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Re'eh 5766

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

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! And the war between Israel and the Hezbollah continues. Do you know that there are approximately 1 million Israelis who have left their homes in the North of Israel? There are many who have been taken in by Israelis (Aish is housing over 900 people; see and there are many looking for a place to stay. Is there any reporting in the media on the suffering in Israel? Last week USA Today had 2 photos - a big photo of a Lebanese man holding a sheet-wrapped object identified as his 20 month year old son and for balance, a smaller photo of 3 Israeli soldiers.

The U.N. expresses "extreme shock and distress" over Israel's "bombing of civilians" in Qana and the deaths of women and children. Is the U.N. putting as much effort in stopping the 1,600 children from dying each day in Darfur? What other nation than Israel drops pamphlets before bombing military targets advising civilians to evacuate? Where is the outcry over Hezbollah's use of civilians as shields for their rockets?

The media attacks Israel for "disproportionate death counts" -approximately 700 Lebanese to about 100 Israelis. (One Israeli official responded to a reporter, "Do you want me to apologize that not enough Israelis have been killed?") The media fabricates photos (see and the Arabs fabricate tragedies (google: "Pallywood" and see Does anyone care? Are they just happy to see Israel put in a bad light? One senses a growing anti-Semitism behind the highly skewed reporting criticizing Israel. I think it is a good time to think about anti-Semitism and the role it plays in Jewish history and our lives.

Historians have classified six explanations as to why people hate the Jews:

  1. Economic - "We hate Jews because they possess too much wealth and

  2. Chosen People - "We hate Jews because they arrogantly claim that they
    are the chosen people."

  3. Scapegoat - "Jews are a convenient group to single out and blame for our troubles."

  4. Deicide - "We hate Jews because they killed Jesus."

  5. Outsiders - "We hate Jews because they are different than us." (The
    dislike of the unlike.)

  6. Racial Theory - "We hate Jews because they are an inferior race."

As we examine the explanations, we must ask - Are they the causes for anti-Semitism or excuses for Anti-Semitism? The difference? If one takes away the cause, then anti-Semitism should no longer exist. If one can show a contradiction to the explanation, it demonstrates that the "cause" is not a reason, it is just an excuse.

Let's look at some contradictions:

1. Economic - The Jews of 17th- 20th century Poland and Russia were dirt poor, had no influence and yet they were hated.

2. Chosen People - (a) In the late 19th century, the Jews of Germany denied "Choseness." And then they worked on assimilation. Yet, the Holocaust started there. (b) Christians and Moslems profess to being the "Chosen people," yet, the world and the anti-Semites tolerate them.

3. Scapegoat - Any group must already be hated to be an effective scapegoat. The Scapegoat Theory does not then cause anti-Semitism. Rather, anti-Semitism is what makes the Jews a convenient scapegoat target. Hitler's rantings and ravings would not be taken seriously if he said, "It's the bicycle riders and the midgets who are destroying our society."

4. Deicide - (a) the Christian Bible says the Romans killed Jesus, though Jews are mentioned as accomplices (claims that Jews killed Jesus came several hundred years later). Why are the accomplices persecuted and there isn't an anti-Roman movement throughout history? (b) Jesus himself said, "Forgive them [i.e., the Jews], for they know not what they do." The Second Vatican Council in 1963 officially exonerated the Jews as the killers of Jesus. Neither statement of Christian belief lessened anti-Semitism.

5. Outsiders - With the Enlightenment in the late 18th century, many Jews rushed to assimilate. Anti-Semitism should have stopped. Instead, for example, with the Nazis came the cry, in essence: "We hate you, not because you're different, but because you're trying to become like us! We cannot allow you to infect the Aryan race with your inferior genes."

6. Racial Theory - The overriding problem with this theory is that it is self-contradictory: Jews are not a race. Anyone can become a Jew – and members of every race, creed and color in the world have done so at one time or another.

Every other hated group is hated for a relatively defined reason. We Jews, however, are hated in paradoxes: Jews are hated for being a lazy and inferior race – but also for dominating the economy and taking over the world. We are hated for stubbornly maintaining our separateness – and, when we do assimilate – for posing a threat to racial purity through intermarriages. We are seen as pacifists and as warmongers; as capitalist exploiters and as revolutionary communists; possessed of a Chosen-People mentality, as well as of an inferiority complex. It seems that we just can't win.

Now we know what are NOT the reasons for anti-Semitism. Next week we will explore the real reasons for anti-Semitism.

For more on "Anti-Semitism" 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 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 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:

"If there be among you a needy person, one of your brethren within any of your gates, in your land which the Almighty, your God, gives you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand against your needy brother." (Deuteronomy 15:7)

What do the words "you shall not harden your heart" come to teach us?

Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (a 12th century Spanish commentator) explains: you shall not refrain from speaking kind words to his heart. When a person is poor, s/he suffers more than just financial deprivation - s/he suffers much emotional pain. Many times s/he might become totally discouraged and broken. Therefore, we have an obligation to open our hearts to such a person and to talk to him in a compassionate and empathetic manner. We must go out of our way to give words of encouragement. Just giving a person money without trying to help him emotionally is only part of the job. It is a sign of apathy and callousness not to try to cheer up a person who needs emotional support.

(or Go to

Jerusalem 6:45
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New York 7:33 - Singapore 6:55 - Toronto 8:00


Better to fight for something
than to live for nothing.
-- George S. Patton


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