Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat R'ei 5758

[Numbers] are mitzvot in Sefer HaChinuch

KOHEN - First Aliya - 17 p'sukim (11:26-12:10)

After setting down the fundamentals of Judaism (including the formative history of the Nation, Aseret HaDibrot, Shma) in the first three sedras of D'varim, Moshe Rabeinu proceeds with the "Tachlis" part of the Book - it mitzvot. The sedras of R'ei, Shoftim, and Ki Teitzei contain 170 mitzvot, the greatest concentration for 3 consecutive sedras, 3 of the top 6 mitzva- sedras of the Torah TACHLIS!

Blessing = keeping the mitzvot; curse = not keeping them. These are the simple equations that Moshe presents here and that Yehoshua will again present when the People stan on Har Grizim and Har Eval.

Note the phraseology in the opening verses of the sedra: the Blessing - THAT you will keep the mitzvot. The Curse - I you won't... There is an implied "recommendation" to choose Blessing (similarly, "And you shall choose Life") Th Bracha, of course when you choose it... The curse, IF yo are misguided enough to go that way...

SDT - Another comment on the imbalance of the two sides of the issue: The blessing comes from "listening to the mitzvot", even before doing them. The opposite comes fro "not listening AND veering from the proper path". This is in keeping with the notion that G-d benefits us by considerin our good thoughts as deeds, but not so with bad thoughts. Only when we actually do bad are we then subject to punishment.

The Nation was born in Egypt, had its infancy in the wilderness, and will grow and flourish in the Promised Land. "These are the mitzvot to be preserved in the Land..." (not that not all the following mitzvot are strictly Israel-related, yet it is possible to suggest that ALL mitzvot were meant to be observed in the Land of Israel).

Sites, altars, idols, etc. of the nations in Israel are to be destroyed [436]. However, we must be careful not to do the same to G-d [437] - this mitzva includes the prohibition of erasing G-d's Holy Names.

Follow this, please. The Torah commands us to destroy objects of idol-worship, and not to do the same thing to G-d. One would assume that this refers to destroying sacred Jewish objects, shuls, Torahs, etc. But where do we see that this prohibition involves not erasing G-d's names? We do not see it. We are taught it as part of the Oral Law. Not rabbinic legislation based upon inspiration that the Sages drew from the Torah. Actual Torah law, equal to the Torah having written it out. This is the nature of the Written & Oral Torah.

While their places are to be eliminated, THE Place (site of the Mikdash) is to be the focal point of Jewish spiritual life and energy. All sacrifices and offerings are to be made there and only there [438], at the first festival encountered. It is on thoseoccasions (Pilgrimage Festivals) that sacred foods (such as Ma'aser Sheni, Neta Reva'i) are eaten in Yerushala yim. Things won't be as "do your own thing" as they are in the wilderness. Soon we will be entering the Land for a more "permanent", down to earth form of living.

LEVI - Second Aliya - 18 p'sukim (12:11-28)

There, a special place will be designated for the bringing of all offerings. There, spiritual rejoicing will take place and there, we shall help the Levite and the less fortunate to also have cause to rejoice. It will be for bidden to bring sacrifices anywhere else [439]. Korbanot are to be brought only at the Mikdash [440]. Only those consecrated animals that become unfit for the Altar due to blemishes must be redeemed [441] and then may be eaten as "regular" meat. The animals' blood, of course, may not be eaten.

We next come to a truly remarkable pasuk (12:17). It is forbidden to eat Ma'aser Sheni outside of Yerushala yim, neither of grain [442], nor wine [443], nor olive oil [444]; nor to eat sacred first-born animals outside of Yerushalayim [445], nor the more sacred sacrificial meat outside of the Temple courtyard [446], nor eat the meat of an Olah (completely-burnt offering) at all [447], nor other kor banot before their blood is properly sprinkled on the Altar [448], nor eat First- Fruits before they are placed in front of the Altar [449].

