Parshat Reáh – It’s all about giving.

22 08 2014


Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch sees Sefer Devarim as a guide for life in Eretz Yisrael. Essentially Sefer Devarim is a collection of speeches or ‘Musar Shmoozes’ by Moshe Rabbenu to prepare Am Yisrael for their new lives in their own Land. The years of dependency and sole reliance on G-d were over – now they had to take responsibility.

They would need to take charge of their own lives. Once they crossed the Jordan, they would need to plow, plant and harvest. They would need to establish courts and a government. They would need to forge social and international relations and care for the poor and needy. They would need to have their own army and fight. The years of miracles were over, the challenge when entering Eretz Yisrael would be to be able and willing to be independent.

In order to become independent, you need to be part of a community – a meaningful collective, through which you can strive for common values, ideals and goals.

If we look at the mitzvot in this week’s Parsha which are connected to living in Eretz Yisrael, we find this is really their purpose.

As the Shmittah year is coming up, this is the whole idea of Shmittah. For 1 year out of 7, we need to remember that we are dependent on G-d. Once we are aware that G-d, not man is at the center of our community, then and only then are we ready to internalise the message of the mitzvot that are dependent on Eretz Yisrael some of which are mentioned in this week’s Parsha in chapters 14 and 15.

Whether we are talking about 1) Terumah/ Chalah – the portion given to the Kohen, 2) Maaser Rishon- the portion given to the Levi, 3) Terumat Maaser – the portion given by the Levi to the Kohen, 4) Maaser Oni – the portion we give to the poor, 5) Leket/ Shicha/Peah dealing with what farmers leave for the less fortunate, the purpose of these Mitzvot are to create a sense of community and togetherness. Furthermore Maaser Kesafim, giving part of your income to the poor also mentioned in Parshat Reáh, is all about caring for the less fortunate amongst us.

The mitzvah of Maaser Sheni is also designed to create a sense of community – in a specific location,in Yerushalayim.

How do you create this sense of community and togetherness? Through giving. The Mitzvot connected to Eretz Yisrael in this week’s Parsha some of which I listed above are all about GIVING. It is through GIVING to the less fortunate and those around us that we create a sense of community.

If there is one lesson more than any other that Judaism has taught the world, it is the concept of community and the pivotal role that community plays in the personal and emotional development of individuals.

Shabbat Shalom,

Benjy Singer.



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