keep the Commandments and do the right thing we will get rewarded, we should not do things to get a reward. Because, then, as we get from one of the sayings of the Maggid of Kozhnitz (Rebbe Yisroel Haupstein zt"l)[1], we would be serving Hashem for our benefit, and for ourselves; and that would not be good at all. We should serve Hashem with good intentions; the best reason being because He said to and He wants us to. In His Kindness, He gives us great rewards for doing the right thing, but the object is not that. It can be compared to a parent who tells their child to eat their food, and if they do, they will give them a nice desert. The desert is not the point; rather, it is just an incentive to get the child to eat the meal, which is the real point. Now, the child would likely eat the meal for the desert, but that is not how we are supposed to do it. Because now, let us go further in the metaphor: If, once the child starts eating, he (or she) realizes that the food is absolutely delicious, and it even tastes better than the dessert, then they would not eat for the dessert, but they would try to savor the flavor of the meal itself, realizing how great it is. Ah, so when we really serve Hashem, then we realize how sweet it truly is!! It is infinitely sweeter than any reward we might get! So why concentrate on the reward – the "dessert"? True, it is good, but the point is serving Hashem, and that is the sweetest thing of all. When you get a good thing, it feels good, and when you are having fun, you are happy, right? But let us all realize the truth of life: When we serve Hashem and keep His Commandments truly, and really feel it, it feels so, so, so much better than any good thing that may happen to us, or any game. Serving Hashem brings true joy; not the fake, on-the-surface and outer joy that we get from other things. So, yes, we do get incredible reward for serving Hashem, but, again, that should not be the inspiration. If, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid we lose all other inspiration, then we can use reward and punishment as our motivation – but we are supposed to then move up from there and regain our good motivations.  People don’t know your intentions, as intentions are in your heart and head. And only Hashem really, and us sometimes know our intentions. Hashem knows everything! Every single thing! So He always knows our intentions. We can never hide anything for Him; no matter if the thing is in our heart, our head, behind closed doors, etc. I know, it is hard to have good intentions, but, we must really try. We must do the right things and our intentions our very important in things, as well. May Hashem, the Most Blessed help every single person to do great things, with great intentions, always, Amein vi’Amein, so may it be His Will.

Now on to the parsha: The first passuk/verse of this parsha is ‘Re’eh anochi nosein lif’neichem ha’yom Bracha u’Klallah/See, I am putting before you today a blessing and a curse.’ There are some nice Mefarshim/commentaries on this which I would like to share with you:

1) The Mefarshim/commentaries ask; why is the word ‘Re’eh/See’ in the singular, as if talking to one person, but the word ‘lif’neichem/before you’ is in the plural, talking to many people? So now let’s try to get some answers to this question:  

2) The Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita) explains a lesson we can learn from this: In his words, on "’Look, I am giving before you today a blessing and a curse…’ The verse begins in the singular and then switches to plural form. ‘Look, Hashem says, I am speaking to one man, to every individual, but each person is really two – a body and a soul. I am giving before you – before both of you, the body and the soul, the ability to choose a blessing or a curse! Both of you must join together to fulfill My will. If the soul will lead the body then your life will be a blessing, but if the body leads the soul you are choosing the opposite of blessing."[2] Wow!  What an explanation! 

3) HaRav Yosef Karo zt"l (author of the Shulchan Aruch) explains another way to interpret the two forms in his mystical diary, which was dictated to him by an Angel: He explains that spiritual things, normal people cannot see with their eyes. However, very righteous people can see spiritual things sometimes. So, he says, the blessing and the curse are sort of spiritual things, and to the very righteous people – of whom there are less of (thus the singular form) Moshe says to ‘Re’eh/See’, because they can actually see these things, sort of. However, to the masses of people who are not extremely righteous people (thus the plural form), he told them that the blessing and curse were ‘before’ them too.[3] 

4) I have some thoughts on this as well: Maybe we could say that the singular language of ‘Re’eh/See’ teaches us that Moshe was saying to each individual Jew ‘Re’eh/See’ – you personally. But then he also said that he was setting ‘before you’ in the plural, i.e. before everybody. When you talk to a person personally – straight to them – a lot of times, it makes a bigger impression on them than if you spoke to them in a group. 

