This week’s and the next two weeks’ Torah portions contain the bulk of the laws in Deuteronomy. The overall theme in Re’eh is summarized in the first few verses, 11:26-28:
26 See, this day I set before you a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn away…
Rashi thinks this actually refers to the blessings and curses to be recited later on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (see Chapter 27). Nachmanides believes it’s a more general formula for reward and punishment, which makes more sense to me.
Though not explicit in all translations, in the Hebrew we clearly have “a blessing” in 11:26 followed by “the blessing” in 11:27 and “a curse” (11:26) followed by “the curse” in 11:28. After being immersed for 11+ years in patent law, I involuntarily immediately recognized that one cannot say “the” blessing or curse unless one has already referred to “a” blessing or curse. [See what I had to deal with?] What shows up in the Hebrew but not English is that the command “See” is singular while all other words addressing the Israelites are 2nd person plural: before you, you obey, upon you, you do not obey, (you) turn away. Why the switch from singular to plural? According to R. Moshe Alshich (16th c.), this was to emphasize that, while the blessing and curse are being giving to the whole assembly, they are meant for each individual, in the same manner that the Ten Commandments were given. Also in the 16th century, R. Shlomo Ephraim of Luntshits in his Torah commentary Kli Yakar posits that having just “See” in the singular is to emphasize that each individual’s actions will affect the fate of the whole nation. (Commentary source: A Daily Taste of Torah, Kleinmann Edition, Rabbi Y. A. Weiss ed., vol. 12, pp. 66-67)
As for the rest of the portion (précis written in 2011): “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.”
This Shabbat and Sunday we also celebrate Rosh Chodesh Elul, the new month of Elul (Shabbat is 30 Av, Sunday is 1 Elul) during which the shofar will be blow daily except Shabbat, in anticipation of the High Holidays (yes, only a month away). For Rosh Chodesh, we read Numbers 28:9-15 (sacrifices, of course) from a second scroll. There is also a bit of head scratching concerning the haftarah. Normally, we would just read the assigned haftarah for Re’eh, 3rd haftarah of consolation, Isaiah 54:11 – 55:5 (let’s call that haftarah A). But it’s also Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, which has its own haftarah, Isaiah 66:1-24 (B) and Rosh Chodesh continues the next day, for which occasion there is still another special haftarah, I Samuel 20:18-42 (C). One option is to read A plus the first and last verses of B and C. Another, more common but less interesting IMO, is to read just B and skip A and C entirely. I’m never fond of unnecessarily skipping things entirely, but these are both valid options.
The special meaning Rosh Chodesh Elul (1 Elul, that is) has for me is that it’s our Hebrew calendar wedding anniversary. The secular one is August 14. So, a Happy 38th Anniversary to my dear husband Rich, my love and bashert (destined one).
$0 Debt (edited a bit for length) [From 2011]
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.
“Be careful if you are eating hummus,
it is the strongest aphrodisiac known to mankind.
Ever heard of hummusexuals?”
What did the lettuce say to the celery?
– Are you stalking me?
What did one vegetarian spy say to the other vegetarian spy?
– We have to stop meating like this.
Moshe goes to see his Rabbi. “Rabbi, last week I missed saying grace after meals.”
“Why,” asked the Rabbi.
“Because I forgot to wash my hands before the meal.”
“That’s twice you’ve broken the law but you still haven’t told me why.”
“The food wasn’t kosher.”
“You ate non-kosher food?” asked the Rabbi.
“It wasn’t a Jewish restaurant.”
“That makes it even worse,” said the now angry Rabbi. “Couldn’t you have eaten in a kosher one?”
“What, on Yom Kippur?”
Not a Borat joke: Kazakhstan’s first kosher restaurant
JTA Thursday, March 20, 2008
Kazakhstan now has a kosher restaurant.
“Kosher” opened its doors in Almaty this week, offering a range of meat dishes to a Jewish community of 30,000 that is experiencing a revival in the Central Asian country.
Previously, observant Kazakh Jews had to find their food at outlets such as the Chabad House or the Israeli embassy.
Kazakhstan became the butt of international jokes when British-Jewish comedian Sasha Baron Cohen created Borat, an anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist. But the predominantly Muslim country has long professed its tolerance for religious minorities.
Quotes about Holidays
I’m very spiritual and I’m Jewish by faith. I’m not a practising Jew, I’m more of a recreational Jew. I celebrate the holidays and I try to inform my kids about their heritage because I think we all at some point have to defend our heritage and if they get picked on I want them to know why.