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R' Feldman's Derasha - Parashat Re'eh (August 31, 2019)

09/03/2019 11:21:17 AM

Sep3

We start to blow the Shofar tomorrow.  It’s an attempt to get our attention. But really it’s a way to start the month with an emphasis on hearing.  

Back in Bereisheet, the births of the tribes begin in an order that echoes the natural world.  First, there was sight and then there was hearing -- Reuven and then Shimon. That’s the natural way, as we all know that we see lightning well before we hear the crack of thunder.  But in Devarim, it’s reversed. First we have last week’s Parasha, which begins Eikev Tishma’un, because you have listened.  And then we read this week’s, which invokes sight.  

Devarim is a Sefer focused on Teshuva, on repentance.  Moshe is trying to help the nation climb back up to the point that was reached when everyone was poised to enter the land.  That peak was lost, and a new generation needs to learn not to make the same mistakes again.  

The crawl back up to the mountain top and beyond begins with hearing and only afterward do we see.  This week’s Parasha, that of “seeing,” begins the listing of Mitzvot that will run for three weeks in all.  But before that, there were eleven chapters of re-focusing, of learning to hear. Both the first and the second paragraphs of the Sh’ma come in those chapters.  There are Mitzvot mentioned before this week, but they are connected to the project of re-focusing. Only this week do they begin to come rapid-fire.  

We have first to make sure we can hear.  The hearing is directed to a voice other than our own.  During this week’s Parasha, there are several references to doing what is straight in Hashem’s eyes rather than what is straight in our eyes.  That is the seeing we are supposed to be capable of by now because we are willing to hear. Rashi says often in the Chumash that the word Lishmo’a, to hear, refers not just to the act of hearing, but also to understanding and to acceptance, meaning the willingness to act on something.  These are the qualities we are trying to mobilize during Elul. That is what listening to the Shofar is supposed to engender.

Wed, September 18 2019 18 Elul 5779