RE’EH (Deuteronomy, 11:26-16:17) — “You!”

There are a number of correlations between Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur.  They are the only full-day fasts; the others run from dawn to night.  Bathing and other comforts are prohibited.  Both days are spent in serious contemplation.  Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day during which one reflects upon his sins of the past, begs G-d for forgiveness, and makes new commitments for the future.  Tisha B’Av, a day that has produced countless calamities for our Nation, is a day of sorrow.

(It has been said that although the practices of both days are similar, the reasons are very different.  On the highly spiritual day of Yom Kippur, we rise to the level of angels, and on Tisha B’Av we descend to the level of grieving mourners.  “On Yom Kippur,” the saying goes, “who needs to eat?  On Tisha B’Av, who CAN eat?”)

The anguish of Tisha B’Av is so all-encompassing that it seems to affect the entire month.  Our Sages tell us that “From the time the month of Av begins, we curtail expressions of joy.”  The month of Av is considered an inauspicious time.  We are even supposed to try to postpone lawsuits until the end of the month if possible.

Yet, once we hit mid-month, things seem to change.  “There were no greater days of celebration in Israel than the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur.”  (Mishnah, Taanis, 4:8) The Talmud describes how the available bachelorettes borrowed dresses (so as not to embarrass one who had none) and went down to the vineyards to meet eligible bachelors.  These two days, Yom Kippur and the Fifteenth of Av, were the two main days for arranging marriages.

Doesn’t that seem a bit odd?  Yom Kippur, a day of serious spiritual yearning, a time of forgiveness of sins!  Is that the right time to arrange a date?!  The month of Av, a time during which we have shed oceans of tears!  Is that an appropriate time for a singles event?!

Absolutely!  One of the reasons for wearing white on Yom Kippur, rather than sackcloth, is that we demonstrate our faith that G-d WILL forgive us and grant us a good year.  Yes, on Tisha B’Av we mourn and cry over our collective sorrows.  But, the Shabbos after Tisha B’Av is the time that we read Isaiah’s exhortation of comfort and consolation.  The future WILL be bright!  We WILL marry and bring new families into the world!  Things WILL be good!

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Israelis a very scary place to live right now.  Our enemies are emboldened.  There is little doubt that there will be more rocket attacks; it’s just a question of time.  It is hard to see a positive side.

Against that backdrop, isn’t it beautiful to see that Aliyah is up? These “crazy” Jews are leaving the relative safety of the Diaspora to move to a war zone!  I heard one immigrant quoted as saying, “Israel is our motherland, and our mother needs us!”  (Wipe your eyes, and read on.)

Such optimism!  Such courage!  Such faith!  Aren’t our brothers and sisters wonderful?  Like a young single woman on Yom Kippur who has just made a commitment to be more righteous, they trust that there is a good year coming.  Like a young single man during the month of Av that has seen such devastation, they shake off the dust and ashes and build a new future.

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Yes, these are wonderful people, who are doing wonderful things for their People (and themselves!)  But what about us?  What about you and me?

No, this is not (necessarily) a call for mass Aliyah.  But there are things we can do.

See, I am placing before you a blessing and a curse.  (Deuteronomy. 11:26)

In this way, Moses introduces blessings to those who follow G-d’s ways, and avoid idol worship and immorality.

Kli Yakar points out an interesting nuance that is not readily visible in the English translation.  “See, I am placing before you a blessing and a curse.”  The word “see” is written in singular, (“Re’eh”, not “Re’u) while “you” is written in plural.  (“Lifneichem”, not “Lifanecha”)

SEE,” says Moses.  “I’m talking to all of you.  Each and every one of you.  Every Jew is responsible for every other Jew.”

You can’t move to Israel right now?  Okay, work for Israel now.  Pray for Israel now.  Learn Torah for Israel now.  Write to your elected officials for Israel now.  Vote for our supporters for Israel.  Vote out our detractors for Israel.  Commit yourself to do more Mitzvahs for Israel.

YOU do it now.  Don’t assume that someone else will do it for you.  Don’t assume that everyone else’s collective efforts will suffice.  Elections can be won or lost on one vote.  Fourteen million Jews learning Torah and doing Mitzvahs aren’t anywhere near as powerful as fourteen million and one.

Do it now.  Next year, with G-d’s help, will be a great year.  So will the rest of this year!

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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 From the Archives

“The Emperor’s New Tallis” (2010)

It was the social event of the year…

There was, of course, a Chuppah.  How do you have a Simcha without one?  And a framed Ketubah.  And a Yarmulke.  And a Tallis.  And a broken glass.

Oh, there was also a Jewish young man who wanted to get married.

Unfortunately, as far as Torah Law is concerned, he didn’t…

Read more.

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“The Tire Kicker” (2009)

How should we live our lives?  What does G-d want us to do?

