Welcome to mitzvah laden parshas Re’ay and to choidesh Elul (month of Elul). Re’ay is #47 out of 54 parshas, contains 126 p’sukim and ranks 13th in overall size, which avada matters, if you chap. Let’s quickly chazir a few factoids about the month of Elul. We are mamish inching closer to the finish line and soon enough another cycle of the heylige Toirah will be completed. Before that, another year will be ushered in. In parsha time, the Yiddin are still on the wrong side of the Jordan and waiting to cross. Moishe is still talking and dealing.
Nu, some say that in Choidesh Elul we begin the process of introspection. This process culminates on Yom Kippur. Basically, it’s the pre-season for tshuva, a few good practice runs before the main events of Roish Hashono and the big day of Yoim Kippur. Of course, some others say that the tshuva process can get extended as far out as Hoishana Rabba and many say that it’s never too late to repent. Hopefully they are correct.
Here’s all you need to know, but sadly don’t: Ershtens: the month of Elul always has two days of Roish Choidesh. Since it’s the last month in our calendar, Elul serves as a time for review and stocktaking for the closing year, as well as a time of preparation for the coming year. In other words; it’s time to do inventory before the year-end audit. And how do we know this? Nu, according to tradition, the month of Elul is the time that Moishe spent on Har Seenai (Mount Sinai,) preparing the second set of Luchois (tablets) following the inexplicable incident with the Eygel (golden calf) (Shmois 32). Moishe, we are taught, ascended on Roish Choidesh Elul and descended on the 10th of Tishri, at the end of Yom Kippur, when repentance was granted and complete. Just in case you forgot, let me remind you that things didn’t exactly work out for Moishe on his first mountain climb. On his first trek up, he received the Luchois (with the Ten Commandments (Aseret HaDibrois)) which he smashed when he climbed down on 17th of Tammuz, hence we’ve been fasting on that date almost ever since. Seemingly, the RBSO is in a forgiving mood during the 40 day period beginning with day one of Elul and avada we should take advantage.
Veyst zich ois (seemingly), Elul is one of the most important months of the year, as it’s the month of repentance and rachamim (Mercy) and marks the beginning of the tshuva process taking place before Roish HaShono. Seemingly the month of Elul is uniquely suited for rectifying one’s failings, and also consolidating the achievements of the bygone year, and for readying ourselves for the high holy days, the “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur. Need I say more?
And how do we taka know that Elul ushers in the tshuva season? Said some Rebbe, whose name long escapes the Oisvorfer due to trauma caused from the shteken (both of them), azoy: the proof, or at least the allusion to the proof, is found mamish right here in this week’s heylige Parsha of Re’ay. Grada (so happens) that the Parsha begins with these holy words: “Re’ay Onochi Nosain Lifneichem Hayoim” (Behold, I set before you today) [Devorim, 11:26]. And if you take some time to learn the parsha, you will find that mamish every single holiday is mentioned in it, except for Roish Hashono and Yom Kippur. Nevertheless, there is the following hint: the word “Re’ay,” which is spelled Reish-Aleph-Hey, and these letters hint to Rosh Hashono, Elul, Hoishana Rabba. The second word of the sentence -“Onochi“- has the letters Yud-Kaf, which refer to Yom Kippur. The remaining letters of that word, the Nun and the Aleph, are 51 in gematria. And the significance of 51? Avada this refers to the 51 days between the beginning of Elul through Hoishana Rabba, the last day for final tshuva. Shoin: from all this mishkibabale (mumbo jumbo), we deduce that the entire period is auspicious to tshuva. And if there’s one time in the year when we are not at all envious of the Sephardim who are otherwise somewhat liberal during the year, it’s from Choidesh Elul until Roish Hashono. For whatever reason, Sephardim begin saying Selichois on Roish Choidesh Elul, or the day after if it falls on Shabbis. These days are considered auspicious days by all, and even those who don’t begin saying Selichois, nonetheless observe other customs of tshuvah (repentance) during this time.
What are selichois? The emes is that selichois are supposed to be special prayers for forgiveness ober in reality since the very excellent Yeshivas we attended sadly never taught us what the words mean, in reality they mean little because kimat 100% of the people don’t say every word. In fact, most don’t say many words at all with ruba di’ruba (the great majority) reciting first and last few words of each paragraph only; nice way to begin the season of repentance, ober azoy iz is- a reality mamish and let’s not deny the emes.
