Food For the Soul
Re-eh – See!
The Parsha Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) means “See!” as in the opening verse of our Torah reading: “See! I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.” What, exactly, is the Torah demanding in asking us to “see” G-d’s blessings and curses?
Broadly speaking, a person’s observance of the precepts of Judaism could fall into one of three categories:
Plain obedience. At this level, a person is willing to observe the precepts of the Torah because he is aware of a higher authority. However, his observance is not inspired by an understanding or appreciation of the Torah; he simply “accepts the yoke of heaven.”
Intellectual appreciation. A higher level is where a person not only observes the precepts of the Torah out of deference to a higher authority, but also has an intellectual appreciation of the importance of observing the precepts, and understands the rewards that mitzvah-observance brings. However, even this person has not yet reached perfection. For intellectual conviction alone—while immensely powerful—still leaves room to explore other avenues, so it does not represent an absolute commitment.
Thus, the highest level of mitzvah observance is:
Vision. At this level, one does not merely appreciate the value of keeping the Torah’s precepts, one sees it. Meaning that the necessity and positive results of observing the mitzvahs become as clear and self-evident as seeing a physical object with one’s eyes. And it is this third level which our Torah commands—and spiritually empowers—every Jew to reach, with the words: “See! I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.”
Rabbi Chaim Miller
Bless New Month
This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim (“the Shabbat that blesses” the new month): a special prayer is recited blessing the Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) of the upcoming month of Elul, which falls on Sunday and Monday of next week. Prior to the blessing, we announce the precise time of the molad, the “birth” of the new moon. See molad times on Chabad.org
It is a Chabad custom to recite the entire book of Psalms before morning prayers, and to conduct farbrengens (chassidic gatherings) in the course of the Shabbat. This Shabbat, we also read chapter 5 of the Talmud’s Ethics of the Fathers (“Avot”).
Mind Over Matter
Will the real prophet please stand up?
There are false prophets out there; there always have been. Why then would G-d allow a false prophet to make a miracle or do wondrous things that are really impressive? The answer, says the Parsha Re’eh, is that G-d is testing us. If we really and truly love G-d with all our heart and soul, then we won’t be impressed by any fancy wonders or miracles. The acid test will always be: does this would-be prophet encourage us to follow G-d’s laws, or to ignore them? And if this “prophet” is not faithful to the word of G-d, then he is no prophet, but an imposter.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Bringing the Moshiach
Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet wrote: “The literal translation of lehavi liyemot haMoshiach is to bring the days of Moshiach. This expression, then, has another significance as well. All the days of your life, that is, every day of our life-time, must be imbued by the single and profound objective to bring about the Messianic era. We must always bear in mind that any one good deed, every single one, hastens the coming of Moshiach. When the actual redemption will occur, therefore, we will not feel that we are benefiting from a gratuitous gift. We ourselves can-and did-make an effort and contribution to bring the days of Moshiach…”
Have I Got A Story
What we’re up against
A rabbi once placed an order with the town tailor for a new pair of trousers. Time schlepped; the tailor missed deadline after promised deadline. Finally, months after the delivery due date, the pants were ready. True, they were a great fit, but the rabbi, piqued by the delay, decided to gently point out his displeasure. “Explain something please. G-d took just six days to create the world, and you’ve taken nearly six months just on one pair of pants?”
“Achh, how can you compare, just look at what a mess G-d made… and look at this gorgeous pair of pants!”
To be Jewish is to complain about G-d and to be secretly convinced that, given the chance, you could have done a better job.
Here’s my question on G-d. In [the Parsha Re-eh] we start off with the immortal choice:, “Behold I place before you today the blessing and the curse,” i.e., good vs. evil, life vs. death. My Question: Don’t give me the choice; don’t create evil. You relax, let us relax and we’re all happy.
The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, had a parallel complaint: “G-d, it’s not fair. For a Jew to be confronted by evil, all he has to do is walk down Main Street and he’ll discover temptations by the wagonload, decked out in all their attractive permutations. Try to scare him onto the straight and narrow, and you have to direct him to some musty old book which details harrowing descriptions of the punishments of Hell…”I promise you, G-d, if you shoved the sights and sounds of Gehenna in plain view, and buried earthly temptations in some dusty old tome, nobody would ever be enticed to sin. It’s all Your fault!”
A few years ago, some of those bright sparks we employ to sit in the Education Department and issue amusing directives came out with a beauty: from now on no scores were to be kept when umpiring kids’ sports. Losing, competing and all those other nasty vices went against the latest political correctness manifesto. I remember arguing at the time that if they were serious about the initiative they should abandon the goal posts (encourages short-term, selfish-oriented behavior), and, to develop it to it’s logical conclusion, put all the kids on the one team.
The only problem was that the kids didn’t buy it. Sports, by definition, are competitive. Without a method of keeping score, with no winner or loser, the exercise becomes pointless.
It’s the same with life. G-d could have created all the angels he wanted, behaving in an exemplary fashion and scoring perfect 10’s every time. Instead he made us. We strive; we try. We win some; we lose some. When we get it right, we get advanced up the board a few spaces. Get it wrong and you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the slide, looking for a ladder to climb back up again.
The rewards of life are predicated on our defeating evil. For us to change, to grow, we need an opponent to wrestle with and ultimately defeat. In the great game called life, evil represents the black pawns coming at you. Vanquish them, reach the end of the board, and you’ll be crowned a Queen.
Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum