Monthly Services

In August our Shabbat Service will be held at the UUCOB
building at the corner of Kitty Hawk and Herbert Perry Roads


Please join us!

Upcoming Service:
Friday, August 18, 2017
Time: 7:30 PM

Parsha Re-eh

Deuteronomy, Chapter 11 v.26 – 16 v.17

            We are currently about one-third of the way through Deuteronomy, the last of the 5 books of Moses.  As I have mentioned previously, most biblical scholars feel that the first 4 books of the Torah were written by at least 2 different people but compiled as the first 4 books.  However, Deuteronomy and many of the later books (Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, etc.) were written by another person during the times of King Josiah and that Deuteronomy was included as the 5th book because it covered the life and times of Moses.  Hence the structure of Deuteronomy was different from the first 4 books. Deuteronomy consists of Moses’ Three Discourses to the Children of Israel and his last days. The first 3 parshot in Deuteronomy covered the First Discourse, which reviewed the journey from Sinai to the River Jordan.
            We now begin the Second Discourse, which is a review of the Code of Laws for the Children of Israel.  There are 5 sections
of the code:

  1. Religious institutions and worship
  2. Government of the people
  3. Criminal law
  4. Domestic life
  5. First-fruits, tithes and special prayers

Parsha Re’eh deals entirely with the first section, i.e., religious institutions and worship.  It divides itself into five areas:

  1. The Central Sanctuary
  2. Uniqueness of Hebrew Worship
  3. Prohibition of Heathen Worship and False Prophets
  4. Laws of Holiness
  5. A repeat of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot)

 Concerning the Central Sanctuary, the concept was intended to keep the 12 tribes united.  It wasn’t until the after the Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD that Jews were allowed to have private altars for sacrifices to God.  That is also the reason why we now have synagogues, as there no longer is a central location of Jewish ritual authority.
        The Israelites were unique in their worship of one God and the absence of idols.  They also were forbidden to partake in human sacrifices, as was first demonstrated during the Akedah, the binding of Isaac.  The fact that their tribal neighbors were so different made it especially important for the Israelites to adhere to the Code of Laws.
        The prohibition of heathen worship and the wariness to false prophets is because both would lead the people away from God by diluting his authority and his laws.  Idols and false gods were prohibited.  Also, mixing with foreign tribes could easily result in such a dilution of a single, all-powerful God; hence God’s concern that the Children of Israel might assimilate with the tribes who currently resided in the Promised Land.
        The Laws of Holiness go hand-in-hand with the worship of such a God.  In this section we are given a quick summary of the laws of Kashrut, i.e., what type of food, be it animal, bird or fish, is kosher and what type is not. It also reminds us that we cannot eat meat and milk products at the same time (“thou shalt not cook a kid in his mother’s milk).  These rules are followed by Orthodox Jews and others who eat only Kosher foods.  While most Jews do not keep kosher, it is important to understand and respect Jew traditions.  Other items discussed in these verses are tithes and the release of slaves and debts every 7 years.  The mitzvah of charity is mentioned.
        Chapter 16 reviews the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  Since the festivals have already been mentioned earlier in the first 4 books, the focus in Deuteronomy is the emphasis on the Central Sanctuary.  The idea was that all the Israelites were to meet in Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the phases of the agricultural season.
        While these readings in Deuteronomy are rather bland, we ought to consider things in the context of the Israelites encamped by the River Jordan, waiting to cross into the Promised Land.  They must be aware that Moses will not be leading them there.  Since the wanderings in the Sinai have taken 40 years and consumed a generation, many of those listening have never heard Moses speak about the significance of the Exodus from Egypt and what it means to be a Hebrew.  I suspect a large number of them were hanging on his every word.  It must have been quite a monumental gathering.
        A constant theme of the Torah is having faith in God, and the Second Discourse presents having faith as a Choice – choose to follow God and reap the benefits, or choose not to follow God and expect the consequences to be bad.

The Haftorah is called the Third Haftorah of Consolation and does not directly connect itself to the Torah.  These 3 Haftorahs are read during the Hebrew month of Av which precedes the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Hence they are a time of solemn introspection where the Jewish person is supposed to examine him or herself over the past year and determine how he or she can make better choices in the upcoming year.  The month of Av also contains the holiday of Tishe B’Av, the 9th day of Av, which this year was July 31st. Tishe B’Av commemorates the day the Temples were destroyed in 586 BCE and 70 AD, and also possibly the day the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.
        The Haftorah portion comes from the Book of Isaiah, and my Chumash points out that Isaiah says that the Children of Israel must be taught of the Lord and that they are the builders of their future.  How appropriate that is for this weekend as Alexander will have been taught many lessons of being a Jew by his parents and community, he will have an opportunity on Saturday to tells us something about what he has learned, and Jewish custom recognizes that he will attain a place in which he can help build a future for his people.  This is truly an exciting time.