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Parshas Re'eh - Vol. 8,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
The Gemora (Chullin 16b) quotes the opinion of Rav Yishmael, who maintains that after the Mishkan was built, the only meat that the Jewish people were permitted to eat for the duration of their sojourn in the wilderness was that of the sacrificial offerings, as slaughtering an animal other than for the purposes of offering it upon the Altar was punishable by spiritual excision (Vayikra 17:3-4). However, in Parshas Re'eh Moshe informed them that after Hashem broadened their borders by bringing them into the promised land of Israel, if they found themselves yearning to eat meat but living far away from the Beis HaMikdash, they would be permitted to ritually slaughter their cattle and sheep in order to eat their meat. Curiously, Moshe added that they should only eat the meat in the manner in which they eat the deer and the hart. It is difficult to understand the purpose of Moshe's comparison. What message was he attempting to convey in adjuring the Jewish people to eat their beef and lamb in the same way that they eat venison?
The following story will help us understand Moshe's intentions. Several years ago, a number of students in a yeshiva in Israel for post-high school American boys had a tremendous craving for food from Dougie's, a well-known restaurant in New York. Unable to wait until they returned home at the end of the year, they hatched a creative plan to satiate their longings for spicy wings, ribs, and burgers.
They realized that they didn't all need to get to the restaurant in order to savor the succulent meat. Instead, one of them could take everybody's orders and fly to New York to pick up the food and bring it back to the rest of the boys in Israel. If they split the cost of the plane ticket amongst the entire group, the cost would be quite reasonable. In order to make it clear that the sole purpose of the trip was to procure the food, they stipulated that whoever made the journey was forbidden to go home to visit his family or to make any other stops. Not surprisingly, the administration of the yeshiva was quite upset when they learned what had happened, both because of the safety concerns involved and because of the unbridled passion for meat which begat the entire incident.
In light of this episode, we can appreciate the Kli Yakar's answer to our question. He notes that this passage begins (12:20) by emphasizing that it applies after Hashem expands their borders and they say, "I will eat meat." This teaches us that a person is only drawn after material pleasures such as meat when he is prosperous and successful, which creates a mindset that enables him to explicitly express his desire to eat meat without feeling embarrassed by his fixation on ephemeral physical pleasure. The next verse (12:21) stresses that the underlying reason for this spiritual decline is the fact that the person no longer lives in close proximity to Hashem's chosen dwelling place, and the physical distance from the Shechinah results in a corresponding spiritual distance from Hashem, as manifested by the desire to eat meat solely for personal enjoyment.
Under these new circumstances, Moshe informed the people that they would indeed be permitted to eat meat as long as they slaughtered their animals in accordance with Jewish law. Even so, he cautioned them that this indulgence should not become the focus of their lives, and they should do so only intermittently. He expressed this metaphorically by telling them that they should only the meat of their cows and sheep in the manner that they eat the deer and the hart. The Kli Yakar explains that because domesticated animals such as cows and sheep are readily available, one could easily fall into the trap of eating them regularly. Wild animals, on the other hand, are much more difficult to consume, as hunting and capturing them is not always successful, and even when it is, it requires a substantial amount of time and energy and is fraught with great risk and danger. Therefore, the Torah advises us that even now that we are permitted to eat non-sacrificial meat, we should not abuse this allowance as the yeshiva students in Israel did, but rather we should view it in the proper perspective by preserving it for appropriate occasions and maintaining spirituality as the primary focus of our lives.
Ki y'sis'cha … leimor neil'cha v'naavda elohim acheirim … lo so'veh lo v'lo sish'ma eilav v'lo ta'chos ein'cha alav v'lo sach'mol v'lo t'chaseh alav … ki harog tahar'genu … u'skalto ba'avanim va'meis ki bikeish l'hadich'cha me'al Hashem Elokecha (13:7-11)
The Torah is stricter regarding the treatment of the inciter than it is with the transgression of any other sin. The Torah specifically instructs us not to have any mercy on him and not to attempt to prove his innocence, concepts which aren't found by other suspected sinners.
The Alter of Kelm points out that this stringency is even greater when one considers that in reality, the inciter didn't actually accomplish anything. Although he attempted to convince another Jew to worship idolatry, he was unsuccessful. The other person turned him in and refused to listen to him. Even so, the desire to intentionally sway another person from the Torah's path is so severe that it receives this stringent penalty.
Rashi writes (Shemos 20:5) that Hashem's reward for those who listen to His commandments is 500 times greater than the punishment meted out to sinners. Many times, a person who is engaged in kiruv rechokim - attempting to educate our not-yet-religious brethren - invests valuable time and energy trying to reach out to another person, only to find that his efforts are completely unsuccessful.
As frustrating as this experience must surely be, the Alter of Kelm offers inspiring words of comfort and consolation based on the aforementioned principles. If Hashem reserves His most severe and stringent punishments for one who merely tries to persuade another Jew to leave the Torah path, how much more must be the immense reward lying in store for a person who tries, even unsuccessfully, his utmost to draw our wayward brethren back to their Creator.
The Torah exhorts us to be compassionate toward the poor, commanding us not to close our hand to the destitute, but rather to open it. This statement seems redundant. If it is forbidden to close our hand to the poor, doesn't it go without saying that we are required to open it? What is the Torah trying to teach us by emphasizing this point?
The Vilna Gaon explains that although a person is obligated to give tzeddakah, he is not supposed to disperse it equally to each poor person. There are laws governing to whom one must give precedence when distributing charity, such as family members or people in his community, and the needs of each pauper must be assessed when determining how much to give them.
The Torah alludes to the requirement to take these considerations into account when giving tzedakah. When a person closes his hand and looks at his fingers, they all appear equal in length. Opening one's hand reveals that this is not the case, as each finger is a different size.
The Torah already commanded us to be merciful to our needy brethren. Our verse takes for granted that we will help meet their needs and is not coming to repeat this point, as it seems at first glance. Rather, it comes to teach that the manner in which we do so should not be one in which we indiscriminately give equal amounts to each beggar, as symbolized by a closed hand. Instead, we should open our hands and realize that each poor person's needs as well as our obligation to him aren't the same, and we should disperse our charity accordingly.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Torah prescribes a harsh punishment in the case of one's maternal brother who attempts to entice him to worship idolatry (13:7-11). Why does the verse specifically refer to a maternal brother more than to a paternal brother? (Daas Z'keinim, Paneiach Raza)
2) The Torah prohibits (14:1) various forms of mourning the death of loved ones. Under what circumstances would there be a requirement to sit shiva to mourn the death of a person who was not a Torah scholar or national leader, and to whom one was not related? (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 376:3)
3) One of the species of non-kosher birds is the "chasidah" (14:18). Rashi (Vayikra 11:19) explains that its name is derived from the fact that it displays kindness ("chesed") by sharing its food with others. If it is so merciful and compassionate, why does the Torah forbid its consumption? (Chiddushei HaRim, Taam V'Daas, Even Meira, and Matamei Yaakov Parshas Shemini)
4) The Torah requires (15:7-11) a person to be compassionate and merciful toward his poor brethren and to generously open his hand to dispense charity to assist them. Rashi writes (15:8) that whatever a person had prior to becoming poor, we are required to supply him with. If a wealthy man used to give large donations to the synagogue and was honored with the sixth aliyah during the reading of the Torah but lost his money and is no longer able to continue his pledges, is the synagogue obligated to continue honoring him as if he could? (Lulei Soras'cha, Derech Sicha)
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