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Parsha Re'eh

08/09/2018 08:49:24 PM

Aug9

Parshas Re’eh also coincides with Rosh Chodesh Elul, and whether Re’eh is read on Rosh Chodesh itself or the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh, there is definitely a deep connection between the two.  The Chassidic masters popularized the value of finding hints to Chodesh Elul throughout Tanach, and one unlikely source is found in Tehillim 100, a chapter that is incorporated in Shachris every day.  The third verse is written:  דְּע֗וּ כִּ֥י יְהֹוָה֘ ה֚וּא אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים ה֣וּא עָ֖שָׂנוּ לֹ֣א אֲנַ֑חְנוּ עַ֜מּ֗וֹ וְצֹ֣אן מַרְעִיתֽוֹ- “Know that Hashem, He is God, it is He Who made us and not ourselves (i.e. we did not create ourselves), His people and the sheep of His pasture.  However, as tradition upholds, the verse is not meant to read the way it is written, and it changes to read  ל֣וֹ אֲנַ֑חְנוּ- we are His people.  One of the giants of the Gur dynasty, the Chiddusei Harim, notes that by combining the written text with the way the Pasuk is read, we derive the word Elul (לֹ֣אל֣וֹ=  אלֹ֣וֹל֣ rearranged)

This combination of קרי-Kri and כתיב-Ksiv to form Elul reflects of the deep connection between self-negation and pride in Avodas Hashem, as the Kri and Ksiv are somehow forged together despite their antithetical meanings.  On the one hand, it can be said that without self-negation, the prerequisite of repentance, we will never reach the pride of associating as God’s people.  Somewhat conversely, it can be said that coming close to God and finding pride as His people is itself a catalyst for self-negation and humility in the presence of God.  Are we people of God or the flock of God?  This complex duality is both an unanswered question in the Kri Uksiv and in the following words of the verse, and it is this very complexity that is the heart of the makeup of Elul.  

The Gemara in Yevamos 61a teaches that only Jews “are called Man, and the other nations are not called man,” and the source for like teaching is from Yechezkiel 34:31 that says about the Jews- you are man.  Ironically, in that very verse itself the Torah first refers to the Jews as animals, as the full Pasuk reads: “you are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture; you are man.”  Again, we are left to balance self-negation and pride to find the makeup of a Jew- the sheep of God and Man.  

The Mishna in Rosh Hashana teaches that the first of Elul is the New Year for the tithe of animals.  The tithe of animals is the mitzvah that all new flock born in one year are to enter a pen and exit one by one, and each 10th animal that leaves the pen is to be consecrated to God.  As the Torah teaches here in Parshas Re’eh, the animals of one year cannot be combined in the tithing process with animals of another year, and the “cutoff” for the beginning of the new year is the first of Elul.  Besides for this rule in the specifics of the animal tithe, this law may reflect on part of the essence of Elul itself.  Every Elul, we grapple with the dual identity of flock and Man as a part of the very name of Elul, and we relate to the animal soul inside of us to figure out how  Man is somehow inside as well.  In the tithing process, one of the key Halachic components is that the owner does not designate the 10th animal, as the animal designates itself by walking through on its own.  There are times when we employ the concept of elevating animalistic tendencies to change them, but Maaser Beheima’s theme is that the animal itself is holy to God.  Given the right contexts and conditions, the 10th animal itself becomes consecrated without any human intervention.  We often think of the relationship between the beast and Man inside from the angle of how the Man can impact the beast, but maybe there is an idea of the beast itself driving the Man.  As the animals themselves create holiness for number 10, the owner watches on and is inspired by the dormant holiness coming to sudden life in regular animals and he responds by taking that 10th animal and offering it as a sacrifice to God.   

Fri, January 18 2019 12 Shevat 5779