Our parasha passage for today is entitled Re’eh, meaning “See” and covers Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17. The title “see” comes from the first verse of the parasha, where Moses reminds the people, saying, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse…” And this is the key theme of the parasha. Blessings follow when we listen to and obey the Word of God and curses come when we turn away and disobey the Word of the Lord.
Chapter 12 details the rules and regulations for sacrifices. Four times in chapter 12 the Lord indicates that once Israel enters the Promised Land, the Lord will establish “…the place in which the Lord your God shall choose for His name to dwell.” (verse 11) Initially, this will be at Shiloh and then later in Jerusalem. The Lord cautions that this is the only place where sacrifices may be made. While firstfruits, firstborn domestic animals and other special offerings must be made at the location of the Lord’s dwelling place, individuals can kill and eat from their own herds at their location. The prohibition of eating blood is also reiterated. The reason for this is given in verse 23: “Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.”
Chapter 13 cautions people not to be enticed away from the Lord. This can happen when individuals follow a false prophet or one who sees a vision, even if that person’s prophecy or vision comes true, and even if that person is a family member. And, what is one of the key indicators of a false prophet or visionary? They will be the type of person who tries to draw you away from the Lord and true worship. We have several examples of these kinds of individuals and organizations in our culture today; we must be aware.
Deuteronomy 14 reviews the clean and unclean animals; those animals that can be eaten and those that are not allowed to be eaten. For animals, there is a very simple test. If the animal has a split hoof and chews its cud, it may be eaten, for example, oxen, sheep and goats. Unclean animals include camels because although they chew their cud, their hoof is not split. In the same way, the pig is unclean because even though it has a split hoof, it does not chew it its cud. Likewise, rules for seafood are given. If fins and scales are present, it is acceptable; lack of fins and scales mean the seafood is not to be eaten.
Chapter 15 reviews the Sabbatical year, every 7th year. In this year, debts were to be forgiven and servants were to be set free if they chose to leave the house where they served. This whole concept was that people were not to be kept in a state of perpetual indebtedness or servitude. Value was placed on charity to the poor. There is, however, a division between Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves. Hebrew slaves were to be set free in the 7th year, but such a condition did not exist for non-Hebrew slaves. In addition, when an Israeli slave was freed, they were also to be given animals from the flock and other provisions. They were not to be let go empty-handed. However, if an Israeli determined that he, or she, wanted to remain as a servant, their ear would be pierced with an awl and that person would remain as a servant for life.
Chapter 16 contains the regulations for attendance at the three yearly festivals of Passover, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and the Feast of Booths (Sukkot). In reality, this would encompass the 7 major holidays listed in the Torah as Passover falls in the same week as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits. Likewise, the 15 days before the Feast of Booths includes the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). As I mentioned at the very beginning of the commentary, the main theme in this parasha is the blessings that come from obedience to the Lord and what better way to be obedient then observing the holidays the Lord, Himself, has given in the way He commanded?
So, what are some lessons from parasha Re’eh?
First, we can see that following the commands of the Lord bring blessing while not doing so brings curses, or difficulties. Let’s take some basic examples in today’s world. Let’s say that as a husband in a marriage, you do not follow God’s instruction to love your wife. Chances are that it will be difficult to have a peaceful and loving marriage. In the same way, parents are instructed not to “provoke our children to anger” (Ephesians 6). If we, as parents constantly belittle and criticize our children, the consequences are likely that we won’t have a good relationship with them. Often times, if we are not following the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, when we are not treating others in a loving, biblical manner, the consequences of negative and harmful relationships will arise.
We can also see through this parasha, that we do not want to be enticed away from the Lord. This world has many beguiling pleasures meant to draw us away from following the path that God has set before us. Let’s not let the pursuit of the world’s pleasures draw us away from our focus on the Lord.
And finally, just as we read about the regulations for celebrating the yearly festivals, let us continue to follow those same precepts. Let’s attend regular worship, let’s look for opportunities to participate in the work of our congregation and let’s enjoy the yearly holidays as we concentrate on the focal point of these holidays, which is about Messiah Yeshua. Messiah, Himself, celebrated these holidays and He always made a point at those times to direct the focus to His Messianic fulfillment.