As to us Ashkenazim, well, we get by blowing the Shoifar at Shacharis, and reciting from Tehilim (Psalm 27) at both Shacharis and Mincha for the month of Elul and only begin our Selichois recitation very early on the Sunday morning before Roish Hashono. The Hebrew letters for Elul: “Aleph, Lamed, Vov, Lamed,” are used by the Medrish to represent the famous verse in Shir Hashirim: “Ani L’Doidi V’Dodi Li,” — “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.” The “beloved” represents the RBSO; thus, throughout Elul our introspection and tshuva are designed towards reconciliation with the RBSO; gishmak mamish, no?
Elul is also a time to begin the process of asking forgiveness for wrongs done to other people. According to tradition, the RBSO does not forgive us for sins committed against another person until we have first obtained forgiveness from the person we have wronged. Given the amount of people many of you have pissed off and or otherwise hurt during the past year, beginning the process of saying “I’m sorry” could taka take all this extra time and Choidesh Elul is a great time to start. Shoin!
Many people use this time to check their mezuzois and tefilin for defects that might render them posil (invalid). Finally, the last letters of the each word of the phrase Ani L’Doidi V’Dodi Li, are all “Yud”. The numerical value of “Yud” is 10. 4×10=40, the number of days that Moishe spent on Har Seenai, when he received the second set of the Ten Commandments.
Though Sefer Devorim is also called Mishneh Toirah (review) and though you mistama thought that this sefer is merely a repeat of the previous four, it’s seemingly not so. Re’ay contains 55 brand new mitzvois. It does? But weren’t we taught that the entire sefer Devroim (Deuteronomy) was but a review of the previously given 613 mitzvois? How could it be a review yet we are introduced to 55 new commandments? Taka an excellent kasha, ver veyst? Gevald!
How are we to absorb so much information in such a short period of time while also talking to our friends during laining, ver veyst? It’s called multitasking! This week, the Yiddin will be given permission to chap and eat a shtikel fleish (meat). What’s the big deal about eating meat? What’s the big chiddish (big news in town), you ask? Weren’t the Yiddin eating meat before they entered the land? Didn’t we spend 10 weeks learning sefer Vayikra, dedicated mostly to Korbonois (sacrifices) and weren’t we taught that the Koihanim (priests) and in some cases, also poshite Yiddin (non priests) bringing a Korban (sacrifice), were also able to share and eat a good piece of meat, albeit always well done? Indeed we did. And didn’t we learn that the Yiddin were also allowed to eat meat following the Mabul (flood) when all the vegetation was destroyed? More on that below ober Ershtens…
Shoin, another week and six more Jewish calendars arrived, each of course accompanied by an envelope asking for a generous donation. Second and third seating requests are coming in from the shuls along with letters intimating that seats will be withheld unless account balances are brought up to date. Ober what is a person who is mamish struggling to feed his family to do? Can one tell the RBSO that he mamish wanted to daven to Him, to beg His forgiveness but that the Shul wouldn’t allow him to be seated because he owed them a few dollars? May one pay half his bill and request seating for but one day? Is that enough davening?
Shoin, if you recall, just last week, Moishe resorted to bribery in a desperate attempt to get the Yiddin to listen and follow the RBSO’s heylige Toirah. Ober this week, he’s had a change of heart and will continue last week’s speech with the following famous opening line. “See, this day I set before you blessing and curse.” (Devorim 11:26). Gone are the offers of the RBSO’s blessings including fertility and lots of dough. They are replaced with potential curses if the Yiddin don’t follow. Nice! Ober (but) he does tell the Yiddin that they have free will: they can mamish decide which path to take. How all this ties in with the concept of Hashgocha Pirotis (all is preordained), ver veyst, and, despite the number of times the rebbe tried beating it into my farshtopte kup (stuffed head). And he did try!
