Tag: Re’eh

Parashat Re’eh: Justice, Justice shall you pursue!


The pursuit of justice is one of the most frequently repeated concerns, and not only of the Torah, but of Jewish tradition. The teaching is to pursue justice in dealing with social, political, and international matters.  In addition, Jewish tradition teaches, “speak up for those who are silent, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak out, judge justly, champion the poor and the needy.”

Several commentators ask the question: Why does Moses repeat the word Tzedek, or “justice,” in his statement: “justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that Adonai your God is giving you?” – Pointing out that the commandment could stand without the repetition since the Torah does not often repeat words, interpreters offer a number of explanations: Some say that by repeating the word Tzedek Moses underscores the importance of pursuing justice as a means of community survival. Others argue that the term is repeated to convey the idea that the pursuit of justice is not only the responsibility of government, of judges within the society, but also an imperative for each individual.  This may have been what Rabbi Acha meant when he quoted Rabbi Tanchum, who said, “though a person may be a scholar of Torah and a teacher of greater renown, careful in observing all the ritual commandments, if such a person is able to protest wrongdoing neglects to do so, he is to be considered cursed.” Or in the words of Rabbi Chijah: “if a person is neither a scholar, nor a teacher, nor known for observing all the ritual commandments, but stays up to protest against evil, such a person is called a blessing.”

For rabbinic interpreters the pursuit of justice in society was paramount.

Correcting the evils perpetrated by human beings was considered the highest ethical priority.  Moses’ repetition of “justice, justice” was understood to mean: “don’t be satisfied with observing wrongdoing. Stand up and protest against it!” Obviously, the pursuit of justice is critical and of central concern for any society.  Within the Bible and embedded within rabbinic commentary, the
accomplishment of justice is a requisite for truth in peace.  We are commanded to pursue justice because no human community can survive without it.

– Rabbi Adrian M Schell 

(Source: Fields, Parashat Re’eh)

The vulnerability of our own existence


At no other time of the year are we more exposed to the vulnerability of our own existence in this world as we are during in this season of the High Holy Days. It seems that our holy texts paint an image where we are unimportant figures in a game far bigger than us. But, looking closer, we see messages of hope and encouragement, love and an outstretched hand, inviting us to become active partners in God’s plan to heal the world, and to leave our footprint in a world redeemed.  

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Our days —

Like the grass of the field,

like flowers in the meadow

vanish in a momentary gust of wind,

gone, never to be seen again.

But God’s love is infinite

and with us forever.

God’s goodness reaches far

into the future —

This is the gift of the covenant.

Psalm 103:15–18
Quote: Mishkan HaNefesh: Yom Kippur:
Machzor for the Days  of Awe (Page 546).

Welcome to the new Israeli Ambassador

This week we, the Jewish community in South Africa, welcomed the new Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and  Mauritius, Lior Keinman and his Family into our happy, sometimes a bit difficult Diaspora community. At an event, hosted by the South African Friends for Israel, I had the pleasure to meet him for the first time, and to read a blessing for him .

I think that there is no coincidence that the beginning of Ambassador Keinman’s  tenure is in that period of the year when we read Moses speeches to the Israelites and when we start to prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days. This is a time of transition, a time where the words of Moses call us for reflection and to action.

While the text of our portion reminds us again that any action has consequences, we are also encouraged to do the right thing. To reach out, especially to the poor of our society. We are reminded that compassion has no limits and that we can expand the boundaries of good in this world.

At the SAFI reception were many of our Christian friends from all different parts of the South African society present, and in his address to the guests, the Ambassador emphasised the role Israel has in finding solutions for those parts of our country that are in need of stable water supply, and medical progress.

This is for sure one way of bringing Tikkun Olam into this world. And, I see us, the Jewish community at large, as the ones who can build the bridge to make this transfer of  knowledge and support stronger, expanding the boundaries of hope and shrinking the places of suffering.

This coming Tuesday, the beginning of the month Elul is our first milestone on our journey into the New Year. May this month bring you the strength to open your hearts and minds to find your place in live and the path you want to follow.

And may the new Ambassador be granted success to his endeavours, in the pursuit of his sacred mission.

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Torah Reading Shabbat Re’eh

5 Moses 11:26-16:17
Reading Dtn 12:29-13:19; Plaut p.1263; Hertz p.804
Haftarah Isaiah 54:11-55:5 (Plaut 1290; Hertz p.818)

In our Torah portion:
* God places both blessing and curse before the Israelites. They are taught that blessing will come through the observance of God’s laws.
* Moses’ third discourse includes laws about worship in a central place ; injunctions against idolatry and self-mutilation; dietary rules ; and laws about tithes, debt remission, the release and treatment of Hebrew slaves, and firstlings.
* Moses reviews the correct sacrifices to be offered during the Pilgrim Festivals: Pesach, Sukkot, and Shavuot.