Re’eh (5776)

Drash Cards for Re’eh (5776)

by Marc Mangel

  • Welcome to Elul. Re’eh is always read the Shabbat before Elul.
  • Rav Yisrael Salanter, founder of the Mussar movement and author of Ohr Yisrael despaired that people of his time did not take Elul seriously. He wrote “It is well know that in earlier generations, when the holy month of Elul was announced, everyone was gripped by fear…which generated a positive effect by drawing people close to Divine service, each according to his level”
  • In HaYom Yom (27 Av), the Rebbe wrote this about Elul: “The month of Elul is the month of reckoning, when every Jew, each commensurate with his abilities must make an accurate accounting in his soul of everything that occurred in the course of the year. Each must know the good qualities of his service of God and strengthen them; he must also be aware of the deficiencies in himself and his service, and correct these. Through this excellent preparation, he merits a good and sweet year materially and spiritually”
  • I propose that we think of the reckoning during Elul not as a time of fear but of warming up – of a spiritual warm up for the days of awe and the teshuvah we do then.  As we know from athletics, if we don’t warm up we cannot get the full benefit of an activity. So it is with Teshuvah. If we don’t warm up in Elul, we cannot get the full benefit of Tishrei. Hold this thought.
  • The Torah is a timeless book and, among other things, it is a public policy book – especially in Devarim, which is a manual for living in the land of Israel. This year is the 20th anniversary of a major welfare reform and there has been a lot of talk about it.
  • The Torah tells us Ch 15, v 11: “…there will never cease to be destitute people in the land. Therefor, I command you [in God’s name] saying ‘You must open your hand to your brother, whether poor or destitute, in your land’”.
  • Moses does not explain why there will always be poor and destitute people, but rather how we should respond. Earlier (v 7 and 8), he warns us “ must not harden your heart [in regard to giving], you must not close your hand to the destitute. Rather you must open your hand for him enough for his needs”. And he even warns in verse 9 that don’t think that sabbatical year gets you out of this obligation.
  • Pinchas Peli says verse 10 “you should surely give…but your heart should not grieve when you give” is instructing us about the art of giving.
  • In her book A Portion of Kindness, Rosally Saltsman quotes the Talmud (Bava Batra 9a) that Rav Assi taught “Tzedakah is equivalent to all the mitzvoth together”.
  • So, Elul comes along to allow us a month of warming up with introspection and reckoning so that when we hit Tishrei we are ready to do the Teshuvah ahead of us. But Re’eh tells us that there will always be people who need our help.
  • What can be a better way to start Elul than to give Tzedaka. And let me make a suggestion based on our portion last week in which we read the verse that lead to the grace after meals: give to a national foodbank (e.g. Mazon) or a local one (Second Harvest, where each $1= 4 meals). There is no donation that is too small.
  • Elul is a time of reflection and spiritual stretching so that when Tishrei comes we can indeed do the Tesuvah that we desire.