Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17)

Life in Wilmington, DE is usually pretty uneventful.  Then, a week ago Tuesday, we had a real tornado scare.  A week after that came the earthquake.  Now, Hurricane Irene is barrelling up the east coast.  The last time there was a storm named Irene was 1999, and I was sure it was going to wreck my son’s Bar Mitzvah, which would have been the ultimate in irony (it didn’t).  Yes, I’ve heard a variety of jocular comments this week concerning my meteorological doppelganger.  One of my clever colleagues put together a “news item” about the storm (which I now refer to as “Hurricane Me”), included below for your amusement.

At this point, you are probably expecting me to link the above phenomena to this week’s Torah portion.  Not this time.  Sorry.
The portion begins, “Look, I place before you today a blessing and a  curse,” the blessing for obeying the laws and the curse for not obeying.  “Look” is in the singular, while the rest of the verse is plural, highlighting the link between individual intent and community action.  The actual, antiphonally recited blessings and curses come later, in Chapter 27.  Now we really get into the legal details of Deuteronomy.  The Israelites are told to cleanse the Promised Land of all traces of idolatrous practice and not to be seduced into idolatry by false prophets, even if those false prophets are their own family members.  They are also told what animal-based foods are permitted (a list of kosher animals, no blood, and don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk, which gave rise to the whole dairy/meat separation thing).  They are allowed to eat meat, but with restrictions.  This is introduced now because living in Canaan will give them their first opportunity to eat meat that is not from a sacred sacrifice.  The Israelites are also told laws of the sabbatical year and remission of debts (see also Leviticus 25:1-7) and that they are to free their Hebrew slaves in the seventh year of service with a nice severance package, or, if one doesn’t want to leave, to nail the slave’s ear to the door.  Finally, they are told how to celebrate the harvest festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.  That section, which we also read on those holidays, soft-pedals the sacrifices and focuses more on celebration than the prescriptions in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28, the other holiday readings.

What struck me this year was the phrase bamakom asher yiv’char, “in the place (the Lord) will choose,” which occurs with minor grammatical variation 16 times in this portion.  The term is used with reference to the various offerings the people are to bring.  The chosen place is the one in which the Lord’s “presence” is established, first the Tabernacle and, eventually, the Temple in Jerusalem.  For example (14:22-26), the people are to bring their tithes to the chosen place; if it’s too far or the tithe is so large that it’s difficult to transport, they are to convert the offering to money, go to the chosen place, buy goodies with the money, and feast there.   This chosen place is a focal point, where individuals bring individual offerings and become a community.  Note that, while the Tabernacle and the like are beautifully built and furnished, the emphasis is that this is a chosen place, not a chosen building.  Its importance is spiritual.  There’s a movie called “The Bishop’s Wife”  (1947) in which a well-meaning bishop (David Niven) focuses his energies on building a cathedral, neglecting his wife (Loretta Young).  An angel (Cary Grant) helps him re-set his priorities and learn that the needs of his family and community outweigh any cathedral.  Good movie.  And something to think about when we get caught up in our own “edifice complexes.”  

Shabbat shalom,



$0 Debt (edited a bit for length)

In March 1992 a man in Newton Massachusetts received a bill for his as yet unused credit card stating that he owed $0.00. He ignored it and threw it away. In April he received another and threw that one away too. The following month he got a very nasty note stating they were going to cancel his card if he didn’t send them $0.00.

He called them, they said it was a computer error and they’d take care of it. The following month he decided to try out the card figuring that a purchase on the account would put an end to his ridiculous predicament. However, in the first store, he found that his card had been canceled. He called the credit card company who apologized for the computer error once again and said that they would take care of it.

The next day he got a bill for $0.00 stating that payment was now overdue. Assuming that the latest bill was yet another mistake he ignored it, trusting that the company would sort the problem out. The next month he got a bill for $0.00 stating that he had 10 days to pay his account or the company would have to take steps to recover the debt. Finally, he mailed them a check for $0.00 and received a statement that he now owed nothing.

A week later, the man’s bank called him asking him what he was doing writing a check for $0.00. The $0.00 check had caused their check processing software to fail and the bank could not process ANY checks from ANY of their customers that day. The following month the man received a letter from the credit card company claiming that his check had bounced and that he now owed them $0.00 and unless he sent a check they would be taking steps to recover the debt. The man, who had been considering buying his wife a computer for her birthday, bought her a typewriter instead.


Online Synagogue

Shalom and welcome! Sim Shalom is an interactive Online Jewish Universalist Synagogue- liberal in thought and progressive in liturgy. We are an unaffiliated Jewish community, evolving and organically growing. We offer weekly online synagogue services. Here are a few other things you should know about us…

1) We welcome and nurture everyone in every way.

2) Our liturgy is fully participatory- you see everything on your computer screen! And our siddurim and prayers are transliterated into English so everyone can join in joyous song and prayer.  

3) We have no dues or building fund.

4) Rabbi & Cantor Blane provides all life cycle ceremonies and Bar-Bat Mitzvah training.

During Services, we see and hear each other,
and the Siddur (prayerbook)
is on your computer screen!!!
You don’t have to dress up-
just come as you are!


Going to Temple

One Saturday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for temple, to which he replied, “I’m not going.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me, and two, I don’t like them.”

His mother replied, “I’ll give YOU two good reasons why you SHOULD go to temple. One, you’re 54 years old, And two, you’re the Rabbi.”

(a vegan-run site)

Jokes by and for Vegetarians and Vegans

What do you call a militant vegan?
Lactose intolerant.

What’s the best way to keep milk fresh?
Leave it in the cow.

Meat-eater: Did you hear about the new study saying vegans are more likely to go blind? I guess it’s because you don’t get the proper nutrition.
Vegan: Nah, it’s just from reading all of those tiny ingredients lists.

I’m not vegetarian because I love animals, I’m vegetarian because I don’t like vegetables.

What did one vegetarian spy say to the other vegetarian spy?
We have to stop meating like this.

What does a vegan zombie eat?

Seen on a message board:  I follow a strict vegan diet. I eat only vegans.

Headline: Restaurants Beef Up Vegetarian Menus (Wall Street Journal 91.10.15, p.B1)

Seen on a t-shirt:  How many vegetables had to die for your stupid salad??


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