Parshat ha Shavuah Verses Re’eh / ראה

This is a Parshah of choices. To go right or left. To live or to die. To walk straight or in curved lines.

כו  רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם–הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה.

26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse:

כז  אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה–אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ, אֶל-מִצְו‍ֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, הַיּוֹם.

27 the blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day;

כח  וְהַקְּלָלָה, אִם-לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְו‍ֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וְסַרְתֶּם מִן-הַדֶּרֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם:  לָלֶכֶת, אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים–אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יְדַעְתֶּם.

28 and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.

The road is straight

Keep to it

And you will be blessed

Stray from it

And you will be cursed

What’s not to understand?

ה  אַחֲרֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם תֵּלֵכוּ, וְאֹתוֹ תִירָאוּ; וְאֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתָיו תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּבְקֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ, וְאֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹדוּ וּבוֹ תִדְבָּקוּן.

5 After the LORD your God shall ye walk, and Him shall ye fear, and His commandments shall ye keep, and unto His voice shall ye hearken, and Him shall ye serve, and unto Him shall ye cleave.

Take my hand

And walk with me

Don’t be afraid, yes I burn, but only if you let go

ז  כִּי-יִהְיֶה בְךָ אֶבְיוֹן מֵאַחַד אַחֶיךָ, בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ, בְּאַרְצְךָ, אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ–לֹא תְאַמֵּץ אֶת-לְבָבְךָ, וְלֹא תִקְפֹּץ אֶת-יָדְךָ, מֵאָחִיךָ, הָאֶבְיוֹן.

7 If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother;

ח  כִּי-פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת-יָדְךָ, לוֹ; וְהַעֲבֵט, תַּעֲבִיטֶנּוּ, דֵּי מַחְסֹרוֹ, אֲשֶׁר יֶחְסַר לוֹ.

8 but thou shalt surely open thy hand unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wanteth.

The table is laden with delicacies

The family is all here

Who is knocking on the door then?

Your conscious is there covered in the pauper’s rags

כג  רַק אֶת-דָּמוֹ, לֹא תֹאכֵל:  עַל-הָאָרֶץ תִּשְׁפְּכֶנּוּ, כַּמָּיִם.

23 Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it out upon the ground as water.

So, I have a super funny story from my college years related to this mitzvah that is reiterated 3 times in this Parshah:

When I was a university student in the Soviet Union, I had a class called “Scientific Atheism”, which was as any other one a required class. We didn’t have a chance to choose them. Being in the last stages of pregnancy, I would not be able to get to my exams as this would be my due time, so I had arranged with my professor, a very nice, and, I think, believing Xtian lady, to write a paper instead and present it to class. Naturally, I wrote a paper on Judaism with no criticism. She let it slide, just asking me to write the word “criticism” at least within the title.

When I have presented the paper in front of my peers, only a few of whom were even remotely interested in the subject, a nice young lady, who had been to my house and ate at my table multiple times, said: “How come you never said anything about the blood you put in the matzah?”

What could I say? I was not yet 19, I could say nothing, except to start reiterating that “only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it out upon the ground as water.” That much I knew even then. Funny, isn’t it? To this day I am wondering how an intelligent university student could ask a question like that. Looking around today, in the 21-century world, I am no longer surprised.

The Parshah also talks about the subject that is still too hard for me to deal with – mourning. So, I am leaving you with the words of Rabbi Sacks, much better than anything I could say.

 

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