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| Published: August 22, 2022
In this week’s reading, Re’eh, Moses continues addressing the Israelites just before he passes away; just before the Israelites cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Israel. Moses commands the Israelites to proclaim certain blessings and curses on Mount Grizzim and Mount Ebal after they enter the land of Israel. He directs them to destroy all vestiges of idolatry from the Promised Land. They must then designate a city where the Divine presence will dwell in the Holy Temple, and they are forbidden from offering sacrifices elsewhere. Other topics discussed in this portion are: tithes, false prophets, the wayward city, tattoos, kashrut, the Sabbatical Year, charity, and the festivals.
First Aliyah: Moses informs the Israelites that they can be the recipients of either blessings or curses — blessings if they obey G‑d‘s commandments, and curses if they do not. He further instructs them to proclaim blessings on Mount Grizzim and curses on Mount Ebal — the exact procedure of this ceremony will be described in the Ki Tavo Torah reading (Deuteronomy 27:11-16). Moses then commands the Israelites to destroy all idols and their accessories that they will find when they enter Israel. He informs the nation that in the future G‑d will designate a specific location (Jerusalem) where He will choose to rest His Presence. All sacrifices must be offered in this location.
Second Aliyah: Although it is forbidden to offer sacrifices in any location other than the one designated by G‑d, it is permitted to slaughter cattle for consumption purposes, but blood may never be eaten. The consumption of various tithes and sundry sacred foods is also restricted to the designated holy city.
Third Aliyah: Moses admonishes the Israelites not to be lured by the heathen abominable practices of the Canaanites, and to remain true to the Torah; neither adding to nor subtracting from its laws. A person professing to be a prophet who claims to bring instructions from G‑d to worship idols must be put to death. This is true even if the individual performs supernatural acts or accurately predicts the future. This section also prescribes the death penalty for one who attempts to entice others to idolatry, and the catastrophic price paid by a city which has completely succumbed to idolatry.
Fourth Aliyah: As G‑d’s children, we are forbidden to deface our bodies with tattoos or via other forms of mutilation. This section then provides a list of kosher animals and un-kosher fowl. We are also given signs to distinguish between kosher animals and fish and their non-kosher counterparts. The section concludes with the prohibitions against eating meat from an animal which was not properly slaughtered, and against cooking meat with milk.
Fifth Aliyah: After giving a tenth of one’s crops to the Levite, a tenth of the remainder — the “Second Tithe” — is to be taken and eaten within the confines of Jerusalem. Provision is made here for people who live far away from Jerusalem for whom it would be unfeasible to transport so much produce. Instead they may exchange the produce for money which is then taken to Jerusalem and spent on food. There is a three-year tithing cycle. After the conclusion of each cycle, we are commanded to purge our homes of any overdue tithes, give them to their intended recipients, and recite a brief prayer.
Sixth Aliyah: Moses commands the Israelites to designate every seventh year as a Shmitah (Sabbatical) Year. During this year, creditors must forgive outstanding loans. The section then discusses the obligation to give charity to the poor with a happy heart, and to lend them money if necessary, even if the Shmitah Year is looming. A Jewish slave must be freed after six years of service and must be given generous severance gifts as he departs.
Seventh Aliyah: The male firstborn of kosher cattle must be consecrated and given to the Kohen to eat. If the animal is blemishless it is first offered as a sacrifice in the Temple. The Torah reading concludes with a discussion regarding the three festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. In addition to some laws regarding each of these festivals individually, we are commanded to rejoice during the festivals and all males must be in attendance in the Holy Temple during these holidays.
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