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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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