Rabbi Eisen’s Shabbat Shalom Message

Shabbat Shalom!


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Torah and Haftarah portions.


Candlelighting for
Friday, August 18, 2017 • 6:45pm

• Our Portion for the Week

RE'EH – DEUTERONOMY 11:26 – 16:17
In this portion we conclude the section of Moses' second discourse in which he sets forth the religious foundations of the covenant at Sinai. He lays before the Israelites two possibilities: obedience to God, which would bring blessing, or disobedience, which would bring a curse. The choice is theirs to make, but it is clear that in order to possess the land they must choose to follow God's laws. The next section of the discourse comprises a detailed listing of the laws that are to govern the lives of the Israelites in the Promised Land. The first area dealt with its religious institutions and worship, including, among other things, directions for the establishment of a central sanctuary, rules for maintaining distinctiveness in worship, warnings against heathen rites and religious seducers, and regulations concerning permitted and forbidden foods, tithes and the year of release. The portion ends with laws detailing the observance of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot indicating that time also is to be sanctified.

• Our Question for the Week •

See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, whom you have not experienced. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

The beginning of today's Torah portion summarizes perhaps the ultimate theme of the book of Deuteronomy — the choice of following God's commandments or not.

As we embrace a life invested in the fulfillment of Mitzvot, Parashat Re'eh bids us "rejoice before the Lord of God." Judaism has consistently recognized joy as the most fitting response to God's abundant love. How do we cultivate such joy? Is it through the fulfillment of Mitzvot? Does it depend on attentiveness to our tradition's many details? Or does it depend on seeing the big picture of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century? Or do we need to do a little bit of both?

The essential thread that links all Jews together is our sense that there is one God who unites us all. Are there other threads which unite all Jews? If so, what are they? Is it important for Jews around the world to discover more of these threads? Is it essential to be united in matters of ritual, ethics, our understanding of Jewish history, and/or our relationship with the state of Israel — or is being united under one God enough to ensure Jewish continuity?