The answer to this question SHOULD BE simple:  Open the Torah, read what it says, and do it!  After all, it’s the Master of the World’s instructions.  He made the world and He made us.  Certainly He knows what’s best for us.

He told us to rest on the Sabbath, so we should rest on the Sabbath.  He told us not to worship idols, so we shouldn’t worship idols.

But what if G-d changes His mind?  Do the rules change if G-d decides to set up a different system?

What if G-d decides, “You know, I don’t like the way things are working out with the current Mitzvah arrangement.  The original Testament I set up isn’t working so well.  I think I’ll write a ‘New’ one.”…

Read more.

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 “Birds of Different Feathers …?” (2007)

… It is commonly understood that the reason we don’t eat eagles, owls, and hawks is that they are birds of prey.  Birds that attack other animals and tear them to shreds with their claws are not the types of creatures we want to consume… the Torah wanted to distance us from the consumption of cruel animals because they would somehow taint us spiritually and ingrain a degree of cruelty into our souls.

One interesting bird on the list is the Chasidah, usually translated as a stork… The Chasidah is a very generous bird who shares its food with its fellow Chasidahs.  …  This begs the obvious question… we don’t eat these non-kosher birds because they are cruel.  We don’t want to ingest a nasty bird that kills other animals.  But the Chasidah is a nice guy!  He shares his food with his fellows.  He does Chesed, acts of kindness for others!  So what’s the problem?..

Read more.

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 “You!”  (2006)

… The Talmud describes how the available bachelorettes borrowed dresses (so as not to embarrass one who had none) and went down to the vineyards to meet eligible bachelors … two days, Yom Kippur and the Fifteenth of Av, were the two main days for arranging marriages.

Doesn’t that seem a bit odd?  Yom Kippur, a day of serious spiritual yearning, a time of forgiveness of sins!  Is that the right time to arrange a date?!  The month of Av, a time during which we have shed oceans of tears!  Is that an appropriate time for a singles event?! …

Read more.

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“Terrible or Tear-able? – The Living Talk about Dying” (2005)

… I once went to visit a friend who was sitting Shiva for his father.  He and his mother were both wearing black ribbons pinned to their shirts.  Now this black ribbon, as I will explain, has no significance whatsoever in traditional Jewish practice.  It was the last day of Shiva.  My friend, taking advantage of the fact that a rabbi was visiting, decided to call upon the vast wealth of Torah knowledge that his friend the rabbi could provide.

“So tell me, Rabbi,” he asked.  “How long am I supposed to wear this ribbon?”…

Read more.

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“A Little Bit Kosher?!” (2004)

“There’s no such thing as ‘a little bit pregnant.”  There are no two ways about it; either you are or you aren’t.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Kosher law was so simple? … “Why are there so many Kosher symbols? What ever happened to the plain, simple “K”? O-U, O-K, Star-K? OY VAY!!!!”… I still haven’t answered the question about dual standards.   Must meat be Glatt kosher or not?  Must milk be Cholov Yisroel or not?  IS SHE PREGNANT OR NOT?!

Read more.

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“A High Fly Matzah Ball into SHALLOW Center Field” (2003)

… My son and I went to a baseball game the other day.  I usually try to take him to a game or two every season, and this particular day fit into my schedule.  Coincidentally, it happened to have been Jewish Heritage Day at Shea Stadium.  What, I wondered, is “Jewish Heritage?”  Well, now I was going to find out.

It was, in many ways, a wonderful day.  Fortunately for my son-the-Met-fan, the Mets beat the  Rockies. (Again!)  The weather was great.  Cliff Floyd had four hits and an intentional walk.  Al Leiter pitched a season-high ten strikeouts.  It was a good day at Shea.

Oh, and the “Jewish Heritage Day?”  To be honest, I was, at best, underwhelmed…

Read more.

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“Spring Ahead …” (2002)

…Jews and Muslims both use a lunar calendar. Rosh Chodesh, the first of the month, always comes out on the new moon. Why then, is there such a discrepancy between the Jewish and Muslim calendars? While Ramadan can come out any time during the year, Rosh Hashanah is always in September, and Passover is always in March or April.  How do calendars that are so similar end up so different?…

If the calendar were left alone… we’d have Chanukah in July! (At least it might eliminate the “December dilemma!”) …

Read more.

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“BREAD, MATZAH…AND PIZZA” (2001)

… Did you ever wonder why we left in a hurry?  We eat Matzah to remember that since we were in a hurry, there was no time for our bread to rise.  But what was the rush?  Why were we in such a hurry?   We couldn’t afford a few more minutes to take the bread out of the oven and put some peanut butter on it?!  210 years in  Egypt, and we can’t take the time to pack and leave like a mentch?!…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in  Monsey,  New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on August 18, 2006 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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