TAKE A LOOK – “R’ey”, Deut. 11:26-16:17 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
At a roadhouse in Wyoming, one feature on the menu is “Steak juice.” What is steak juice? Chilled beef blood. Some cowboys must like it. The Torah does not. “Just be strong, not to eat the blood, for the blood is the soul. Do not eat the soul with the flesh.” (from this week’s reading, Deut. 12:23) As Moses continues his review of Torah teachings, we will also read about other dietary laws and their significance; about how to worship G-d and how to prevent worship of idols; tithes; debts and loans; helping the unfortunate; how to treat an indentured servant; and the calendar of the religious year. All of these teachings have either historical or practical value, or both, for us.
Particularly timely this year is the Haftorah, the prophetic reading that corresponds to “Sedrah R’ey.” Third of the seven messages of comfort that follow the grief of Tish’a b’Av, this is Isaiah’s promise of hope to his defeated and impoverished people. “All who are thirsty, come to the water” he calls. “Whoever has no money, go and buy and eat… buy wine and milk without money and without price.” And in line with the spirit of the Sedrah: “All your children will be students of G-d, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Free wine and milk might be a welcome gift from some welfare state, but personal peace requires inspiration.
For our time, Isaiah’s message sounds a goal and an alert. “No weapon formed against you will succeed, and every tongue that rises against you must you condemn!” Did Isaiah see it coming? Hamas rockets and CNN slander? Our enemies might look different but their goals never change.
Even our friends can exhibit behavior Isaiah predicted. “You will call to a nation you did not know, and a nation that did not know you will run to you, because of the L-rd your G-d, the Holy One of Israel who glorifies you.” No nations seem to be running to help us today, but some significant individuals are. Recently reported is the first-person story of an Arab spy who not only supplies vital military intelligence to the IDF, but actually studied and brought his wife with him to become Jewish. By his own account, he read the Koran and determined that the jihadis were totally misinterpreting it, while the Israelis were following the spirit of the Bible. Then he attended a Yom Kippur service, and felt at home.
Other outsiders, from England and Japan and the United States, are rising against the hate-mongers. Pastors from many Christian denominations take thousands of their people on pilgrimage tours to Israel every year, and we can be sure those people will not be marching in any anti-Jewish rallies. These days when we need all the friends we can get, we can only hope for the complete fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “an eternal covenant… for the sure mercies of David.” In Jewish lore, the Messiah will be a descendant of King David, and he will usher in worldwide peace. Maybe the Moshiach will be a brilliant technologist who will attract the sincere friendship and admiration of the entire world, as Israeli knowhow already attracts many industries that are free of political bias. Maybe not. Either way, we could really use him!