Re'eh – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Next week we enter the month of Ellul in the run up to the High Holidays. The Shofar is sounded in the morning service and we recite Psalm 27 during Shacharit. We actually have an additional “New Year” ahead; one which is rarely quoted. It is Rosh Hashana LaBehemot (New Year for Tithing Animals). During the time of the Temple, this was a day on which shepherds determined which of their mature animals were to be tithed.

It is in this Parasha, Re’eh, that we are instructed to establish a Temple

וְהָיָ֣ה הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֥ם בּוֹ֙ לְשַׁכֵּ֤ן שְׁמוֹ֙
And it will be, that the place the Lord, your God, will choose in which to establish His Name

We are reminded of the blessings and curses that may lie ahead and dietary provisions are set out in great detail. It can sometimes cause argument and discussion. When turkey was introduced around 1500 CE it was not on the list of acceptable birds. (Rashi had decreed that only birds for which there was a masoret (an unbroken, reliable tradition) could be considered kosher, and any new birds subsequently discovered would be considered off limits). As often happens, common sense prevails.

The principles of Charity, the establishment of the Sabbatical year and freeing of indentured slaves are set out. The Sedra ends with the laws of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, the three pilgrim festivals when we are required to go up to offer sacrifices.

The word “Re’eh” at the beginning of the Sedra was interpreted by Ibn Ezra as an instruction to “see”. It is addressed to each of us as individuals. At the end of the Sedra we read the word “Yira’eh” (you are to be seen). It refers to the pilgrim festivals.

The past months can be seen a “curse” but can also offer a blessing. We have reopened Shul services and being together, however organised, allows us to see one another. How the Yamin Noraim will be conducted is still under consideration but it will be a case of Yira’ eh, we will all be seen.

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