This one pasuk contains 8 mitzvot! The closest any other pasuk comes is 5 mitzvot (also from this sedra). Here too is an example of how we would be lost in trying to understand all that this pasuk is commanding us, without the Oral Law. Again, it is not rabbinic interpretation or legislation we are dealing with, it is Torah as much from HaShem as Anochi HaShem Elokecha.

SDT - Note the introductory phrase in this verse: "you will not be able to eat..." It does not say "Thou shalt not eat". Torat Chayim observes that this is an ideal of a Torah life - we should actually be incapable of doing that which G-d forbids.

All of the above-mentioned foods are to be eaten where they are supposed to be eaten. Be careful not to forget the Levi, the gifts due him, and other forms of help [450].

"When G-d will expand your borders as promised..."

Notice that the Torah speaks of prosperity immediately following generous charity-giving and concern for others. This is G-d's "illogical" promise: the more you give, the more you will have.

If and when we desire to eat meat (other than the sacred meat of korbanot), we may do so anywhere we choose, but we must properly slaughter the animals we eat first [451].

In the pasuk commanding ritual slaughter, G-d says "(slaughter the animal) as I have commanded you." Yet we do not find the details of Sh'chita in the Written Word. This pasuk is one of the sources for the concept that the Torah consists of a written portion and an Oral Law - both considered the Word of G-d.

Non-sacred meat does not have the same restrictions as sacred meat (i.e. ritual impurity - yours or the animal's - is not an impediment). Other laws, of course, do apply.

An animal must be killed before its meat is taken. This is the universal prohibition (it is both one of the 613 and one of the 7 Noahide Laws) of "Limb from a living animal" [452]. Blood must be removed from meat before we may eat it. Korbanot shall be brought from all over (even from outside of Israel) to the "Place of G-d's choosing" - the Mikdash [453]. These korbanot shall be offered on the Altar, the blood sprinkled thereon, the meat (when permitted) to be eaten there. Be careful to do all that G-d asks, so that things will be good for us and our children.

SHLISHI - 3rd Aliya - 22 p'sukim (12:29-13:19)

A warning is reissued: do not get interested in the idolatrous practices of the nations whom we will replace in the Land, lest we too anger G-d and be punished by Him.

We shall do all that we are com manded, neither adding to [454], nor diminishing from [455] Torah and mitzvot.

If (when) there arises among us a prophet or dreamer - even one who performs miracles or signs to back up his words - who prophesies in the name of idolatry, it is forbidden to heed him [456]. This is a test by G-d of our faith in Him. We must be true to G-d, follow Him, revere Him, keep His mitzvot, serve Him, and cling to Him. The above-mentioned false prophet shall be put to death for his attempts to turn us away from G-d. We thus uproot evil from our midst.

If any fellow Jew (even if he be a close relative or beloved friend) attempts to entice us to idolatry of any type (familiar or exotically foreign), we must show no love towards such a person [457], nor even overcome our hatred of him [458], nor rescue him from danger [459], nor speak on his behalf in court [460] nor refrain from speaking against him [461]. The Torah must be very clear and strong in these commands, because it has become second-nature to us to love our fellow, not hate him, and try to save him. Not in this case.

This is the 5-mitzva pasuk referred to earlier. These mitzvot stand in startling contrast to the mitzvot from K'doshim which command love of fellow Jew, not to hate him, to save him from danger, etc. These mitzvot (from this week's sedra) underline the seriousness with which the Torah treats the enticer. He is a cancer in our midst that must be removed. The enticement to idolatry is considered more serious than even idolatry itself. Or, at least, it is considered a graver threat to Jewish life.

SDT - That this is so is demonstrated by the Talmud's advice that one may/should entrap the enticer. If he speaks to one person only, then there will be insufficient testimony against him. We are taught to ask him to repeat his suggestions in front of others. If he refuses, then we plant unseen listeners who will become witnesses against him. With these witnesses in place, we then must respond to the enticer with a chal lenge that it is not proper to forsake G-d for another religion or belief. If the enticer backs down, then we leave him alone. If he continues in his attempt to entice, then the wit nesses reveal themselves and "press charges" against him in Beit Din.

