Parashat Re’eh 2023
This week’s Parasha is Parashat Re’eh. We are diving into the topic of what we see and how we interpret what we see. Let’s begin…
Parasha In A Nutshell
- The choice of living a life of Blessing or curse
- The holiness of the Land of Israel
- Eating meat
- Laws relating to the False prophets
- Kosher laws
- Laws of tithes
- The Pilgrim festivals
Parashat Re’eh opens with a declaration (Deut 11:26)
רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה׃
See, this day I set before you blessing and curse:
Parashat Re’eh – All In The Attitude
The Torah is teaching us an important principle. Today can be a blessing or a curse. The day itself is neutral it is how we approach it that will determine whether it becomes a blessing or a curse. Our attitude is the key to unlocking the day. The day itself is placed before us and it is how we respond to the events that will define whether the day will be a blessing or a curse. The Torah is teaching us that it is our perspective that is important.
We do know of course that our eyes can trick us. There are times when we can look at a situation and see things completely differently. This is done in the fun way of optical illusions where we are challenged to see different images or colours. This may seem ridiculous until one is confronted with the illusion. It is indeed possible for two people to look at the same picture and see completely different things. For example, what is the color of this dress?
As we saw in Parashat Shelach, some will see it as gold and white and others black and blue. I can only see gold and white and yet the dress is in real life black and blue! How is that possible? I leave it to the scientists to explain. But I did learn from this that maybe I am the one missing something.
This theme of seeing is later mentioned in the Torah regarding the Kosher birds. For a bird to be kosher there are a number of signs it must have, it cannot be carnivorous for example. There are a number of birds that the Torah mentions that are not Kosher, however, we are not sure as to their name. It thus falls to the mesorah, Jewish tradition, as to whether we are permitted to eat them or not.
One of the birds that are not kosher is the RAAH. The Talmud in Chullin 63b asks: And why is it called the ra’a? Since it sees [ro’ah] most vividly. And so the verse states: “That path no bird of prey knows, neither has the eye of the ayya seen it” (Job 28:7). And it was taught: The ra’a can stand in Babylonia and see a carcass in Eretz Yisrael.
Why is this bird not kosher?
I once saw an answer to our question. This bird was gifted with incredible sight. It could have looked at Jerusalem and seen the Holy Temple. It could have focussed on so many beautiful scenes in the Land of Israel, but all it could see was a corpse. This made it non-kosher.
The gift of sight is so precious and yet this bird abused it. It is therefore not kosher.
What Is The Torah Teaching Us Then For Today?
The Torah is teaching us that there are certain character traits that we are not to imitate or emulate. By forbidding us to eat the RAAH bird the Torah is teaching us that we need to be very careful as to what we look at and how we interpret what we see.
Today’s Spiritual Challenge Is?
The greatest spiritual challenge that we face today is with our eyes and what they are being exposed to, be it on tv, the computer or the smartphone. We need to be careful about what we are watching and even more so what are our children watching. For the eyes are the gateway to our souls. How can we keep ourselves pure if our eyes are being corrupted?
The Torah is a guidebook to a spiritually healthy life. The fact that the Torah bans the bird that has excellent vision, leads us to reflect upon what we see, and how we interpret what we are seeing.
This week’s parasha, Parashat Re’eh opened with this statement, Hashem placed this day before us… we determine whether it will be a blessed one or not. We can choose to see a corpse or a Temple. The power of sight is gifted to us. Use it wisely.
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