There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Re’eh Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, aliyah by aliyah.
Aliyah 1: Deuteronomy 11:26-12:10
Deuteronomy 11:26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse —
There is always a choice; like in Eden. HaShem is just and fair because He let’s us choose Him or not.
Deuteronomy 11:27 the blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot of HaShem your G-d that I am giving you today;
His way IS life
Deuteronomy 11:28 and the curse, if you don’t listen to the mitzvot of HaShem your G-d, but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow other gods that you have not known.
Adam and Eve knew the stakes, as did Israel
Deuteronomy 11:29 “When HaShem your G-d brings you into the land you are entering in order to take possession of it, you are to put the blessing on Mount G’rizim and the curse on Mount ‘Eival.
Are these mountains literally cursed and blessed?
Deuteronomy 11:30 Both are west of the Yarden, in the direction of the sunset, in the land of the Kena‘ani living in the ‘Aravah, across from Gilgal, near the pistachio trees of Moreh.
Do the mountains look similar or radically different, one lush and green, the other barren and rocky?
Deuteronomy 11:31 For you are to cross the Yarden to enter and take possession of the land HaShem your G-d is giving you; you are to own it and live in it.
This is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Deuteronomy 11:32 And you are to take care to follow all the laws and rulings I am setting before you today.
This is the people’s part of the covenant.
Deuteronomy 12:1 Here are the laws and rulings you are to observe and obey in the land HaShem, the G-d of your ancestors, has given you to possess as long as you live on earth.
Is this a poetic way to say “forever?”
Deuteronomy 12:2 You must destroy all the places where the nations you are dispossessing served their gods, whether on high mountains, on hills, or under some leafy tree.
Is this to reduce the temptation to serve idols or is it to cleanse the land?
Deuteronomy 12:3 Break down their altars, smash their standing-stones to pieces, burn up their sacred poles completely and cut down the carved images of their gods. Exterminate their name from that place.
Leave no place for idols to be served. It isn’t enough to ignore them, they are to be unmade.
Deuteronomy 12:4 “But you are not to treat HaShem your G-d this way.
It isn’t enough to ignore HaShem, you have to actively engage Him.
Deuteronomy 12:5 Rather, you are to come to the place where HaShem your G-d will put his name. He will choose it from all your tribes; and you will seek out that place, which is where he will live, and go there.
You will seek it out and go there? That’s an odd way to phrase it, if there is ONE place called by His name, wouldn’t you just go there the one time and then return there as needed? It isn’t lost or moving, so why speak of “seeking” it?
Deuteronomy 12:6 You will bring there your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tenths [that you set aside for HaShem], the offerings that you give, the offerings you have vowed, your voluntary offerings, and the firstborn of your cattle and sheep.
I find it interesting that sin offerings are not mentioned here.
Deuteronomy 12:7 There you will eat in the presence of HaShem your G-d; and you will rejoice over everything you set out to do, you and your households, in which HaShem your G-d has blessed you.
I love that one of the commandments is to eat good food and celebrate in the presence of the Most High!
Deuteronomy 12:8 You will not do things the way we do them here today, where everyone does whatever in his own opinion seems right;
What does that mean? What were people doing? Was it wicked or just disorderly?
Deuteronomy 12:9 because you haven’t yet arrived at the rest and inheritance which HaShem your G-d is giving you.
The idea of process and continuing project is coming to my mind from this verse. I suppose that is an evidence of the grace and mercy of HaShem, that He is letting Israel become who He wants them to be as opposed to forcing them to be who He wants them to be.
Deuteronomy 12:10 But when you cross the Yarden and live in the land HaShem your G-d is having you inherit, and he gives you rest from all your surrounding enemies, so that you are living in safety;
This verse is an unfinished thought, but still I think the notion of HaShem “making Israel” inherit the Land is kind of lovely. They don’t know what is best for them and He is providing the ideal environment. It feels very paternalistic.
Aliyah 2: Deuteronomy 12:11-28
Deuteronomy 12:13 Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings just anywhere you see
There is a time and place for everything. Just as HaShem waits and does things in their proper season and place, so He asks Israel to do the same. Making an offering is good, but it needs to be done at the right place and time.
Aliyah 3: Deuteronomy 12:29-13:19
Deuteronomy 13:1 Everything I am commanding you, you are to take care to do. Do not add to it or subtract from it.
This is a fun one. Is this specifically about the commands of the Torah, the cannon of scripture or something else?
Aliyah 4: Deuteronomy 14:1-21
Deuteronomy 14:3 You are not to eat anything disgusting.
Who gets to decide what is disgusting? I guess, HaShem does.
Aliyah 5: Deuteronomy 14:22-29
Deuteronomy 14:22-23 22 “Every year you must take one tenth of everything your seed produces in the field, 23 and eat it in the presence of HaShem your G-d. In the place where he chooses to have his name live you will eat the tenth of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your cattle and sheep, so that you will learn to fear HaShem your G-d always.
Once again, I like that this commandment is to eat your produce including wine in the presence of the Almighty. How will people learn to fear HaShem from this? It’s cool, it’s a party!
Aliyah 6: Deuteronomy 15:1-18
Deuteronomy 15:2 Here is how the sh’mittah is to be done: every creditor is to give up what he has loaned to his fellow member of the community — he is not to force his neighbor or relative to repay it, because HaShem’s time of remission has been proclaimed.
What a caring and loving G-d. I wonder if this was meant to somewhat reduce the desire to borrow and lend?
Aliyah 7: Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17
Deuteronomy 15:20 Each year you and your household are to eat it in the presence of HaShem your G-d in the place which HaShem will choose.
What a blessing. How can people carelessly call Torah a burden?
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- How can you seek a place you know? [DEU 12:5]
- What is disgusting? [DEU 14:3]
- Can a celebration teach fear? [DEU 14:22-23]
That concludes my journey through Re’eh for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.