But rather, the enticer shall be put to death by stoning (after trial and conviction), the accusing witnesses initiating the execution. And (it almost goes without saying that) it is forbidden to entice a fellow Jew to leave G-d and worship idols [462].

If we find out that an entire city is being enticed to idolatry, we must very carefully investigate the matter. This command is generalized to require thorough examination and questioning of witnesses in all types of cases [463]. If the charges are substantiated, the population of the "city substantiated", the population of the "city gone astray" is to be killed by sword, the possessions of the people are to be burned and the city itself destroyed [464]. The city may not be rebuilt ever [465] (unless security considerations determine other wise). No one may benefit from anything from the city [466] so as not to provoke G-d's anger. Proper fulfillment of these and other mitzvot will find favor in G-d's eyes.

R'VI'I - Fourth Aliya - 21 p'sukim (14:1-21)

As "G-d's children", it is forbidden to gash oneself (for idolatrous purposes or to mourn the dead) [467] nor tear out hair in grief [468]. (Mitzva #467 also prohibits factionalization when it is destructive to Jewish unity). It is our destiny to be the chosen among the nations of the earth. It is forbidden to eat of korbanot that have become "disqualified" {469].

The Torah next lists 10 types of mammals that we may eat (3 domestic and 7 wild), and then gives the signs to determine a kosher animal (split hoof and cud-chewing). This is followed by four examples of animals we may not eat. (FYI, in Sh'mini, only non-kosher animals are named.) Fishes with scales and fins are permitted to be eaten; that which has no scales or fins is forbidden to us. Scales (that overlap and that are easily scraped off) determine the kashrut of a fish. The mishna states that if a fish has scales, then it definitely has fins. The Torah's giving of the additional sign of fins is variously explained in the gemara and commentaries.

We may eat kosher birds. We are therefore obligated to examine and determine the kosher status of a bird we would like to eat [470]. (The corresponding mitzvot for the other types of animals have been counted from Parshat Shmini.)

In the spirit of the positive command ment to check for kashrut of an animal, this rule does not only include checking a fish for scales, but looking for the kashrut symbol on packaged products or the kashrut certificate in a restaurant.

The Torah lists 21 types of birds that are forbidden to us. The characteristics of kosher and non- kosher birds are NOT mentioned in the Torah (in contrast to animals and fish). The Gemara gives us guidelines that help us distinguish between kosher and non-kosher birds. Practically speaking, neither the list nor the guidelines are what determine which birds we eat. Tradition does. Basically, we do not trust ourselves to be able to properly identify the birds named in the Torah (modern Hebrew sometimes does not match Biblical or Mishnaic Hebrew). If we have a tradition in our communities that a particular type of bird is kosher, then we will eat it. Otherwise we take the cautious position of SAFEK (doubt) and choose to be strict with ourselves.

It is also forbidden to eat non-kosher locust and other winged insects [471]. Notwithstanding permission to eat the meat of animals, it is forbidden to eat of an animal that died other than by sh'chita. This prohibition is called "N'veila" [472]. Benefit may be derived from "n'veila" but not from milk-meat mixtures.

Although this third occurrence of Meat in Milk teaches the prohibition of benefit, it is not counted as a separate mitzva, but is included in the prohibition of eating M-in-M from Ki Tisa.

Mitzva Watch

This third reference to "not cooking a goat in its mother's milk" is not counted among the 613, but IS used to teach us that the prohibition of eating cooked milk-meat mixtures also includes deriving any other benefit therefrom. In other words, since there are some forbidden foods that we may benefit from (pork, non-kosher beef, treifa, are prohibited only as far as eating), and since the prohibition of "meat in milk" does not use the "standard" language of "thou shalt not eat...", we need this third reference to help clarify matters concerning the nature of the prohibition of meat with milk.

Speaking of Meat with Milk...

although we consider this area of mitzva to be in the category of a CHOK, an unexplained, do-it- because-G-d-commands-it type of mitzva, there are some significant ideas that have been expressed vis-a- vis this mitzva. There is a notion that the laws of Milk & Meat demonstrate the difference between Life & Death. Milk is associated with LIFE; milk is baby mammal's first nourishment. It gives life. And we get it from a cow (goat or sheep) without killing the animal.

Meat, on the other hand, cannot be taken from the animal unless it is first dead. Dead meat. Milk and meat might come from the same source, but they are opposites.

What's the difference between a living human being and a dead body. There are many physical similarities, but the major difference is LIFE, the SOUL. The rules of ritual purity and impurity also teach us this stark contrast. Milk removed from the udder after slaughter is technically MEAT, not MILK. The Sages forbid us to drink it to avoid confusion.

CHAMISHI - 5th Aliya 8 p'sukim (14:22-29)

(Approx. 2% of the yield of a crop is given to a Kohen as T'ruma. One tenth of the remainder is separated as Ma'aser to be given to a Levi.) One tenth of what is left is separated as Ma'aser Sheni [473], which remains the possession of the owner but is considered sacred and must be brought to Yerushalayim and eaten there in a state of ritual purity. If the amount of Ma'aser Sheni is great, a person is permitted to redeem the produce for fair market value plus a fifth (actually 25% of the principal amount must be added. This addition becomes a fifth of the new total amount). If one redeems the Maaser Sheni of his neighbor, fair-market value is sufficient.

The proceeds of the redemption are to be spent on food and drink in Yerushalayim. Once again the Torah reminds us to care for the Levi, who has no property of his own. (This rule of Ma'aser Sheni applies in years 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the Shmita cycle.) In the third (and sixth) year of the Shmita cycle, the second tithe is to be given to poor people. This generous act of tzedaka will be rewarded by bountiful blessings from G-d.

SHISHI - Sixth Aliya 18 p'sukim (15:1-18)

If Shmita year passes, repayment of personal loans may not be demanded [475]. This rule applies when both lender and borrower are Jewish. Loans due from a non-Jew must be collected [476], but it is a mitzva to cancel the personal debt of a fellow Jew following the Shmita year [477]. If the Jewish People follow the Torah and mitzvot properly, we will be blessed by not having poverty among us. We will also be privileged to dominance among the nations of the world.

However, when we are confronted with poverty, we must not hold back generous poverty, we must not hold back generous support of those in need [478]. Rather it is a great mitzva to give tzedaka and support those less fortunate than ourselves in a giving and dignified manner. Be especially careful not to withhold loans to the poor because the Shmita year is approaching [480]; if the poor person cries out to G-d, He will hold you accountable for not helping. Be generous in areas of tzedaka and Chessed, thereby meriting blessing from G-d. Poverty will be a "fact of life" under normal circumstances; give tzedaka freely.

If a Jew becomes an indentured servant to a fellow Jew, he shall work no more than six years and be freed in the seventh. One must not send the freed "eved ivri" away empty- handed [481] but rather he shall be given a generous allotment upon discharge. We are to remember that we were "avadim" in Egypt and that G-d redeemed us and expects us to be sensitive to those less fortunate than ourselves. If the "eved ivri" does not want to be released, his ear is ceremonially pierced and he remains in his master's service until Yovel.. Do not be stingy with the servant, for he has served you hard and long.


The different rules for loans between Jews as opposed to between Jew and non-Jew should not be viewed as harsh and unfair towards the non- Jew. We must deal fairly and above- board with the non-Jew; we may not steal from him or cheat him.

However, Shmitat K'safim, the laws of interest, security for loans, etc. require us to treat our fellow Jew with a measure of kindness and concern that goes far above the "call of duty". Additionally, since the non-Jew will charge us interest on a loan - and he's entitled to it - we may (must) charge him interest as well.

