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.

Read More
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.

Read More
An Exegetical and Archaeological Experience

An Exegetical and Archaeological Experience

Aug 19, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

This past June, our family journeyed to Israel — to reenergize our spiritual selves, to reconnect with the land and people of Israel, and to introduce our daughter to friends and family.

Read More
Vanquishment Through the Written Word

Vanquishment Through the Written Word

Sep 3, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Re'eh

For a book that purports to be but a reprise of the other books of the Torah, Deuteronomy abounds with puzzling discrepancies.

Read More
Core and Periphery

Core and Periphery

Sep 3, 2005 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Megiddo, an archaeological tel in Northern Israel, is situated at the crossroads of an ancient trade route. Indeed, it was the nexus in power struggles among the Canaanites, Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, and Babylonians. As such, Megiddo is a site of great biblical significance, especially in the context of this week’s Torah reading, Parashat R’eih. II Kings relates how King Josiah (639-609 BCE), who was one of the figures responsible for centralizing Israelite religion, was killed by Pharaoh Necho II. Accordingly, at the core of our parashah, we read of the sweeping legislation regarding the centralization of the Israelite sacrificial cult.

Read More
Decision Time

Decision Time

Aug 14, 2004 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Re'eh

By Rabbi Jay Stein

In the heat of summer, we tend to recall our childhood trips to the ice cream parlor. For me, it was Baskin and Robbins’ thirty-one flavors. I particularly loved bubblegum and Vanilla Fudge Swirl. Now, my children, big fans of Ben & Jerry’s, can choose between Phish Food and Chubby Hubby. The selection of favorite flavors of ice cream, though a critical choice for a young child on a hot summer day, certainly does not belong on a list of the ten most critical issues facing society.

Read More
Including Women in the Covenant

Including Women in the Covenant

Aug 14, 2004 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Every year, Shi’ite Islam recalls the martyrdom of a central figure in its sacred history of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad. This annual observance is called Ashura, and it occurs on the tenth of the month of Muharran. Shiites, particularly in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, engage in a bloody ritual of self-flagellation – extreme mourning that transports the devotee to the Battle of Karbala (October 10, 680). This rite is the most graphic illustration of a Toraitic prohibition found in Parashat R’eih. At the beginning of Deuteronomy 14, we read, “You are children (banim) of the Lord your God. You shall not gash yourselves (lo titgodedu) or shave the front of your heads because of the dead.”(Deuteronomy 14: 1) What is the literal meaning of (p’shat) in this verse? How do the Rabbis reread this verse? And, what does this seemingly archaic prohibition teach us today?

Read More
Turkey’s Kosher Journey

Turkey’s Kosher Journey

Aug 23, 2003 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Re'eh

This week’s Parashah, Re’eh, contains a wonderful juxtaposition of mitzvot, which, when taken together, provide an insight into how Jews deal with novel situations and the disagreements that arise from them, and also allows me to share a peculiarity of my own family history. One of the commandments which the Jewish people have found most difficult to follow in practice is found in Deuteronomy 14:1: “lo titgodedu.” The plain sense of the verse is “You should not gash yourselves… because of the dead.” One must avoid pagan mourning customs that include self-mutilation. The rabbinic interpretation of the verse, however, is that Jews should not form themselves into multiple subgroups “agudot agudot” (B. Yevamot 13b) each following a different understanding of the law. Therefore, there should not be two Jewish courts in one city, one permitting a particular practice, the other forbidding it.

Read More
One Place, Many Prayers

One Place, Many Prayers

Aug 23, 2003 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Deuteronomy as a whole is focused on what scholars refer to as ‘the centralization of the sacrificial cult.’ Until this historical point, it would appear that the Israelites offered sacrifices at local altars called ‘bamot.’ With the Deuteronomic legislation however, such local devotional sites are obliterated. Even if Israelites in outlying areas could not be present at the Temple services in Jerusalem, worship at this focal point was supposed to represent and include them. What are the ramifications of such legislation and how can we place this teaching in a modern context?

Read More
Caring for Yourself and Others

Caring for Yourself and Others

Aug 3, 2002 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Re'eh

“ATTENTION PLEASE: In the event of a change in cabin pressure, first place the oxygen mask on your own face and then assist the child sitting next to you.” This airline announcement has always troubled me. It is difficult to imagine that in the midst of a crisis, a parent would allow a child to suffer while attending to his or her own needs. However, the practical wisdom of these instructions teaches us that there are times when we must take care of ourselves first, despite our best instincts.

Read More
The Place that God Chose

The Place that God Chose

Aug 3, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Re'eh

In past and present discussions about how the State of Israel is to make peace with the Palestinians, the question of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount always arises. Obviously the city and site are holy to both Jews and Moslems (and to many Christians as well). But to those who know and love the Jewish tradition, and have a strong sense of Jewish history, it is often enraging to hear voices in the Palestinian community claiming that Jews have no history in Jerusalem or claim to the Temple Mount.

Read More
Searching for God

Searching for God

Aug 18, 2001 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Spirituality has become the romantic goal of individuals thirsting in pursuit of deeper religious meaning. And while spirituality means something different to everyone, much of the American Jewish community has come to associate the pursuit of spirituality with the study of our mystical tradition, kabbalahKabbalah, it is believed, offers a direct and intimate pathway to God. So, not surprisingly, kabbalah centers (many of them peddling inauthentic and simplistic versions of the true kabbalistic tradition) have sprung up in Jewish communities across the country – attracting large numbers of affiliated as well as non-affiliated Jews, significant numbers of non-Jews, and a handful of superstars like Madonna. What accounts for the popularity of kabbalah today? It is the inviting promise of immediate spiritual fulfillment and unification with a tangible, accessible divinity that attracts such large numbers. What many of these people fail to understand is that according to the sages, kabbalah is one of the final stages of a lifetime devoted to Jewish learning, not the entry point.

Read More
How We Serve God

How We Serve God

Aug 26, 2000 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Re'eh

Demonstrating uncompromising devotion to God is the theme of this week’s parashah, Parashat Re’eh. 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. For 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…” (Deuteronomy 12:5-6).

Read More
Re’eh

Re’eh

Jan 1, 1980

26 See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: 27 blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; 28 and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, whom you have not experienced.

Read More
Re’eh

Re’eh

Jan 1, 1980

11 Unhappy, storm-tossed one, uncomforted!
I will lay carbuncles as your building stones
And make your foundations of sapphires.

Read More
Reset Search

SUBSCRIBE TO TORAH FROM JTS

Our regular commentaries and videos are a great way to stay intellectually and spiritually engaged with Jewish thought and wisdom.