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Parashat Re'eh

August 11, 2023
24 Av 5783
Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17


Dear Friends,


We are coming to the end of the month of Av. Next week at this time we will be welcoming the month of Elul --the month of preparation and introspection -- as we prepare to greet the new year.

Av is the month where we reflect upon how senseless hatred can lead to chaos and destruction. It seems as if we need to contemplate the worst that has occurred so that we can reflect on how we will be able to do better and be better, going forward.

This week’s Torah portion Re’ eh (See), Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, challenges us even as Moses’ discourse challenged the Israelites as he was getting ready to leave them and they were preparing to enter the land. Who are we and who do we want to be? Just as the people on their journey are told that the choice is theirs, whether blessing or curse, so is the choice for all of us.

This past week, we said good-bye to someone dear to the Tehillah community, Marvin Yaker. It seems fitting that this is the Torah portion that we are reading this week. Re’eh means “see” and Marvin saw the people who crossed his path. He did so with the fullness of his being. He was present for everyone in his life.

At this juncture, Moses is asking the people to remember to do the same. Of course they are not perfect -- none of us is -- but he is asking them to remember the journey and all that they have experienced and not to be led astray. Blessings and curses lie ahead, and the people are asked to choose life over and over again in this last book of the Torah. What does it mean to choose life? Some might say it means following the mitzvot to the letter, but it is really even more elemental, to be present for one another. When we do that, we invoke the presence of the Divine. The first step is to be present for one another to truly see one another.

One of the most powerful elements of the book of Deuteronomy is the frequency that we find certain words, in particular, love and joy. The word love barely registers in the other four books of the Torah, but is found 23 times in the last book of the Torah. Joy appears once in each of the other books and 12 times in Deuteronomy. In spite of all of the difficulties that the people are about to encounter, these two qualities have the capacity for keeping the people afloat. So it is for us; finding joy and love, even when times appear darkest, allow us to come together and go forward.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Tue, October 3 2023 18 Tishrei 5784