First, the answer to the bonus question of two weeks ago:
BONUS QUESTION: In addition to verses 6:4-9, what verse in this week’s portion is part of the Torah service?
ANSWER: Deut. 4:4: And you, who held fast to the Lord your God, are all alive today. (V’atem hadveikim…).
“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.” [The above précis is from 2011, but it is both concise and thorough, so I thought I’d get some more mileage out of it.]
The concepts in Re’eh that stand out for me this year are free will and false prophets. Moses could simply have told the people, “Look, if you obey the Lord, you’ll be rewarded, and if you don’t, you’ll be punished. That’s it.” But it’s not that simple, and not simply because there are a whole lot of laws to obey. As we’ll see more explicitly in a few weeks, the people have free will to choose obedience or disobedience, life or death. They must choose. And the commands in this portion, especially those concerning ridding the land of idolatrous influences and not listening to false prophets, are there to facilitate their making the right choices. We’ll be reading about false prophets next week in Shoftim, but for now I’ll just ask you to think about modern false prophets and idolatry, in terms of one’s philosophy and values, and what that can lead to.
Before the lighter items, I want to show you an excerpt of an item I received in my email a few days ago from the World Jewish Congress:
The Sejm, the Polish Parliament, recently voted to make the kosher preparation of meat, the backbone of Jewish dietary laws, ILLEGAL. This means that Poland has become the first country in Europe since the end of World War II to ban shechita – kosher slaughter.
Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community before the outbreak of the war in 1939. The Holocaust all but wiped it out. In July 1946, Poles murdered Jews who had survived the Nazi death camps in a pogrom in the city of Kielce. Today only a few thousand Jews remain in Poland.
Please see more at
Sent out in 2001. Submitted By: Pyropunk
Elijah and The Altar
The Sunday school teacher was carefully explaining the story of Elijah the Prophet and the false prophets of Baal. She explained how Elijah built the altar, put wood upon it, cut the steer in pieces and laid it upon the altar. And then Elijah commanded the people of God to fill four barrels of water and pour it over the altar. He had them do this four times.
“Now, said the teacher, “can anyone in the class tell me why the Lord would have Elijah pour water over the steer on the altar?”
A little girl in the back of the room raised her hand with great enthusiasm. “To make the gravy,” came her enthusiastic reply.
The Sultan and the false prophet
A certain man claimed to be a prophet and was brought before the Sultan, who said to him, “I bear witness that you are a stupid prophet!”
The man replied, “That is why I have only been sent to people like you.”
(9th century joke)
July 17, 1990
Hog farmers Israel, fearing they may soon be put out of business by an Orthodox-inspired bill banning the raising of pigs anywhere in the Jewish state, have come up with a novel solution to their plight.
They are considering importing and breeding babirusas, an Indonesian species of wild hog related to the pig family that chews its cud a has cloven hoofs.
According to Indonesian farmers, the meat the little-known animal tastes exactly like unkosher pig. But as it meets the biblical requirements for kashrut, it does not’ come under the ban on raising pigs for pork products such bacon and ham.
In appearance, the babirusa is taller a longer-legged than the hog and has a longer face.
News of an alleged “kosher pig” appears have taken the religious establishment by surprise A local rabbi was quoted by Israel Radio saying that although he had never heard of actually seen the animal, he thought that from the shape of its mouth it could not chew the cud and therefore could not be kosher.
Israeli pig breeders, who could lose their livelihoods if the bill is passed, say they investigating the Indonesian animal further and want to make sure it passes rabbinical muster before deciding whether to import it.
[Has anything come of this in the last 23 years?]
Are you in charge of the choices you make, or are your brain cells?
|Credit: Fork in the road image via ShutterstockView full size image|
Are you really in control, or is your every decision predetermined? Who’s at the steering wheel: you, your genes, your upbringing, fate, karma, God?
A hot topic for several thousand years, the question of whether free will exists may never be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. But in a series of new articles for the Chronicles of Higher Education, six academics from diverse fields offer fresh perspectives from the standpoints of modern neuroscience and philosophy. Ultimately, they voted 4-2 in favor of the position that free will is merely an illusion.
The four scientists on the panel denied the existence of free will, arguing that human behavior is governed by the brain, which is itself controlled by each person’s genetic blueprint built upon by his or her life experiences. Meanwhile, the two philosophers cast the dissenting votes, arguing that free will is perfectly compatible with the discoveries of neuroscience.
A young couple came into the church office to fill out a pre-marriage questionnaire form. The young man, who had never talked to a pastor before, was quite nervous and the pastor tried to put him at ease.
When they came to the question, “Are you entering this marriage of your own free will?” there was a long pause.
Finally, the girl looked over at the apprehensive young man and said, “Put down yes.”
Did you hear about the Jewish family who kept such a kosher home that they had two smoke detectors in their kitchen?
Sadie was taking her seven year old daughter Sarah and her friend Rifka to Hebrew classes one Sunday morning and was embarrassed to hear this conversation between them.
Sarah said to Rifka, “Our family is kosher”
Rifka asked, “What’s kosher?”
Sarah replied, “That’s when you can’t have cheese with your ham sandwich!!”
Top Ten Signs Your Kosher Butcher May be Treif
by Doheny Kosher Deli and the bangitout staff Posted: 04-05-2013(Viewed 1335 times)
Notes: For signs 9, 8, and 6: “Glatt” means “smooth” Technically, this refers to the lungs of a kosher slaughtered animal being free of any adhesions. Also for 8 the additional terms listed pertain to milk, baked goods, kosher for Passover ingredients (“bli” means “without”), and items that are neither meat nor dairy. See, e.g., http://www.kof-k.org/glossary
10. “100% kosher beef” stamp suddenly changed to ”73.5% kosher beef”
9. Big sale sign outside reads: “Glatt Kosher Prosciutto”
8. Not only guarantees it’s Glatt Kosher, but assures you it is also* cholov yisroel, pas yisroel, bli kitniyot and pareve!
7. Swears he checks each individual cow for both fins and scales
6. He’s selling “Glatt” kosher cheeses
5. When asking to see the Kosher symbol, he points to the circle R
4. Quietly mumbles the word “style” to himself each time he says “kosher”
3. Thought Kosher was just Hebrew for “wrapping it in loads of tin foil”
2. Store named “Goldberg’s Finest Hallal Meats”
1. Thought the two sets of knives thing was for decorative purposes