5) There is also a Chassidishe Vort on this passuk/verse: The first two words, as we saw, are ‘Re’eh anochi/See, I’, and this Chassidishe Master wants to explain to us how this it can teach us a lesson: He explains to us that we can interpret in this case ‘anochi/I’ to refer to the first Commandment of the Ten Commandments, (where Hashem tells us that He is Hashem) which starts with the word ‘Anochi/I’. This teaches us, he says, that we should all ‘see’ the first Commandment – that Hashem is the One G-d, always. To constantly remember the fact that Hashem is the One G-d and that He is always in every place (spiritually).[4] We should all be zocheh/have the merit to take these messages to heart and, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem, put them into action.

Now back to the parsha: The Torah tells us that the blessing is that we will keep Hashem’s Commandments, and the curse we will get if we, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid don’t. The Torah also discusses how when we come to the Land of Israel, we have to destroy completely all the idols and things that the non-Jews there served. We cannot have idols and impurity like that in the Holy Land!! After discussing how we must destroy all the places where the nations served idols, it tells us that we must bring all of our offerings (when we come into Israel) to the place where Hashem would choose to dwell His Name there. The Torah here overall discusses things that we must do when we come to Eretz Yisroel/The Land of Israel. Towards the middle of Shlishi/the third Aliyah, the Torah talks about a false prophet: If we have in our midst a person who claims to be a prophet or a ‘dreamer of a dream’, and he provides a sign or a wonder to prove that he was sent by Hashem, and that sign or wonder actually comes about, and he says to go and serve idols, we are not allowed to listen to him. Rashi quotes from Sifri and Sanhedrim 90a, which ask; why would Hashem let the sign or wonder that this guy provided happen? He controls everything!! And the Midrash and Gemara answer that, as the next verse says ‘because Hashem your G-d is testing you, to know whether you love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your Soul.’ The verse is teaching us that if we truly love Hashem, we will not turn to idolatry, or any bad thing for that matter. So Hashem is testing us by letting the sign or wonder come about, because He wants to see if we actually want to follow after Him, or if we want, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid to go after other stuff.   He wants to see whether, if the "opportunity" arises to serve idols or do a bad thing, we will go and do it. Because if we actually love Him, then we will want to follow Him and serve Him. We will not just serve Him grudgingly. This is one of the reasons why a person who loves Hashem, He is Blessed will have so much joy. May Hashem help every single person to love Him to the level that we are supposed to, always, Amein vi’Amein.

Back to the parsha: That false prophet or that dreamer of a dream has to be put to death. At the beginning of Rivi’i/the fourth Aliyah, the Torah says ‘Banim atem li’Hashem Elokeichem/You are children to Hashem your G-d.. etc.’ Every single Jew, no matter who he or she is, is a child of Hashem. Even the worst Jew ever, who is a terrible, terrible sinner, is still a child of Hashem. Just as a father loves his kids, so too, the Best Father of all – Hashem, loves His children very, very much. In fact, there is a nice story I have seen on this topic: There was once a Jew who was a terrible, terrible person, and he informed on a lot of Jews and got lots of them killed. So anyway, there was also this Chassid of Rebbe Yisroel of Ruzhin zt"l, and he loved his Rebbe so much. He would visit him all the time, and it just so happened, that one of these times was Erev Yom Kippur, when the Rebbe had a custom of secluding himself. This Chassid, whose name was Berel, came running to Rebbe Yisroel’s room, and began yelling, "Rebbe, Rebbe, Berel needs to see you!" The other Chassidim tried to stop him, as they knew that Rebbe Yisroel might be upset if anybody interrupted him in his seclusion. Suddenly, the door of the Rebbe’s room opened, and he looked warmly at Berel. "Berel’le, Berel’le, you really love me, don’t you? Your love for me cannot be contained or measured, right? Well Berel’le, you should know that as great as your love is for me, I have ten times as much love for every Jew, for the worst Jew, for... Menashe the informer! And that's nothing. I am just a puny creation of G-d's. Just think about how much G-d loves Menashe! Infinitely more... "[5] Hashem, He is Blessed, loves every single one of His children, and we must all return to Him in truth.

