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1. 'See! Today I am putting before you a blessing and a curse (11:8). What is this 'blessing' and 'curse', according to (a) Rashi and (b) the Ramban?
2. After the Israelites are instructed to destroy objects of Canaanite idolatry, Moses tells them 'not to do likewise to… G-d' (12:4). What is the meaning of that seemingly obvious prohibition according to the two explanations given by Rashi?
3. Why is the prohibition of eating blood preceded with words 'Be strong' (12:23), according to Rashi?
4. What is the connection between the prohibition of following practices of pagan nations (12:29-31), and the one that immediately follows it - against adding to the laws of the Torah (13:1) - according to the S'forno?
5. How may a settlement qualify as an 'ir hanidachat' - 'doomed city'?
6. Why, according to the S'forno, are the Israelites called 'G-d's children' specifically where they are prohibited from self-mutilation in mourning for a dead person? (14:1)
7. In which two ways does the Midrash Tanhuma explain the words 'aser ta'aser' - 'you must surely tithe'? (14:22)
8. From where do the Rabbis learn that 'charity starts at home'?
9. From where may it be learnt that having an Israelite slave may indeed be compared to having an Israelite master?
10. Why, according to Hirsch, is the last day of Passover called 'atzeret' - an 'assembly'? (16:8)
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES OF PARASHAT RE'EH
1. According to Rashi, the 'blessing' and 'curse', was that which would be given on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal after Moses' death. The choice was set out here - the details of the elaborate ceremony are brought later in 27:11-16, and the event was recorded to have taken place in Joshua 8. The Ramban, however, understands this passage in general terms - those who kept the Commandments would be blessed and those who did not would be cursed.
2. The simple explanation is that the Israelites were not permitted to offer incense wherever the pleased (as was the Canaanite pagan practice), but such worship of G-d was only to take place where He chose. Homiletically, Moses was warning the Israelites not to turn Divine worship into idolatry, so that they would not merit the same ultimate fate as the Canaanites.
3. Rashi brings two opinions. One is that that the Israelites needed special encouragement as they had a predilection to eating blood. The other view holds the opposite - if one has to be strong, and is assured of a long life for not eating blood which is generally most unappetizing, how much more does the same apply to commandments forbidding unjust gain of money and forbidden sexual relations, which 'the soul of man craves'.
4. The S'forno holds that this connection is meant to teach the following. Certain pagan practices may seem attractive enhancers of the Torah way of life and worthy of being followed. However, the Torah forbids adding them to its teachings - what may appear attractive to Man can be abhorrent to G-d.
5. A settlement needs the following to qualify as an 'ir hanidachat' - a 'doomed city'? Based on 13:14 and Talmud Sanhedrin 111b, the city only reaches such a status if the inciters to idolatry were male local people from that city, who perverted most of the entire male population of that city into idolatry.
6. Death is not final - it is merely where the soul separates from the body and takes a different form. Therefore the dead should not be mourned excessively - exemplified by the prohibition of self-mutilation.
7. Both explanations are directed at those who delay giving what is due to others. The first explanation links 'you must tithe' with the 'you must not cook a young goat in its mother's milk' of the preceding verse. If one does not give to others what the Torah requires, He will see to it that that person will go short of food - the small grains ['kids'] will be 'cooked' by the harsh winds which burn the 'mother' - the husks containing and nourishing ['milk'] the small grains. The second explanation is a play on 'aser ta'aser' which relates that word to 'wealth' - meaning 'Tithe, so that you will become rich.' And G-d will not allow anyone who gave his dues to suffer financially because of it.
8. The Torah states that one must open one's hand to 'your brother' and only then to 'the poor in your land'. (15:11) This order suggests that those nearest come first.
9. This is derived from where the Torah considers the possibility that the Hebrew slave will not wish go free at the end of his term 'because it is good for him with you'. (15:16) The Talmud (Kiddushin 20a) uses this source to state that the living and working conditions of the slave must at least be as good as those of his master - he should not eat black bread whilst the master eats white…
10. Hirsch derives that the last day of the festival is the time when a person should do an 'atzeret' - a 'gathering' - of his thoughts from the festival. The last day should bring the entire experience to a spiritual climax to such a degree that it will stay with him after the festival is over.
ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT RE'EH.
A person who refuses to grant a deserving person a loan for fear that its repayment will be legally cancelled by the Shemitta (Sabbatical) year is described as beliyaal - 'lawless' (15:9). The only other place in the Torah where that expression is used is in connection with the Ir Hanidachat (the 'doomed city') - to describe a group of people who purposely perverted an Israelite city's population into idol worship (13:14). What is the connection between idolatry and failure to help those in need?
My attempts to answer the above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website under Re'eh 5762
Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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