A self-study guide for: Re'eh - The Strange Laws Of Jewish Slavery
A self-study guide for: Re'eh - Why Does Judaism Need The Written Law And Oral Law?
Re'eh Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17
Parshat Re'eh covers a lot of ground. A continuation of Moses' grand speech to the people, which began in Parshat Devarim, this segment of Moses' speech opens with a bold promise:
רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה
Look! I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse (Dev. 11:26)
You get blessings if you listen to God and follow His laws, and curses if you don't. Moses then describes an elaborate ritual that the people are supposed to do that involves standing atop these two mountains and actually proclaiming these blessings and curses. (Parshat Re'eh doesn't go into much detail at all about the procedure, but it will come up again in Parshat Ki Tavo, and when it does, Moses fills in the blanks.)
And then Moses dives into a description of a range of different laws – presumably examples of the kinds of laws that we need to obey in order to receive blessings and not curses. The first set of laws, and much of the parsha as a
Rather, Moses explains that God is going to choose one place – and we need to bring all of our sacrifices there. (We will later come to know this place as the site of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple – whose construction is described in Melachim, the Book of Kings). This is somewhat
By the way, that doesn't mean that we need to come all the way to the Temple in order to eat meat. In this
Moses then continues to detail other laws that are meant to distance us from the practices of idolaters: don't engage in child sacrifice; don't try to convince others to serve idols (a severe punishment awaits you); don't listen to the words of a prophet who encourages you to serve idols, even if he seems to be able to prove that he is a real prophet (he's not!); and don't get a tattoo or otherwise deface your body.
You may have noticed that while God tells us that He abhors child sacrifice, at the very start of our people's history, God came to Abraham and asked him to do just that: to bind his son Isaac on the altar as an offering. How are we to reconcile the story with the law? Our podcast, "How Does God Really Feel About Child Sacrifice
When you read these laws, you may find yourself nursing a somewhat nagging question. The way that Moses describes idolatry, he makes it sound like something that's really tempting, something that we would have a strong inclination to want to do – and therefore we have to put all of these laws in place to stop us from doing it. But is that how you personally relate to idolatry? If you passed by an idol on the street, would you be overcome by the urge to bow down to it? To run away from God and start serving multiple false gods? In the 21st century, isn't this pretty hard to relate to? What's going on here, and what accounts for the gap between the world as Moses describes it and the world as we know it? For more on that, see our video
What follows next in Parshat Re'eh are a list of dietary restrictions, which we first heard about in Parshat Shemini: about which animals we can and can't eat, how to tell them apart, and how to cook them (hint: don't cook animals with milk!). These laws, which constitute the laws of kashrut or "proper" food, are probably among the most well-known aspects of contemporary Jewish practice. Many people who know little about Judaism are familiar with the idea that Jews don't "mix milk and meat."
The question is: Why? Is it a matter of health? Is it, like so much of the preceding laws in this
The next part of Parshat Re