Blog Re’eh Av 30 5779 בלוג רְאֵה, ל’ אב, תשע”ט

In this portion, Re’eh, Moshe repeats the warning that we are not to add or take anything away from God’s Word; yet most religious groups do exactly that, insisting that they are right while the rest are wrong. I believe that we are the ones who receive His Words, but we do not have the right to interpret them in any way we want. We need to seek out the essence of the principles of the Torah. What did Moshe place into the ark of the Covenant? Was it the entire Torah? No, it was the tablets of the Ten Sayings or Ten Commandments, the basic constitution of Israel. We humans like to complicate things using complex language, as most professions do, to control their particular area of expertise. The Creator, however, used simple language, meant to reach everyone and Israel was chosen to be the conduit for everyone to be able to follow the Word of the Creator. Sadly, the people who were chosen to be the example began to lose or change His message, exchanging it for their own. Who do we follow now, men or the Creator? It is easy to fall in the trap of closing our eyes and accepting the teachings of whatever particular group we are in, simply because we want to be accepted, so we play the game. It is more important to be accepted by the Creator than to be popular. Today, most of us are more worried about what others say about us than about who we truly are, to the point that our values of decency are being eroded.

Re’eh begins in Deut. 11: 26 with “See, I am setting before you this day a blessing and a curse:” … Please don’t look at these words as if Moshe Rabeinu is speaking to Israel ONLY– he is speaking directly to you and me NOW. If we follow the Words of the Torah, we will be blessed and if we do not, we will receive curses. This doesn’t mean that God punishes us; we harvest the consequences of our behavior. Think about what your blessings are in your life? It’s not about how much money you have. Every morning you can open your eyes and be grateful for a new day to enjoy life. Perhaps you are not wealthy and are struggling financially yet you have a good family with children who are healthy and doing well. Do you stop and thank the Bore Olam for His blessings or do you compare yourself with others? This causes resentment and envy. Moshe warns us in this portion that this resentment can cause us to distance ourselves from the Creator. We might then choose to be enticed by people who promise “luck” or “mazal” if we follow their formula. You just do this and that, you will be healed, or you will be rich! Let me tell you…Mazal is up to the Creator.

In this portion, Moshe reminds us of the Ten Commandments. The first three are the Mitzvot beginning with the Creator having brought us out of Egypt by His mighty power, not because we deserved it, but because it was His choice. Second, we must not exchange Him for any images of our own making and third, we must be careful how we use His Name. It doesn’t mean we can’t pronounce the Hebrew letters Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh, יהוה rather we need to be careful not to misuse His Name, not to blame the Creator for whatever happens to us.

In Deut 12:1-3, Moshe tells us to observe the Chukkim, Statutes (Commandments 4-5) and the Mishpatim, Judgments (Commandments 6-10); that we need to destroy all the idols in our lives! Again, let us personalize this idea … our bodies are the territory that needs to be cleansed of all idolatry. We are the hinges between the Creator and our neighbor. What do you have within, that you have learned from your past, that doesn’t come from the Creator? He is telling us that because He dwells within, we need to cleanse our territory, to destroy all the idols that we have made in our lives, every obstacle that stands in the way of a direct relationship with Him! Most of us don’t recognize the idols within us…fears, phobias, addictions, superstitions and worst of all PRIDE. What are your idols? Some parents have made their children their idols or vice versa. What fears hold you back from having a fulfilled life? Your health, your partner, your culture? Do you have a Messiah complex thinking that you will save the world? All these block the way of having a relationship with the Creator. Idolatry is insidious; little by little, it creeps into us. Who is the center of your existence?

Deut. 13:1 reiterates that we are “not to add or take away anything from His Word”. This passage is very crucial and refers to idolatry, which is a sudden and subtle acceptance of false gods. Throughout our lives, we have believed what people in authority have told us, rather than examining the Torah. Sadly, most religious leaders place more importance upon their traditions than the Word of the Bore Olam. Rabbi Yeshua was chastised by them because he wanted our people to return to the written Torah. Verses 3-4 warn us about prophets or visionaries who do marvelous things, miracles that excite us but can lead us to false gods. We are not to believe them. He allows these people to do their work because He is “testing” us to see if we are truly faithful to Him.

Today we make idols out of things of no value and dedicate ourselves to them, instead of to the Creator. He warns us that even if someone in our family tries to take us away from the true God, we are not to listen. Those of us, who have put our trust in the Creator, are under attack on every front. The world calls us narrow-minded, even mentally ill because we don’t accept their indecent ways. We no longer have the right to think differently or to be honest. Hypocrisy has become a virtue and that is idolatry.

As we approach the month of Elul before the High Holidays, let us ask the Creator to search our souls (Psalm 139:23-24) and reveal to us the idols within that are blinding us. Then we can do teshuva and be free to restore our relationship with the Bore Olam and with each other. This is what delivers us from the curses and allows us to receive the blessings.