Parsha Re’eh stresses the importance of never turning away from Hashem and turning towards a god or who has never lived. We are also reminded which animals are kosher. Laws regarding farming and having servants are covered and we are once again told to observe Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot. We Jews are assured if we continue to do these things and if our children continue to do these things then only blessings will be reaped. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
While Re’eh may seem repetitive it is important to note the ancient Hebrews turned away from Hashem at the foot of Sinai, and when your food source is daily manna and quail its really easy to keep a palate kosher. Same with holidays when everyone around you is celebrating the same thing the same way it is easy not to slip up in observance, but the times well the times they are changing and the ancient Hebrews are poised to cross the Jordon and settle in the Promised Land. Sometimes having a sense of security can make one lackadaisical and easily lured into other traditions.
As I write this I am packing for a long overdue trip back to the East Coast. While there I’ll bounce back and forth between my parents house and my friend Justin’s place. This is why Re’eh is important while Justin and yours truly share the same vegetarian diet he starts his day chanting the Hare Khrishna Maha Mantra. I’m fine with that but just because I’m a guest in his home does not mean I will stop being Jewish and join him in chanting. On the other hand there will not be any honoring of Hindu Deities at my folks house but there will be steaks. I’m fine with that as well but don’t expect me to put my vegetarian ethics on the shelf for a week.
Maybe those are bad examples but for this week this is what Re’eh means to me. Just as the ancient Hebrews were expected to be Jewish after settling down we are expected to be Jewish regardless of where we are at physically in the world.
Jeremiah@punktorah.org Twitter: @circlepitbimah