Re’eh 5777

RABBI ELI GRAISER

ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה׃ את הברכה אשר תשמעו אל מצוות ה’ אלקיכם אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום׃ והקללה אם לא תשמעו אל מצוות ה’ אלקיכם וסרתם מן הדרך אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום ללכת אחרי אלהים אחרים אשר לא ידעתם׃ (דברים יא:כו-כח)

See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing that if you obey the commandments of
Hashem Your G-d that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse that if you do not obey the commandments
of Hashem your G-d, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other
gods, whom you have not experienced. (Devarim 11:26-28)

The above introductory passage in Parshas Re’eh leaves one wondering: What is the blessing for adhering to Hashem’s will, and the curse that comes as consequence for not listening to the word of Hashem? The passage does not continue; in the Torah there is a Stumah, closed break, here, indicating that this is the end of a section. However, it seems that the Torah did not complete the thought!
Rashi explains that the Pasuk is referring to the blessings and curses of Har Gerizim and Har Eival. Yet the question remains: why did the Pasuk seem not to explain itself? Obviously, the Torah did complete the thought. The Pasuk may be understood as follows. The greatest blessing is that we should be able to do Hashem’s will, for the one and only reason that it is His will. Conversely, the greatest curse is to be listed among those who do not follow Hashem’s command. No other incentives are necessary, says the Pasuk. The blessing is to be the ones who follow in His ways.
Hashem’s message to the Jewish people now, after the trials and tests of forty years in the desert, is to realize that He wants us to do His will. That is what we are here for, to sanctify G-d’s name by being His chosen people and showing the world that we listen to and serve Him for the sole purpose that this is what He desires.
As the Torah says earlier in Parshas Eikev: ועתה ישראל מה ה’ אלקיך שאל מעמך כי אם ליראה את ה’ אלקיך ללכת בכל דרכיו ולאהבה אתו ולעבד את ה’ אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך׃ לשמר את מצוות ה’ ואת חקתיו אשר אנכי מצוך היום לטוב לך׃ (דברים י:יב-יג)
“And now, O Israel, what does Hashem your G-d demand of you? Only this: to revere Hashem your G-d, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve Hashem your G-d with all your heart and soul, keeping Hashem’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good” (Devarim 10:12-13).
The Torah in the beginning of Parshas Re’eh is continuing in the same vein. Hashem enjoins the Jewish people to follow His word, and it is the greatest blessing to do this.
In the above passage from Parshas Eikev, Hashem includes the commandment to “love Him.” This is perhaps the key to success. If we merely follow the laws as a servant would listen to his master, we are missing the point. Hashem desires a loving relationship with us. We must come to a level where we serve Him because we want to do His will. That is “love.” A loving relationship, like that of a husband and wife, is one in which each party desires to do good for the other simply because that is what the other person wants.
This idea is echoed in the Mishna (Pirkei Avos 2:4). The great leader of the Jewish people, Rabban Gamliel, says, “Make His will be like your will, so that He will make your will like His will; and belittle your will in place of His will, so that He will belittle His will in place of your will.” Simply put, this means that we should want exactly what Hashem desires. We should not simply listen to what Hashem says. We need to train ourselves to desire to do what He wants us to do because it is His will. This will result in Hashem doing what we ask for, simply because it is what we want. That is a loving relationship.
As we get closer to Elul and the Yomim Noraim, we should keep the above in mind. We are familiar with Elul standing for אני לדודי ודודי לי , meaning, “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” This is a reference to our relationship with Hashem, which is clearly what we should be developing leading up to the holy days of Tishrei. Hashem wants us to grow towards the loving relationship that Rabban Gamliel taught.
It is not only a scary time. That would suffice were we only to have a slave-master relationship. But Hashem wants a loving Father-son relationship as well. Still, it is important to note that we must begin this relationship. First is אני לדודי, “I am to my beloved,” and only then is ודודי לי. This is precisely the order in the Mishna as well.


RABBI MESHULUM YEHUDA KLUGMANN

The Torah discusses the Mitzvah of Tzedaka many times. The laws of Tzedaka are complex and warrant in-depth study.
The requirement of supporting all those in need means we must give them whatever they are lacking.
Our sages speak at great length of the importance of opening our hands to the needy. The Rambam and others write that one will never become poor giving “too much” Tzedaka, nor will any harm befall him as a result of his generosity.
The Gemara (Shabbos 151b) says, “When one acts with mercy on others, Hashem will have mercy on him.”
One should give at least one tenth of his earnings to charity. It is optimal to give a fifth (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 249:1). In doing so, one has fulfilled his requirement generously.
In addition to the commandment to give, there is a prohibition against holding back from giving. The Torah warns, “Don’t harden your heart or clench your fist closed from your brother the needy” (Devarim 15:7). This means that if a poor person approaches you for funds, you must give even though you have already fulfilled your other charity requirements.
One can fulfill this obligation even with a very small amount. If you have nothing available to give, you must appease him with words. Show him sympathy. Show warmth. Additionally, the Gemara (Bava Basra 9a) explains that one can arrange for others to give, as we know that “the causer (of a good deed) is greater than the doer.”
What if a pauper sends out letters requesting alms? Does the prohibition against holding back require one to give? Since he is not standing before you, perhaps you are not insulting him by ignoring his plea. Also, a person by nature does not feel as much emotion when the request is not made in person; therefore, by denying the request, one would not be described as “hardening his heart.”
Similarly, one can question if the prohibition applies when an agent requests funds for another, since he is not appealing for himself.
The Gemara (Bava Basra 10a) quotes, “One who closes his eyes from charity is as if he practiced idol worship.”
The Be’er Moshe (4:92) points out that it doesn’t say, “One who closes his eyes from a pauper,” but “from charity.” This implies that one must respond to a solicitation letter. However, the Be’er Moshe clarifies that one is only required to send back a donation if the letter was accompanied by testimonials of a Rav or Beis Din. He cites the Chasam Sofer, who says that the reason why the Torah does not accept written testimony is because it is easier to fabricate a story in writing. Therefore, if there is no one vouching for the solicitor’s credibility, one can claim that perhaps he is a phony.
The Shevet Halevi (5, 131, 2) agrees that the prohibition applies even when the pauper is not in front of you. He adds that even if you are not approached in any way, you must give if you are aware of his plight.
Generally, one who is learning Torah must stop his learning to perform a Mitzvah that can’t be done by others. However, the Chut HaSheni rules that when people go around collecting in the study hall, one should not interrupt his studies to give. He explains that no one has the right to disturb the many from Torah study.
Rav Moshe Shternbach (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 3:288) maintains that if the pauper circulates through a crowd soliciting funds, one who does not give is not transgressing the prohibition of holding oneself back from giving. The reason for this is that the poor man is approaching the group rather than the individual. He has no aspirations that everyone will give. However, if he approaches you in a personal manner, you are obligated to give.
One who is busy with a Mitzvah is not required to pause in order to do a second one, even when the first one can be fulfilled afterward. Not only is he not obligated to stop, he is forbidden to do so. One may not pass over one Mitzvah in favor of another one.
What if someone comes collecting during Davening? Must we stop to give? When we are praising Hashem, we are doing a great Mitzvah. Here, Rav Shternbach (Tshuvos Vehanhagos 5:287) rules that if one is accustomed to stop for personal needs, he may pause also for a Mitzvah, but he does not have to. While reciting Shema and Shemona Esrei, however, one may not interrupt for any other Mitzvah.