Okay, back to the parsha: In this Aliyah, the Torah talks about the laws of Kashrus also: Now, on the concept of Kashrus, there is much to say just as an introduction to it, and there are many Mefarshim/commentaries on it that I will list: 

1) The Alter of Kelm (HaRav Simcha Zissel Ziv Broida zt"l) says something on the basic concept of Kashrus: He writes "Just as a dog does not ruin his (or her) stomach by eating spoiled cream, the non-Jews do not become defiled by eating non-Kosher food. The fact that non-Kosher food harms Jews is a sign of their delicate holiness and the purity of their spirit. For holiness and purity do not tolerate anything loathsome."[6]

2) Ramban notes that a lot of the animals that we are not allowed to eat are predators, (ones that hunt and eat other animals), and he explains that one of the reasons why we can’t eat them is because if we did, then we might, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid absorb their cruel nature into us!
Though obviously, if Hashem commands something, it must be done, no matter if we know the reason or not, as He always knows best.

3) The Reishis Chochmah (HaRav Eliyahu de Vidas zt"l) discusses that since an animal grows because Hashem commands it to, when we eat it; we absorb the command of Hashem to the animal into us![7]

Back to the parsha: The land animals that are allowed to be eaten have to have both split hooves, and bring up their cud. What does bringing up their cud mean? It means that after they chew and swallow their food, they spit it back up, chew it again, and swallow it again. A pig has split hooves, but doesn’t bring up its cud, and a camel brings up its cud, but doesn't have split hooves, so they are not Kosher. Land animals must have both in order to be Kosher. With fish, we are only allowed to eat ones that have fins, and scales. Hashem lists the birds that we are not allowed to eat; however, I will not list them all now. It would be a good thing to check a Chumash on this though. This parsha also talks about Maaser/tithing, giving charity, and the Festivals. Sorry that I am not going to get into too much detail with them, though. However, here is one last Mefareish/commentary for this parsha report, and it is on the Holidays:

They are called ‘Mikraei Kodesh/Callings of Holiness’. The Chassidishe Masters explain a beautiful thing on this: They say that a ‘Mikrah Kodesh/Calling of Holiness’ implies that on that certain day, it is a landmark on which we can ‘call forth’, so to speak, the holiness that is embedded in that day. On Pesach, we became free, on Shavuos we received the Torah, and so on with the other Festivals. Hashem literally embedded these qualities within time, and put them in the holidays. And the special Mitzvos He gave us for each holiday; they explain wonderfully, are the tools with which we ‘call forth the holiness of the day’.  Thus, Hashem, in His Great Kindness, lets us unearth the qualities which He put into those holy days.[8]  This is how the Chassidishe Masters explain the term ‘Mikrah Kodesh/Calling of Holiness’.

There are 126 Passukim/verses in this parsha.

Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!!!!

Refoel Berel

[1] Four Chassidic Masters, page 216.  A PocketScroll© book.  A Shaar Press© Publication.  By Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita
[2]©.  'Parshas Re'ai - Who is the real me?'

[3]©.  'Torah In Ten - Episode 11:  Parshas Re'eh.' 

[4]©.  'Chassidic Gems Reeh3 15.'  Shiur given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita. 
[5]©.  Tales from the past - Chassidic Stories.  'Menashe the Informer.' 
[6] Sparks of Mussar, page 67.  Feldheim Pulications Ltd©.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l. 
[7]  'Parshas Shemini'.'  Written by HaRav Y. Dov Krakowski shlita. 
[8]©.  Parshah In-Depth - Emor. 

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