As mentioned, this week (Devarim 12:20-21) the Yiddin are given permission to eat meat: Steak, ribs and more, even chinese; we are, of course, his Chosen People. And just like that, a new industry was born: Fleishig (meat) restaurants, catering and in chasidishe circles, even fleishig Brissim (circumcisions). Moreover and as we will shortly learn, the entire shichita (slaughtering) industry, mashgichim (kosher supervisors) and all, has its roots right here in Parshas Re-ay. And if you’ve ever wondered why we need a Mashgiach timidi (steady) to sit in your favorite food establishment, the Vaad will point to Parshas Re-ay for validation of their existence. Is all that emes? Ver veyst but we’re stuck with them until the Moshiach makes an appearance to straighten this entire mess out. Nu, lets learn the heylige Toirah, the story of the Yiddin being permitted to eat meat, slaughtering procedures and more. Here we go.
The big news is that this week Moishe tells the Yiddin in the name of the RBSO that they can eat unconsecrated meat-animals that are slaughtered just for their pleasure, meaning even if they are not being brought as Korbonois (offerings). In plain English as only the Oisvorfer speaks: up until now, were they in the mood for a burger, a steak, a lean brisket sandwich, rack of lamb or even any other rack, or piece of meat, if you chap, they would have to bring a Korban and under certain conditions, they would also get to partake. Ober this week, the RBSO, mistama under pressure from the meat purveyors, restaurateurs and the local Vaad, the Yiddin are told it’s OK to eat meat anytime. Anytime, as long as one pays the Mashgiach and Vaad (Kosher Supervisory Agency) their vig. And now if one is taka in the mood for a good piece of meat and who at times isn’t, if you chap, it’s all ok but only under certain conditions. And what might those be, pray tell?
Says the heylige Toirah azoy: “When G-d will enlarge your border, as He has promised you, and you shall say, ‘I would eat meat,’ for you have a desire to eat meat, to your heart’s entire desire may you eat meat. If the place that G-d will choose to place His name will be far from you, you may kill from your herd and from your flock, which G-d has given you, in the way I have commanded you and you shall eat in your cities according to your hearts desires.”
Ok- that was one big juicy givaldige run-on sentence, let’s examine it further. Seemingly the RBSO avada understood –He does understand everything- that His chosen people are full of desires, especially to chap a good piece of meat, and realizing that such desires are at times difficult to tame, He said OK to meat. He also said that the Yiddin can eat as much meat as they desire. More: the RBSO also realized that people don’t want to schlep too far for good meat and said that if people will live far from where the RBSO designates -His home (nowadays –in Yerusholayim)- they may have meat in their own cities and neighborhoods. Yiddin of course interpret this as being allowed to and encouraged to open food establishments’ very near to one another in order to ensure that none of them makes a living. Yiddin! Ober, at the same time, the RBSO gave specific guidelines on how one may enjoy his meat; none of these include the way you chazerrim oisvorfs do, if you chap. Shoin: lucky for you, Yom Kippur is soon approaching.
Ober efsher you’re klerring azoy: earlier we mentioned that Noiach was given permission to eat meat post Mabul (flood) and if that’s taka the case and seemingly it was, what’s the big news in this parsha? Nu, I still have no idea but here’s what the Oisvorfer dug up while waiting for his order of steak, medium rare. Way back in Parshas Noiach, we were taught that he, Noiach, was given the heter (permission) to eat meat. And not a moment too soon as we also learned that his grandson Kinan, chazir minuvi that he was, couldn’t wait and took to Noiach’s meat, oy vey. Shoin, you’ll have to check out the rashi and others who fill in the gory details. Exactly what the issue (prohibition) to meat eating was pre-Mabul, is avada the subject of a great machloikes rishoinim (argument among early Rabbis), but we do know that back then too many people were doing not such nice things with their meat, if you chap, and that’s what led to the entire flood to begin with. Efsher (maybe) there was too much mixing of white and dark meat? Ver veyst?
In fact, one of the major changes in world order post-Mabul was the allowance of meat on the menu as the heylige Toirah itself states: “Behold, I have given to you all herbage yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit; it shall be yours for food. And what does that mean? Says rashi, and who knew better, azoy: the RBSO equated them [people] to animals and beasts as to food, and did not allow man and woman to kill a creature, and eat its meat. Ober, when the children of Noiach came out of the “teiva” (ark), He permitted meat to them, as it says (Bereishis 9:3), “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; like the green herbage; I have given you everything”
One thing we do know is that the RBSO did not like meat prepared rare and forbade us from eating the blood of an animal. Says the heylige Toirah (Devarim 12:23): “However, be strong not to eat the blood, for the blood is the soul, and you may not eat the soul with the flesh.” What’s pshat and why must one be “strong not to eat the blood”?Hey….hey… isn’t blood good for the body and doesn’t it make one strong? Doesn’t this defy logic? What’s pshat here?
