Parshat Re'eh - 5760
Parshah, Re'eh, opens with Moshe
placing, as it were, a classic choice before the Jewish People; namely, to
choose between behavior designed to give someone a life of "brachah,"
blessing, or behavior that would result in a life of "k'lalah,"
curse. The litmus test would be
whether one's behavior was in accord with the "Mitzvot,"
the commandments of HaShem, or not.
One group of commandments presented in this Parshah, and tied in with
our holiness as a People, are those relating to "ma'achalot asurot,"
food items forbidden by the Torah for its adherents to eat.
various ways of understanding these Divinely ordained laws based, of course,
on the assumption that our understanding is not
necessary in order for us to obey them.
One classic approach, associated with the RAMBAM,
Maimonides of the twelfth century, is that they are actually physically
harmful. On the other hand,
according to the RAMBAN,
Nachmanides, of the thirteenth century, the eating of birds or animals of
prey is psychologically harmful. And
emphasizes the aspect of "timtum ha-lev," "hardening,"
so to speak, of the spiritual arteries, that is a consequence of eating
There was an
early debate among CHAZAL
on the subject of how a Jew should feel when confronted with the smell of,
let's say for argument's sake, a basic "treife meichel," bacon and
eggs. One opinion is that the
Jew should train him/herself to feel repulsed by the smell.
The other opinion is that the Jew should be more intellectually
honest assuming, of course, that the smell is experienced as being pleasant,
and say inwardly, "I do desire
it, but what shall I do? My
Father in Heaven has forbidden it to me."
I would like
to approach the subject here from the sociological view; that is, from the
context of early twenty first century America, with Kashrut Organizations
growing and proliferating, and with the Vice Presidential candidate of one
of the major political parties a Jew who studies Torah, and observes Mitzvot.
the nomination of Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut for the position
of Vice President on the Democratic ticket, and part of a picture "even
bigger" than Kashrut of general acceptance of Orthodox Jews at all
levels of American society, the
observance of Kashrut had begun to hit its stride on the American scene in
the latter decades of the twentieth century.
alone, the largest Kashrut-Certifying agency in the world, supervises over
250,000 food products. That's a
lot of cookies and candy bars. Nabisco
(including Oreo), Three Musketeers, Godiva Chocolate (given the first three
letters of the company name, they really had little choice) have all come,
so to speak, "under the wings" of the OU.
And even though there is still some opposition (mainly from Jewish
quarters), it appears that Kashrut is now accepted as a rational, healthy,
even moral, form of diet.
Lieberman has also focused the attention of the American public on the
weekly holy day of Shabbat.
Whatever questions one might have concerning details, they are
totally obscured, in the view, anyway, of this writer, by the fact that we
have here a Jew making a serious effort to live his life according to the
Torah, while serving in a high position in American political leadership.
newly knowledgeable about intricacies of Shabbat Law, reportedly asked the
Rabbi of the shul where Lieberman "davens,"
if the Senator does "such-and-such," can he still be called
"Orthodox?" The Rabbi
answered cleverly and truthfully, "I won't answer that question, but I
will say that an Orthodox Jew is not allowed to lie."
response must have knocked the reporters "for a loop." But it did accord with
the fact that Joe Lieberman had come to the attention of the larger American
public by being the first, in the spiritual and moral wasteland (maybe
that's too strong) of Washington and
the USA, to stand up and criticize the President on moral grounds when it
However, in order to capitalize on this potential "Kiddush HaShem," Sanctification of G-d's Name, the rest of us Jews who claim to be "Orthodox," and attempt to live according to the rules of the Torah, must shoulder the burden that now rests upon us, perhaps even more now than it did in the past. Issues of honesty, morality, ethics, "mentschlich-keit" arise in all of our lives; personal, social, business and professional. We must rise to the challenge of living the way our Father in Heaven wants us to; to act, and to be, "a holy People, to HaShem, your G-d ," our description, in today's Parshah, at the end of the section on "Ma'achalot Asurot."
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel