Parshat Re’eh 5774 — Seeing and Acting with Chessed, Kindness Toward Others vs Consequences of Contempt and Prejudice

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Re’eh is being sponsored by Daniel and Amy Michaels of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of their children, that they continue to grow in Torah and Mitzvot and have much Bracha V”Hatslocha. To the Michaels family, many thanks for your sponsorhip and continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sign up to this list, and to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Re’eh 5774 — Seeing and Acting with Chessed, Kindness Toward Others vs Consequences of Contempt and Prejudice

by Moshe Burt

According to Rashi, Moshe Rabbeinu begins our Parshat Re’eh by informing the B’nei Yisrael about the Brachot (blessings) and Klalot (curses) to be pronounced to them from Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval upon their entry to Eretz Yisrael.

Moshe Rabbeinu continues his mussar saying: to B’nai Yisrael:

“Behold, I set before you … a blessing and a curse; the blessing if you heed the commandments of Hashem, and the curse, if you will not observe his commandments. (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 26-27)

Toward the end of the parsha, we are informed:

“If there be among you a destitute person of one of your brothers within your cities in your land which Hashem … gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 15, posuk 7)

This author views “V’ahavtah, L’rei’echa Kamocha”, that which Hillel told the Ger “on one foot” as summing up the entire Torah: wanting for your brother what you would want for yourself, and not wanting for your brother what you would not want for yourself, as the link which binds these two these p’sukim of our Parsha.

One of the most illustrative stories that is told, whether it really occured or is a tale with a moral, regarding the link between these posukim is one cited in Rabbi Mordechai Katz’s sefer L’lmod U’Lamed (page 170) on our parsha about the consequences of lacking Chesed:

There was once a man who enjoyed all of the good things in life; successful business, devoted wife, a beautiful, spacious home. He was content to continue this good life indefinitely.

One day, as he sat down to a sumptuous meal, there was a knock at the door. A beggar was seeking a few spare morsels of food to suffice his hunger. The man responded scornfully, as he slammed the door; “Why don’t you go out and earn a living instead of depending upon others to support you”.

Not long afterwards, the man noticed that his business began to decline. He soon had to cut back on his lifestyle by pawning off many of his valuable clothing and belongings. The business downturn continued unabated. He gave up all of his furniture and soon, his house as well. His wife volunteered to find work to pay for food but the man refused. Feeling ashamed at not being able to support his wife, he divorced her.

Several months passed and the wife found a new suitor. He was a newly wealthy man and they married and established a household.

Once again, one night as the couple were preparing for dinner, there was a knock at the door. A beggar appeared asking for food. The new husband was much more Chessed oriented than the previous one. He invited the beggar in and provided him with enough food and money for weeks. The beggar, eyes downcast, accepted the Chessed gratefully.

After the beggar departed, the husband noticed a strange look on his wife’s face and asked what was wrong. She explained, “I knew that beggar. He was my first husband. He looked so thin and pale that I hardly recognized him. How sad to see a man sink so low.”

The husband thought for a moment and said, “If that was your first husband, then I just realized something. Do you remember that a beggar once came to your previous home asking for bread and was turned away? Somehow, good fortune seemed to come to me after that and I became wealthy.” We are told, “he who closes his ears to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard.” (Mishley 21:13) (L’lMode U’Lamed, pages 170-171.)

It is against the background of the two posukim cited above and the consequences of lacking Chesed that one could speak of the importance of a myriad of chassadim (kindnesses).

During the war against Hamas terrorism; their kidnap and cold-blooded murder of three teenage Yeshiva boys, their encroachments into Israel’s heartland hoping to kidnap Jews, their rockets, mortars, tunnels — emanating from Gaza, we have seen Am Yisrael come together as one in ways not seen in many years. Jews have come together in unity behind OUR IDF soldiers boosting spirits of the Chayalim sky-high with supplies of foods, toiletries, and other tools and necessities which the army for whatever reason is unable to supply them. Countless tehillim assemblies take place, both by men and women. Kohanim convey Hashem’s blessings upon the soldiers and their families, and much more — kindnesses to numerous to list here.

But have we done enough? Is our unity full-hearted, complete, perfected, without even a whiff of any beneathe-the-surface prejudice? This jaw-dropping headline — “Hareidi MKs Condemn Attack on IDF Soldier in Beit Shemesh”, and quote from Israel National News:

… Extremists attacked a reserve soldier returning home from the front Monday, according to several reports, as he came home to Beit Shemesh to visit his parents and pray at a local synagogue.

“His two children were very frightened,” an eyewitness told Walla! news Tuesday. “The extremists cursed him, threw stones at his car, and ordered him to leave the neighborhood.”

The incident unfolded on Hillel street at about 10:00 pm, according to the report. The extremists called the reservist a “Nazi” and “vermin.”

Several other eyewitnesses told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday that friends and neighbors of the reserve soldier condemned and apologized for the incident, helped him recover and offered to pay for the damage.

MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said in a radio interview this morning on Kol Yehudi that “there is no sane person who does not condemn the attack on an IDF soldier in Beit Shemesh last night.”

“This is a serious crime, a terrible injustice to the public and an attempt to defame an entire community,” he continued. “The police should take care of
these hardened criminals.”

It hurts deeply that both the reputation of Beit Shemesh and the Chessed and unity of Am Yisrael are once again besmirched by a small, but violent element. In short, there can be zero-tolerance for such actions, as described above, by a criminal element linked to any sector of Jews, particularly if linked to any sectors of Observant Jews. Such individuals should be separated, sequestered from their families and community, not counted in a minyan for tefillah and brought before Beit Din, and if not before a Beit Din, then to the courts and justice system and their families be made to pay restitution for physical damages, whether to the soldier or his property, and to cover costs of victimized soldier’s trauma counseling. And, in this author’s judgement, Rabbanim in the community where these criminals live, and certain politicians who have coddled and tolerated this element for years, due to their fear of this element’s violence against their very persons, share responsibility for the acts of these criminals.

It seems to this author that those who harbor such complete hatred and contempt for their fellows have missed the moral of Rav Mordechai Katz’s story above. It would seem that this moral extends to suffering the consequences of lacking kindness and understanding toward others, even others who seem not to be exact copies of you.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.