Torah Portion: Re’eh (See) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17
HafTorah: Isaiah 54:11-55:5
This week we read a Torah section whose main theme is the future Temple and singular place of worship for Jewish people. As you go through this section you will see time and again the distinctiveness of this place of worship. We see it in the food laws, in that only kosher animals can be brought for sacrifice. We see that only Passover, Shavout and Sukkot are mentioned among the holidays. These are the three holidays where Israel, as a people, were called to come to Jerusalem to celebrate together. We also see it in the setting up of Jerusalem as different from the customs of the local inhabitants, who had a multitude of places to worship. All of this points to the fact that the people of G-d were to be different from those around them.
G-d puts this pretty clearly in the opening verse when He says “see.” What does this word mean to us? What does, “see” mean? Does it mean to only be aware, or does it mean to get to the level of seeing the rationale behind what G-d says, or does it go deeper?
Here it means to comprehend at its deepest level, to see with spiritual eyes the benefit of G-d’s Word. To see to the level that it changes our lives. Take for example, the act of helping the poor. Is it enough to give money or even deliver food to a person? Given, that is better than nothing. But I think G-d is asking us to, “see” with His eyes. To see and be able to go further than just the mechanical part but to be G-d’s agent to touch people with a kind word or gentle look. Then we are really seeing. Then we are G-d’s people doing His work for His kingdom. This is seeing.
Now to my question: Please look at Deut. 12:28, paying attention to the part of the verse, “when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of the Eternal, your G-d.” In my question I asked you to consider the difference, if any, between good and right. Right is the Hebrew word, “yashar,” or straight, not twisted. First, good in the sight of G-d, I think has to do with how we can discern what G-d sees as good, for example, praying, reading His word, studying what His word says to us. I think as believers we have a pretty good grasp on what G-d sees as good. Morality is built on it. We know these things in our mind. Now what is right or straight. Let me lay out a picture that might help. Deut. 12:2 tells Israel what to do with places of idol worship. What strikes us is how common these places were, under any tree, on any mountain or hill. Idolatry seems like an easy path to follow in that any time you need a fix, any hill or mountain might do. It was and is an instant salve or instant gratification. What are some examples of how we as believers quickly move to instant gratification instead of the more difficult search for G-d’s solution to our problems? Now contrast this with Jerusalem (Psalms 125:2) Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains. It took work to get there. There were hills and valleys that required effort. Even today the road is winding filled with curves.
So unlike idolatry, which gives instant gratification, G-d’s people, in order to live a straight life, are required to make the effort. It does not come easy. It is more than just knowing the words. It is more than even understanding them. It is putting them into practice. It is climbing onward and upward. If not, we find ourselves relatively unchanged as far as our day to day life is concerned. We go to meetings, we know the liturgy but then we go back to our lives once it is over. G-d has to have an effect on our lives daily. Kindness and the love of G-d must be a daily part of who we are. Only when we climb the mountain to Jerusalem can we begin to see with G-d’s eyes. As G-d penetrates our lives we being to see clearly. In Psalms 125, a song of assent, we read of G-d’s goodness to those who are good and are straight in their hearts. For this reason I send questions each week so each of us can see and grow and climb, to become truly the people of G-d