Parashat Re’eh: A summary
This week is a jam-packed portion. It begins with a choice: “I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing: if you obey the commandments of G-d…; the curse if you do not … and you follow other gods.”
The portion continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and the other religions in the land. In verses 13:1-12 you will find the section that caused a missionary’s face to blanch and silenced him from continuing to proselytize a renowned rabbi.
One of the indications of the existence and necessity of the Oral Torah — an explanation and clarification (later redacted as the Talmud) of the written Torah (The Five Books of Moses) — comes from verse 12:21 “You will slaughter animals … according to the manner I (G-d) have prescribed.” Nowhere in the Torah are we instructed in the manner of shechita, ritual slaughter. One might conclude that there was a very sloppy editor. Or — one might conclude that there are additional teachings (the Oral Law/Talmud) clarifying and amplifying the written Word.
The source of the Chosen People concept is brought this week: “You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. G-d has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation … (Deut. 14:1-2).” We are chosen for responsibility, not privilege –to act morally and to be a “light unto the nations.”
The portion then gives instructions regarding: permitted and forbidden foods, the Second Tithe, remissions of loans every 7 years, treatment of those in need (to be warm-hearted and open-handed), a Jewish bondsman, the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot).