Can We Mourn Too Much?

Can We Mourn Too Much?

Aug 6, 2021 By Katja Vehlow | Commentary | Re'eh

When someone dies, this week’s parashah tells us, we should not ritually cut ourselves or our hair. In other words: we should not mourn excessively.

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Gratitude During Challenging Times

Gratitude During Challenging Times

Aug 14, 2020 By Malka Strasberg Edinger | Commentary | Re'eh

This week’s parashah begins with the verseרְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה ׃ / “Behold, I set before you today blessings and curses” (Deut. 11:26). Within the context of the biblical narrative, this verse refers to a choice given to the Israelites upon entering the Promised Land: they could either choose to follow God’s commandments and reap rewards, or not to follow God’s commandments and suffer negative consequences. The blessings and curses set before the Israelites are enumerated in Deuteronomy 27–28, and were read publicly upon entering the Land, as recounted in Joshua 8:30–35. 

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Blood, Water, and Desire

Blood, Water, and Desire

Aug 30, 2019 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Re'eh

These days most observant Jewish women in North America do not soak and salt their own meat. What was once a common and familiar marker of Jewish kitchens, and a deeply gendered rite of passage for young Jewish women, has been professionalized and sequestered away from the eyes of most of those who cook and eat kosher meat. In the United States, the act itself is often performed by mostly non-Jewish workers under the supervision of Orthodox rabbis—a largely male caste. The sounds, sights, and smells of this “kashering” process as performed today would seem strange, unfamiliar, and perhaps even repulsive to most Jewish North American women. 

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Behold: A Blessing and a Curse

Behold: A Blessing and a Curse

Aug 10, 2018 By Yitzhak Lewis | Commentary | Re'eh

Earlier this year, we paid our final respects to Haim Gouri (1923–2018), one of Hebrew poetry’s most prominent and persistent voices for the past seven decades. One of the central questions preoccupying Gouri’s work is the cycle whereby chosenness is transformed into the mundane, or a blessing into a curse, only to reemerge as the impossible synthesis of the two. 

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Third haftarah of consolation

Third haftarah of consolation

Aug 10, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Re'eh

This third haftarah of consolation and comfort contains a beautiful promise of a society established on righteousness, and consequently free of oppression and fear and safe from ruin. Most strikingly, it critiques the worldview that sees the accumulation of wealth and material possessions as the highest value, offering an alternative vision, in which that which truly satisfies is available “without money.”

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To Know or Not to Know

To Know or Not to Know

Aug 18, 2017 By Malka Strasberg Edinger | Commentary | Re'eh

The centralization of cultic worship is one of the major themes in the book of Deuteronomy. However, the place of that worship, the Temple, is described as “the place that God will choose,” with no mention of where that place is to exist. This week’s parashah, parashat Re’eh, introduces the theme that once in the Land of Israel, the Israelites are to worship their God in “hamakom asher yivhar Hashem” (the place that God will choose). This vague phraseology, which only alludes to a specific place but does not specify where that place is, is repeated 21 times throughout the book of Deuteronomy, with 16 of those occurrences in our parashah alone.

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Licensed to Kill (Kosher Animals)

Licensed to Kill (Kosher Animals)

Aug 18, 2017 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Commentary | Re'eh

In Deut. 12:20–25, explicit permission is given for the slaughter and consumption of meat outside of the sacrificial system. The passage includes the phrase “as I have instructed you” (v. 21), and the Talmud identifies these words as the source of the various prescriptions for kosher slaughter (shehitah) (BT Hullin 28a).

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Petition or Protest

Petition or Protest

Sep 2, 2016 By Adam Zagoria-Moffet | Commentary | Re'eh

One month from now, we turn to renew the Hebrew calendar, and our spiritual lives with it. On that day, “the day the world is born,” we read the story of Hannah (1 Sam 1:1–2:10). After struggling for years to conceive, Hannah finally gives birth to a son, Shemuel, for whom she had prayed at the temple in Shiloh.

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Dwelling with God

Dwelling with God

Sep 2, 2016 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Re'eh

By Sonia Gordon Walinsky (LC ’04) and Nina Gordon

From Rosh Hodesh Elul, this shabbat, until the end of the holiday season, Psalm 27 is recited in the daily morning and evening services. It reflects a yearning for closeness with God fitting for the time of year when we seek to make teshuvah—literally, returning to God.

