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Judaism, Torah and Talmud


Parasha No. 47
Reeh: “Behold”

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11, 26 - 16, 17

The Torah is a living body and each part is inseparable from the whole

- The mitzvot
- The meaning of the mitzvot -- union with Hashem
- Method of study
- Consequences
- The prohibition against destructiveness
- Code of behavior: derekh hayim
- Personal relations
- Divorce, the get
- Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera
- Tikkune hatzot
- Friendship, solidarity
- The sanctity of the letters of the Torah
- The role of sacrifices
- Tzedaka - we must not be indifferent
- Judaism and our duty





In our studies of the parashiot, we always follow the method of the Shla who bases his interpretation on the mitzvot of each parasha.

The mitzvot
There are more than 50 mitzvot in this parasha and they are nos. 436-490. They relate to the three pillars that carry the world: the Torah, service in the name of God (avoda), and benevolence (gemilut hassadim). This is what Shimon Hatzaddik says in the Ethics of the fathers: al shelosha devarim ha olam omed, al hatora, alhaavoda, ve al gemilut hassadim (Pirkei Avot 1, 2). The basis for all of this is respect for the site of worship:
- First we must destroy the sites of idol worship, abed teabedun et kol-hamekomot (Devarim 12, 2);
- And, inversely, we must never harm the name of God, lo taasun ken ken la-Adonut Elokekhem (12, 4);
- Then follow a long list of statutes regarding sacrifices, gifts to be made to those who serve God, the leviim, the help that must be given to the poor, the festival of Pesah and the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the obligation to rejoice in God and not to appear before Him empty-handed.

The meaning of the mitzvot -- union with Hashem

This is not a sundry list of mitzvot; it aims to show that respect for the presence of God and rejection of false truths create a GLOBAL ORDER where there is respect for places, things, rites and all people who live in joy.
This is the basis of Judaism: order-place-things-rites-beings-joy.
The Shla explains this harmony
" with this expression from Psalm 19, 8: Torat Hashem temima, "The statutes of Hashem are right" in all things,
" and in the Zohar's commentary on Shemot 3, 15 ze shemi le olam veze zikhri le dor dor, "this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." This expression presents simultaneously Hashem through His name and our obligation to remember Him in all things and in all generations.
In order to stress this symmetry which creates harmony and unity, the Zohar complements the numerical value of the words ze shemi, ze zikhri with the letters of the Name of God: thus,
shemi + youd ke = 365
zikhri + vav ke = 248
365 + 248 makes a total of 613
" 613 corresponds to the number of mitzvot in the Torah,
" 365 corresponds to the number of negative mitzvot (" do not")
" 248 corresponds to the number of positive mitzvot ("do") and to the numerical value of the name of Avraham and to the number of parts of a human body (Tractate Makkot, page 23 b).
(method: refer to the references cited.)

Thus the union between Hashem and the mitzvot is inscribed both in Hashem's commandments to carry out the mitzvot and in His very name.

Method of study
The Torah is thus a law that is transmitted in every word and letter in an infinite number of ways and combinations. It is not only the story which transmits to us the spiritual and practical teachings of the Torah.
Those who do not know Hebrew deprive themselves of these dimensions and limit themselves just to the dimension of the story; theological theories based on this one dimension may appear logical but they are only partial and cannot represent the whole. And when these theories are based on another language and not on Hebrew, then the wildest distortions arise, so laughable they are not even worthy of attention. This is the attitude of Rashi in his commentary on Bereshit 1, 26 in relation to those who constructed different religions that are not based on knowledge of the Torah.
A person who is ignorant does not know that he is ignorant. He always thinks he is right and is happy at the thought.

In contrast, the multiplicity of meanings that are transmitted through the Jewish tradition (the meaning of the story + the meaning of the letters + the meaning of the numerical value of the letters and words) create a people in a constant state of receptivity and with a clear vision of the global order desired by the Creator, and a sense of how small we are.

Why does Hashem wish to transmit to His people such a wealth of knowledge about Himself? Only He knows; humility means to accept since this is His wish.
But he made one condition for the transmission of his word (mila, word); the covenant through circumcision (mila, same word). Without this, man cannot attain knowledge of the union between heaven and earth.

