This week’s parsha is Re’eh. In Hebrew, this can be translated to the word Ro’eh, meaning ‘see’. The parashat begins with the word ‘see’, said by Moses to the people of Israel. He begins to instruct them regarding idolatry, false prophets, kosher laws, tithes, freeing slaves, and the pilgrimage festivals. Following his last speech to the Israelites, Moses states that following Hashem and his laws will enable us to be blessed. However, if we worship false idols and ignore the other commandments, then we shall be cursed. The Israelites must destroy all traces of idolatry, and establish a central site so that G-d will choose where they will worship, offer sacrifices, and eat sanctified food. Moses then issues further warnings about idolatry, false prophets, clean and unclean animals, tithes, and the Sabbatical year, when debts are to be cancelled and Hebrew slaves set free. The parsha concludes with the laws of the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot) when the nation is to celebrate together and to “see and be seen” before G-d in the Holy Temple.
A recurring word we see in this parsha is the word simcha, meaning happiness or joy. Moses articulates the idea of simcha as a communal rejoicing. The nation was to be brought together not just by crisis, catastrophe, or impending war, but by collective celebration in the presence of G-d. The celebration itself was to be deeply moral. Not only was this a religious act of thanksgiving; it was also to be a form of social inclusion. Joy, happiness, pleasure; these are all states of mind belonging to the individual. Simcha, by contrast, is not a private emotion, but rather a social state, experienced together.
This week’s parsha begins with the word ‘see’. But why does Moses start his speech in such a way? Perhaps it was to grab the attention of the Israelites? A deeper meaning can be seen when we try connecting Moses’ words to our lives. The perception of our lives, or in other words, the way we ‘see’ things might not always be correct. Moses warns the people of the consequences from accepting the commandments versus disobeying them. Moses gives the people a clarification on their actions.
In life, we may not always see the consequences of our actions, and often, clarity is a blurry contentious aspect of our lives. However, the perception of our lives can dramatically change by taking positive actions towards ourselves and one another. In other words, focusing on the good, and making the world a collective place of joy can change the way we all ‘see’ our lives.
Jessica, Grade 12