Torah Portion: Re’eh (See) D’varim (Deut) 11-16
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 54:11-55:5
This week our Torah portion is Re’eh or See. If you remember last week we read Ekev which contained part of the Shema or “Hear.” Today I want us to look at these two words and discern what G-d is saying to us through them.
However, first there are some other points I would like us to explore as well. I would like to start with the introduction of a specific place of worship that G-d would choose once the people crossed over the Jordan River. We see this thought spoken about in Deut. 12:5. As we know from our readings of the Ten Commandments all forms of idol worship were looked at as a grave sin. This choice of a central place of worship was to help the people guard against idol worship. Only service of the one true G-d would be permitted. In Re’eh we also read where three holidays are talked about in chapter 16. Why did Moshe pick out only these three, Pesach, Shavuot and Succot? I think again to stress the centrality of Jerusalem to the people. These three holidays are the three that involved an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Then, in the midst of all the commandments, we read in Deut. 12:28 the following, “When you do that which is good and right in the eyes of your G-d.” A couple of weeks ago we read a similar verse in Deut. 6:18 with the only difference being the words right and good in the eyes of G-d. Good is easy to understand in each verse. Good is a definite command to live a life based on G-d’s word. However, “right” is a word that could have been open to interpretation. What is right may vary on the situation. What these two verses seem to be saying is that we are to live a life pleasing to G-d as well as a life that is decent and right in the eyes of our fellow man. To go a little deeper into this, let’s go back to the idea of Jerusalem being the place to be set aside as central for worship, Deut. 12:2. Where did the nations worship their gods? They worshiped on high mountains, hills and under every green tree. Think about it. This made idolatry extremely easy. It required little of the idol worshipper. You could stop anywhere and worship. It was a quick fix, an instant solution to someone in need of instant gratification.
Now, contrast that with Jerusalem. Psalms 125:2 tells us Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains. Getting there required effort. Our spiritual growth requires effort. It offers no quick fixes. We grow by making an effort, praying, reading, being obedient. Our journey is meant to be transforming. It allows us by extension to transform our world, to become more like the Father in how we relate to His creation. As we become good in the eyes of G-d it will help us to be right, straight in the eyes of man. The journey to Jerusalem begins with a step. My prayer is that each of us is on that path and that we have or will begin the journey. Our faith is not about just coming here or going to a church. That may be a part of the journey but it is never to be all there is. There are other mountains to climb. We are all to be on the way each day.
Our way may lead us to encounter people offering a short cut or a quick fix. This Torah section also speaks to this in our life. In Deut. 13:2-4 we read about false prophets. These may seem to be godly people, their predictions may even come to pass. But a false prophet’s desire is for people to follow him. He does not encourage you to follow G-d. Why would G-d seem to allow them to prosper? Why do people follow them only to come to the place of sometimes losing their faith? Why do the wicked seem to prosper? Our verses provide us with the answer. “The L-rd, your G-d is testing you to know if you really love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.” Of course then the question arises, doesn’t He already know? He is G-d nothing is hidden from Him. Seems like the test is not so much for G-d to know us but for us to know ourselves and to know Him. It is to encourage “da’at” that intimate knowledge of Him and who He is. This allows us to remain firm in our faith and not be distracted by the noise around us. We should not go looking for a test but when they come to us that our faith will bring us through.
Now finally to my question for the week, what is your understanding of what it means to see and how do we apply this to our spiritual life? I think when we read this word here we can see it as to comprehend or to perceive. Seeing is our strongest sense. It causes an emotional reaction more than hearing. Think about the terror attack this week in Spain or the riots in Charlottesville last week. As we saw these unfold before us they reached us first on an emotional level and then as we heard about what happened our thought processes kicked in.
In our Torah portion Moshe was speaking about an event that would not happen for a while. Yet in his description he aroused the emotions of the people, an anticipation of what was to come, an excitement and yearning that gave them the urge to go on to get there, to cross over the Jordan.
In our lives G-d grants us a picture, a vision of what will be. This will begin to prepare us for the actual event, to consider it, to anticipate what will be. As we think about it G-d prepares us. May we always be able to “see” what He is saying, and be prepared.