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Seeing Inequity

Seeing Inequity

Aug 14, 2015 By Stephanie Ruskay | Commentary | Re'eh

So many people of color and their houses of worship have been destroyed this year because we haven’t rooted out systemic racism and oppression; because, like the weather, we talk about it, but most of us don’t do enough.

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Serving God

Serving God

Aug 14, 2015 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Demonstrating uncompromising devotion to God is the theme of this week’s parashah. Such devotion is expressed through belief, but more importantly, through avodah, meaningful service to God. For the biblical Israelite, service to God meant loyalty to God’s commandments and participation in the sacrificial cult. In Deuteronomy, avodah referred specifically to offering sacrifices to God at a central place of worship: “look only to the site that the Lord your God will choose amidst all your tribes as His habitation, to establish His name there. There you are to go, and there you are to bring your burnt offerings and other sacrifices. . .” (Deut. 12:5-6).

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How to Practice Faith

How to Practice Faith

Aug 22, 2014 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Re'eh

Watch a world-class athlete do something extraordinary, like somersault and twist through the air from a high diving platform or serve a tennis ball so fast down the line that it seems fired by a cannon.

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Lessons of Idolatry

Lessons of Idolatry

Aug 22, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Parashat Re’eh looks forward to the entry of the Israelites into the Land.

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Bacon in the Season of Repentance

Bacon in the Season of Repentance

Jul 31, 2013 By Charlie Schwartz | Commentary | Re'eh

As it becomes clear that living and dealing with “bacon mania” is part of early 21st-century life in the United States, now is a good time to reflect on the Jewish prohibition of eating pork, which appears in this week’s parashah.

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Balancing Peshat and Sensitivity

Balancing Peshat and Sensitivity

Jul 31, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Parashat Re’eh contains a categorical pronouncement against idolatry in the Land of Israel.

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The Journey Home

The Journey Home

Aug 18, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Re'eh

Why should I choose a Jewish life? And more than just a “Jewish” life—which might consist of nothing more than bagels, gefilte fish, and a penchant for Seinfeld reruns: Why should I choose a life of mitzvah, of Jewish commitment and action, when there are so many other compelling religions and spiritual paths?

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Do We Really Do Tzedakah?

Do We Really Do Tzedakah?

Aug 27, 2011 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Re'eh

By delving into the biblical and rabbinic texts concerning tzedakah, we can begin to discover that what we consider to be tzedakah may not fit the parameters of what our sacred texts are actually demanding of us.

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Consequences as Judgement

Consequences as Judgement

Aug 27, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Re'eh

Part of the problem with the theology of reward and punishment (or blessings and curses, as it is couched in the parashah this week) is that we know it to not be true. We have all seen good people live and die tragically, and others deserving punishment living long, happy lives. It is difficult, as sophisticated thinkers, to apply the reward-and-punishment idea in any satisfying way to reality as we know it.

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Emerging From the Wilderness

Emerging From the Wilderness

Aug 7, 2010 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Re'eh

In this week’s parashah, the book of Deuteronomy leaves prologue behind as the Israelites come one step closer to exiting the wilderness in which they have so long been wandering. Moses has set forth and fine-tuned the major themes of his final discourse. Now it is time for him to lay out a blueprint of the commandments that will shape and guide the new life awaiting the Children of Israel upon their entry to the Land of Israel.

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Repentance in the Heart of Summer

Repentance in the Heart of Summer

Aug 15, 2009 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Re'eh

At the end of Friday-night services this past July fourth weekend, the rabbi of a major urban synagogue beseeched those gathered to celebrate the secular holiday by joining the congregation or renewing their memberships immediately. The rabbi explained that this year, due to the global economic crisis, congregational finances had become a vital concern. A budget shortfall had forced the clergy and lay leadership to cancel their policy of selling tickets for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services to nonmembers in order to “encourage” more people to pay some level of membership dues. More grievously, the rabbi noted that the congregation’s diminished financial position might require cuts in social action programs upon which the neighborhood’s less fortunate depend. An infusion of cash from membership dues, though, would limit the impact of these cuts.

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