The proof is given in the text itself: in the verse Mi yaale lanu hashamayima (Devarim 30, 12), "who will take us up to the heavens" (to attain knowledge), the initials of the words form the word mila, circumcision: this is therefore the initial condition (beginning), and the aim is indicated in the last letters of the words which form the Name of God Himself (yud ke vav ke). It goes without saying that what is meant is a circumcision of the body, the heart, and the soul simultaneously.

It was necessary to point this out in order to understand the relevance of the Shla's interpretation, which is based on:
- the combination of the letters
- and aims to show the link between all levels of meaning in the mitzvot.

This should not seem strange to us: the intimate knowledge that two partners have of each other is not based simply on words but on thousands of tiny codes that are communicated through tone, gestures, silences etc. The same applies to the meaning found in every single letter.

The union of Hashem and the mitzvot has been revealed and, in consequence, we can say that:
" adhering to one dimension of the Torah means adhering to all of its dimensions,
" the practice of the mitzvot is part of our direct relationship with Hashem and with prayer,
" prayer and study cannot be separated from the practice of the mitzvot and showing kindness to others,
" the division between the mitzvot towards fellow-men and the mitzvot towards God seems arbitrary and devoid of meaning, but in the two tables of commandments the two categories are placed in parallel with each other and correspond to each other.

We can now understand the prohibition against defiling the Name of Hashem which represents the link between sanctity, places, things and all creation.
Rashi's commentary on Devarim 12, 4 ("ye shall not do so unto Hashem your God") stresses this link: "you will not make burnt offerings to God in any place but only in the place which He has chosen. Another explanation: ye shall overthrow their altars…you will destroy their name but you will not act thus (unto what belongs to Hashem), this is a prohibition against defiling the Name of God, or taking one stone from the altar or the inner courtyard. Ribbi Ishmael says: Would Israel ever dream of destroying altars (dedicated to God)? This means that we must not imitate the conduct of others and that your sins should not lead to the destruction of the Sanctuary of Shilo."

For all levels are linked and if one is affected, so are the others and the very structure of life is endangered. Omitting one part of the Torah, or one part of the body is like killing the whole body and putting into process destruction and death. History has shown this time and again: ignoring the order of life and the path of goodness has led to destruction, exile from Israel, wars and hatred. In the words of a Sage: "a tree will be judged by its fruit." The break-up of the order of life and the removal of a vital organ is foolish and dangerous, just is a doctor who carries out a successful operation but forgets to treat the patient afterwards. The French satirist Daumier wonderfully captured this dangerous pretension, as you can see from the faces and gestures of this cartoon.

(Clinic of Dr. Robert Macaire, by Daumier
"Well, gentlemen, you have seen that an operation
said to be impossible was perfectly successful….
"But Doctor, the patient is dead…..
"Unimportant! She would have been more dead without the operation.")

There is another consequence: the split between religious and secular is meaningless in the holistic concept of Judaism (for Judaism demands the same rigorous standards and autonomy regarding science and knowledge as the secular world).

Behavior: the part of the Torah which is called derekh hayim

The above also applies to human relations.

In marriage
Two spouses share one name, and this shared name stands for respect of each other's individuality within the marital union. The union can only be successful if each spouse respects and is responsible the other, in all his or her facets, and if both accept each other totally in their positive and negative aspects.

After the initial romantic phase, a couple needs time before they can attain this level of understanding and continue to appreciate, love and encourage it. Rejecting one part of a person means rejecting the whole, and means one does not love him or her; then the whole is destroyed, as is the individual within the whole.

Many couples live with rejection and hurt, but, in time, this leads to the death of love and betrayal is no longer a problem for it was already there, and boredom sets in even when social appearances are preserved. This is why it is written that the stones of the Temple cry when there is separation, for the whole structure suffers.

Divorce, the get
Sometimes divorce is necessary but it should only mark the fact that the union was a mistake, and should not entail betrayal and destructiveness within the union.
When it is necessary, the text of the get should be written on 12 lines, with great care for the rite signifies that, from now on, two people no longer constitute one being. The Vilna Gaon notes that the word get (act of repudiation) was chosen for the act of divorce, because the two letters that form this word are never found together in the Torah. Thus, after the get, the two people will never have anything in common, just like these two letters can never be found together.

Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera
Rabbi Abuhatzera demonstrates the above through meaning found in the numerical value of the letters. I have chosen two examples but the same basis applies to all the words of the parasha.
The parasha begins with the words: "Behold (Ree), I (anokhi), set before you this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing (haberakha..)…
Firstly the interpolation is personal and is not addressed to the whole collective; it is a symbol of a true encounter, just like God calls himself "myself."
The interpolation is both majestic and tragic for Hashem gives man the power to create good or evil. Everything is linked and the link has been put in the hands of man. What proof of love!
Rabbi Abuhatzera transmits to us the teaching of tradition: the gematria or numerical value of the words reeh (behold), anokhi (I) represents the 288 sparks of good in the world which need to be liberated. This means that there are forces that need to be liberated and man has the power to set them free. The mitzvot are the rules of life which he has been given in order for the good nurturing of life; just like one writes notes for the care of a plant, an animal or a child. And to show the divine power that man has been given, the numerical value of the expression haberakha (the blessing) is 232 which is also the numerical value of the 4 names of God.

We can now understand the intimate sharing of joy and power which is represented in the mitzvot between Hashem and his people, and between Hashem and each individual Jew who carries them out.
An image that comes to mind is that of a spouse who gets up at night to attend to a sick child; when he or she returns to the bedroom, the other spouse asks: "did you do exactly as the prescription says? Yes."
This perspective gives us a totally different concept of the mitzvot and their aim. Many people view them as "duties and obligations" but, in this perspective, we see them as an expression of an intimate, loving relationship and of God's wish to share his power with man; this is more than a wish, it is a sign of love for He entrusted man with the power to create goodness or destroy it. To choose the power of love or to neutralize it…what beauty and what a risk!
The essence of this encounter is expressed in the midnight prayer, when everything seems to be weariness and darkness, then man comes to tell his Creator that he accepts the power He has handed him. Man is conscious then of all the imperfections of the world, symbolized in the destruction of the Temple which was the microcosm of paradise. And man repeats his love for the Creator and his faith in reconstruction. The model for his prayer is King David who got up at midnight to proclaim the renewal.

Tikkune Hatsot
The rite of the midnight prayer, which is called tikkune hatzot, is part of this amelioration of the whole body and being. Judaism is not a rational, or philosophical religion. The inter-connection between all levels of being is done in solidarity, interdependency, and reciprocity, for Judaism is based on love as the structure of every being.

So in the depth of the night, when darkness is greatest, and when the return to the day begins, tradition says that this is the moment when we should be closest to Hakadosh Barukh Hu, for the night is the optimal moment when we feel love. It is also the moment when we feel most the loss and destruction of the Temple (the Temple is the place of union between the shekhina and the Jewish people).
To be unaware of the importance of the Temple in this sense is a sign of ignorance as to the essence of Judaism.
At midnight, we also recite (if we are not too tired!) psalms of sadness, then psalms of hope and consolation and finally psalms of affirmation in the realization of the union with Hashem. This rite is inscribed in our prayer book.
You could respond: but then a Jew never sleeps! He has a family life, a marital life, a professional life, a social and community life; he studies, says the Rambam, 6 hours of written Torah every day, 6 hours of oral Torah, and 6 hours of hiddushim (new teachings on the Torah), etc… And he engages in constant debates, with ever-present Jewish humor. This is one of the mysteries of Judaism! It is not surprising that we are said to be accompanied by angels, the messengers of Hashem! We number only a few million and it is said that we are everywhere, that everyone speaks about us and we are vocal everywhere! Perhaps this excess of life and energy comes from the Jewish mother, or from the circumcision, or from the Torah…?

Friendship, solidarity
We can apply the same theme of completeness and wholeness to friendship or to solidarity among a nation.

Friendship is not a temporal pleasure, but a specific relationship between two people which can also be at a level of kedusha.

Similarly, the nation of Israel and the solidarity between them has been compared to one text made up of letters from the same Torah, and we know that not a single error is allowed in a Torah scroll, for it would invalidate the whole scroll. Solidarity is essential for union between people.
Judaism's respect for the "letters" of the Torah is not a sign of formality; it is an expression of attention and respect for the letters of the Name of God, of others and of oneself. This scrupulous attention and respect for each letter, never omitting one or adding one, is a sign of great love. It means never forgetting the words of God and being faithful to them forever. Forever love.
If an error has been made, it must be corrected, pardon must be given quickly in order to re-gain the initial state of purity. The process of destruction must be halted immediately.