SH'VI'I - 7th Aliya 22 p'sukim (15:19-16:17)

First-borns of cow, goat and sheep are sacred; they may neither be worked [483] nor benefited from [484]. They are given to a Kohen as one of his Torah-granted gifts (after 30-50 days from birth).They are to be eaten by the kohen and his family after being brought as a korban - within a year, unless "unfit for the Altar", in which case they are the Kohen's property, to do with as he pleases. B'chor of this type applies even in our time, without a Beit HaMikdash. Except that the Sages forbid us to do this mitzva because without a Beit HaMikdash for the moment, there would be hardship imposed on the kohen-recipient of the B'chor and temptations for various transgressions by the Kohen.

Mitzva Watch

The laws of the firstborn of kosher animals apply today! However, without an Altar, we cannot have the proper "follow through" of this mitzva. There fore, the Sages require us to avoid having this mitzva. This is accomplished by selling a share (even a token one) of the mother animal to a non-Jew. A firstborn of an animal jointly owned by a Jew and a non-Jew does not have the sanctity of a B'chor. This kind of halachic "trick" should not be used merely as a way of getting out of one's mitzva- obligations. But in this case, it helps us avoid some serious complications, and it is therefore the proper "way to go". Preserve the spring month and bring the Korban Pesach. (This is a reiteration of the mitzva to adjust the calendar when necessary, by adding a month - a second Adar - to push Pesach into the spring.)

Chametz is forbidden on Erev Pesach afternoon [485]. The Chagiga cannot be left over beyond two days [486]. K.P. cannot be brought on a private altar [487].

Rejoice on the Festivals [488]. Bring korbanot to the Mikdash for the Chagim [489]; do not appear there empty-handed.

G'MATRIYA 3+40+9+200+10+1=263

from L'Ora shel Torah by R. Auerbach z"l

In this week's sedra, referring to Yom Tov (specifically the 7th day of Pesach), the Torah says ATZERET LASHEM ELOKECHA - there shall be an ATZERET (we'll leave themeanings of this word for some other time) for G-d. In Parshat Pinchas, referring to Yom Tov (in that case, SHmini Atzeret), the Torah says ATZERET T'H'YE LACHEM - there shall be an ATZERET for you. From this apparent contradiction - is Yom Tov for G-d or for us? - we learn the famous concept that Yom Tov is to be "half for G-d and half for us". Exactly what that means is besides the point here. The Vilna Gaon demonstrates this idea with numeric value. LASHEM (to G-d) = 30+10+5+6+5 = 56. LACHEM (to you) = 30+20+40 = 90. Half for G-d (56/2=28) and half for you (90/2=45) add up to 28+45 = 73. YOM TOV = 10+6+40 (56) + 9+6+2 (17) = 73. Hence, YOM TOV is half for G-d and half for ourselves.

In addition to being a command not to go to the Mikdash without an appropriate offering, it can also be seen as a promise: One who fulfills the mitzva of "Aliya l'Regel" will merit not being "empty-handed".

Maftir (in second Torah) - 7 p'sukim (Bamidbar 28:9-15)

Chapters 28 and 29 in Bamidbar (Parshat Pinchas) deal with the Daily and Musaf sacrifices in the Mikdash. The Shabbat Musaf is presented in 2 p'sukim. Since we never read fewer than 3 p'sukim for an Aliya, the Sages did not institute the reading of the Shabbat Musaf on a weekly basis. However, since the Shabbat portion is followed by the 5-pasuk portion for Rosh Chodesh, when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat, we read both the Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh portion.

Haftara - 24* p'sukim Yeshayahu 66:1-24

Most Ashkenazi communities bounce the regular Haftara of R'EI in favor of the special haftara for Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh, even though we are in the period of the Seven Haftaras of Consolation. In two weeks, we will read the haftara of R'EI immediately following that of Ki Teitzei – because they are continuous in the Tanach.

The haftara for Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh is the last chapter of Yeshayahu. The next to the last pasuk refers to both Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh - hence its choice for this Shabbat. This pasuk is reread after the last, so the book of Yeshayahu (and our haftara) can end on a positive note.

This chapter, as all of Yeshayahu from chapter 40 on, contains a message of consolation (mixed with other messages as well), so its use this Shabbat is doubly appropriate.