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Re'eh 5771

Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Shortly, it will be Rosh Chodesh Elul (August 30th and 31st), the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul.  This means that there is one month and counting to Rosh Hashanah (Wednesday evening, September 28th).  Many people might ask, "So, what?" or might think, "Thanks for the reminder to buy a brisket!"  However, the answer to "So, what?" is that we have one month to prepare for Rosh Hashanah ... and Yom Kippur.

Why would one want to prepare for Rosh Hashanah?  Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment when the Almighty decides "Life or death, sickness or health, poverty or wealth."  Does it make sense to prepare for a day of judgment?  You bet!  However, for many it has the same emotional impact as their cardiologist telling them that they need to lose weight to avoid heart attacks and strokes ... a wonderful idea between meals!

There is a tremendous benefit to living in Miami Beach.  It's a hurricane zone.  Around May you get the annual predictions -- 21 tropical storms, 11 hurricanes, 7 major hurricanes.  They actually have ways of measuring, correlating and predicting the number and size of storms.  At the beginning of the season we start buying bottled water and batteries to prepare.  We put a new battery in the weather radio which broadcasts the position and strength of the storms.  We even have a chart where we mark off the present location of storms out there in the Caribbean.

Why is living in a hurricane zone a benefit?  It teaches you a very important lesson:  Be real with life!  Usually, the weather bureau (N.O.A.A. -- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) gives a week's heads up.  You know that in 7 days a Force 3 or 4 or 5 hurricane will hit.  You generally know for sure whether it will hit land, you just don't know whether for sure it will hit YOU until perhaps a day or a few hours before landfall.

What happens during that week?  The hardware store sells out all of its plywood (used for covering windows) and batteries.  They have to make special shipments from neighboring states!  The grocery stores shelves are cleared out or seriously diminished of canned goods and water.  People are scrambling to buy generators to provide electricity needed to keep the lights on, fans going and the refrigerator and freezer working.  There is a mad dash for last minute preparations because the STORM IS COMING!

What's the difference between a hurricane and Rosh Hashanah?  The hurricane MAY hit your area; Rosh Hashanah DEFINITELY will touch you!

So, if one believes in a God who has set a standard for behavior and observance in the Torah and who will judge us, does it make sense to make some preparations?  It would be reasonable to think so.

How can one prepare for the Day of Judgment?  Here are:



  1. Take a spiritual accounting.  Each day take at least 5 minutes to review your last year -- a) your behavior with family, friends, associates and people you've interacted with, and b) your level of mitzvah observance .
  2. Attend a class or classes at a synagogue, Aish center, a yeshiva on how to prepare.  Read articles on and listen to world-class speakers on .
  3. Study the Machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) to know the order of the service and the meaning of the words and prayers. You can buy a copy of the The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf (possibly available at your local Jewish bookstore or at
  4. Make sure that you have given enough tzedakah (charity) and have paid your pledges (One is supposed to give 10% of his net income).  It says in the Machzor that three things break an evil decree -- Teshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity).  Why not maximize your chance for a good decree?
  5. Think of (at least) one person you have wronged or feel badly towards -- and correct the situation.
  6. Make a list of your goals for yourself and your family -- what you want to work towards and pray for.
  7. Limit your pleasures -- the amount of television, movies, music, food -- do something different so that you take this preparation time seriously.
  8. Do an extra act of kindness -- who needs your help? To whom can you make a difference?
  9. Read a book on character development -- anything written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin or Rabbi Abraham Twerski would be great!
  10. Ask a friend to tell you what you need to improve.  A real friend will tell you ... but in a nice way!

For more on "Rosh Hashana" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

This week is a jam-packed portion.  It begins with a choice: "I set before you a blessing and a curse.  The blessing: if you obey the commandments of God...; the curse if you do not ... and you follow other gods."

The portion continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and the other religions in the land.  In verses 13:1-12 you will find the section that caused a missionary's face to blanch and silenced him from continuing to proselytize a renowned rabbi.

One of the indications of the existence and necessity of the Oral Torah -- an explanation and clarification (later redacted as the Talmud) of the written Torah (The Five Books of Moses) -- comes from verse 12:21 "You will slaughter animals ... according to the manner I (God) have prescribed."  Nowhere in the Torah are we instructed in the manner of shechita, ritual slaughter.  One might conclude that there was a very sloppy editor.  Or -- one might conclude that there are additional teachings (the Oral Law/Talmud) clarifying and amplifying the written Word.

The source of the Chosen People concept is brought this week: "You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord.   God has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation ... (Deut. 14:1-2)."  We are chosen for responsibility, not privilege --to act morally and to be a "light unto the nations."

The portion then gives instructions regarding: permitted and forbidden foods, the Second Tithe, remissions of loans every 7 years, treatment of those in need (to be warm-hearted and open-handed), a Jewish bondsman, the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"After the Almighty, your God, shall you walk, and Him shall you fear, and His commandments you shall observe and to His voice shall you hearken, and Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave" (Deuteronomy 13:5).

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, notes that the Hebrew word for "after" is "acharai" which denotes a far distance. He asks, "Since this verse tells us to follow the Almighty, why didn't the Torah use a term denoting closeness since we should be as close as possible to the Almighty?

Rabbi Kagan explains that the Torah uses a term denoting distance to tell us that regardless of how far a person feels he is from the Almighty, he should never give up hope. With all of his power he should strive to come closer to the Almighty and he will find Him. Never despair and never allow any faults or transgressions to prevent you from coming closer to the Almighty!


(or go to

Jerusalem 6:36
Guatemala 6:00 - Hong Kong 6:39 - Honolulu 6:34
J'Burg 5:34 - London 7:42 - Los Angeles 7:18
Melbourne 5:35 - Mexico City 7:38 - Miami 7:35
New York 7:32 - Singapore 6:55 - Toronto 7:58


People don't care what you know
until they know that you care.
-  President Teddy Roosevelt


Dedicated to my wife

Beth Bloom

on our 17th wedding anniversary

Thank you for our 3 beautiful miracles
and a magnificent life together.




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