Says Rashi azoy: “From the statement ‘be strong,’ you can infer that [the Jewish people] used to eat blood excessively. And maybe their excessive strength led to other desires, if you chap. In other words: being too strong and having strong desires can lead to other indiscretions, if you chap. Therefore, the Toirah found it necessary to say, ‘be strong’”-these are the words of Rebbe Yehudah. Case closed? No!
Ober says Rebbe Shimon ben Azzai punk farkert (opposite): the Yiddin had no taivo (desire) for blood: “This statement comes only to caution you and to teach you the extent to which you should strengthen your observance of the mitzvos. For if the Toirah needed to ‘strengthen’ you to observe the prohibition of eating blood-which is easy to guard oneself against, because a person has no desire for it-then how much more so [must one strengthen oneself to observe] all other commandments.” Of course, there are more opinions and here, then, are two more.
Rashbam: Blood becomes absorbed into all the organs of the body. Therefore, the Toirah warns us to be especially careful not to eat it. And finally Rabaynu Bachaye: Eating blood strengthens the body. Therefore, the Torah promises that a person will be strong even if he does not eat blood. Seemingly this Rabaynu Bachaye was ahead of his time because avada nowadays, people are injecting themselves with new blood, their own blood, blood mixed with stem cells and maybe even bloody Mary’s and others. The bottom line on blood: everyone has an opinion, what else is new?
In any event, we know that the RBSO does not allow us to eat or drink blood and this is not the first time we are hearing this prohibition. The Rambam in his (Sefer Hamitzvois), maintains that this prohibition is mentioned no less than seven times in the Toirah, three times just in this parsha and of course many wonder why its repeated here again in such strong language. Ober Rashi chapped that the Yiddin, and that includes most of you, are not great followers of the rules and concluded that even 40 years after they left Mitzrayim (Egypt), where they seemingly got used to eating blood excessively, they were still at it and that they needed yet another warning.
Nu, let’s chazir (review): Until this specific permission was given, in order for the Yiddin to have a good order of ribs, they had to bring a specific Korban (Korban Shelomim) which allowed for the giver to also partake in the game. And if you read the RBSO’s instruction paragraph carefully, you would have seen these words: “………..in the way I have commanded you and you shall eat in your cities according to your heart’s entire desire.” These few words are bolded so that you can mamish absorb the givaldige chiddish (amazing breakthrough) that the Chachomim (sages) came up with.
Shteltz zich di shaiylo (the question arises): where are those (above) commandments given? When? To Whom? And the answer is: to no-one! They are not found in the gantze Toirah shebecsav (Five Books). Nowhere! Ober not to worry because it so happens that our Chachomim have mamish a brilliant answer, don’t they always, and that’s taka why they are called chachomim. They say: what do you mean the rules for slaughtering were not written down and therefore don’t exist? Are you an idiot? These rules were given to Moishe orally when he was up there for 40 days without eating and drinking and you can only imagine how hungry and thirsty he was while listening to the RBSO go over the details of shichita and food preparation. Moreover, the chachomim use this language to prove that Toirah she- baal peh (the oral tradition) is taka real because otherwise the gantze parsha of kosher makes no sense. Mistama at the same time, the RBSO also told Moishe that every kosher establishment needs a full time Mashgiach though this rule wasn’t to become effective until later in the 20th century, and that Broccoli needed to be hand washed and even more shtusim (bs). Hey: it’s oral law, do we dare argue over oral? Not the Oisvorfer.
In fact, the laws of Shechita have been passed down in an unbroken chain from Mt. Sinai until today, so they say, and who are we to argue? If any of you amoratzim wish to argue, you’ll need to first become proficient in Gemora, Maseches Chulin and in the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 1-28. Sadly, the Oisvorfer has concluded that it’s just easier to pay for the Hasgocho and be done with it.
A giitn shabbis and choidesh-