The letters of the Torah are the only true mark
The logical consequence of this is that we must never mark ourselves with any other sign except with the letters of the Torah - no marks, tattoos, or incisions, even if we are in deep mourning following the loss of a loved one.
This is because a "mark" of death has no meaning in Judaism which believes that death simply leads to another form of life. Thus the death of the righteous and those who are dear to God is called hilula, marriage, and is not considered to be destruction.

The role of sacrifices
It is not only through study, but also through sacrifices that we understand the processes of life and death, separation and elevation to higher levels of existence. Our generation however does not seem to have the necessary sensibility for sacrifices and rituals, with their emphasis on scents, laying of hands and acts of great concentration.

Tzedaka - we must not be indifferent
Since we no longer have the Temple or the ritual sacrifices of the past, all that remains is tzedaka as proof that we care for others. This is a tradition that is very much alive in Judaism: Jews give generously simply because it is a mitzva to give to one's fellow men.
Before even listening to another person, it is important to look at him face to face as is written in the first verses of this parasha. It is important to see the essence of the other person, to see what he lacks and to provide it: what is mine is truly yours, just as Hashem gave us what was His.

Judaism and our duty
The importance of all these levels in the Torah is seen in the fact that the Torah tells us to carry out all the commandments for they are the source of the life (11, 32), which means "to do, laasot" them, and " to keep, shamor" them. Those who criticize Judaism for having too many rules are simply ignorant, for they do not know their true aim. As Ribbi Elazar said: "the day is short and the work is intense (hayom katzar vehamelakha meruba), and the workers are lazy (ve hapoalim atzelim), but the recompense is great (vehasakar harbe) and the Master is demanding (u vaal habait dohek)."
It is true however that one individual is incapable of carrying out all these mitzvot alone; it is as a community and as a people that we have been commanded to carry them out.

The Shla reminds us of a well-known teaching of the Ethics of the fathers (Pirkei Avot 2, 21 or 16): we are not obliged to keep all the rules but we are obliged to act: we do not have the right to absolve ourselves or dismiss them (lo alekha hamelakha ligmor, ve lo ata ven horin livatel mimena).

He adds a less well-known teaching from Tractate Berakhot 6a: man is like a day laborer who is not responsible for the whole project. And if he dies before he has carried out the mitzvot he has been commanded to keep, he will be judged as having kept them, if he truly had the desire to keep them.

Thus the unaccomplished tasks depend on the will of Hashem who decides how much time to give us to carry them out.

These are important teachings for they show us how we must live. The Sages stressed:
"he who does not understand the crown [of the Torah] and reduces it to his own narrow level, shall waste away, deishtamesh vetaga halaf " (Pirkei Avot 1, 13).


" Re-read the whole parasha in this perspective
" Reflect on the relevance of each point for you personally,
" and for your relationships.
" Reflect on the tasks that still need to done.

Land of Israel


- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15

Part 16

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
vos vacances en Israël,
Texte et photos

- Par Modia, arrivez au Kotel
- La vie du Kotel
- Prières au Kotel
- Fête au Kotel
- La destruction du Temple
- Photos rares et émouvantes des abords du Temple
- Synagogues de Jérusalem
- Maisons de Jérusalem
- Les fleurs de Jérusalem
- Ici, tout sur Jérusalem
- "Le" texte sur Jérusalem
- Voir et visiter Israël
- Voyage dans le Nord d'Israël
- Belle carte d'Israël
- Jérusalem et les nations

- Vacances en Israël sur Modia
- Le Kotel en film direct
- et ici aussi, autre caméra

- Trahison historique:
L'antique synagogue de Jéricho


Part 17

- Love towards all people
- Light in war
- Before the hanukiah
- Land of Israel
- Jerusalem excavations 2007
  Proof of the lies propagated
  by the media

In french - Hope in Israel

Part 20
"Encounters with God
in the real"

- You are planning a tour in Israel - Photos
- My photos and judaism
- New year of beauty
- Flowers
Gallery photos

Part 21

- My english songs


Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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