Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 (p.799)
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11-55:5 (p.818)
Summary of the parasha:
The parashah continues Moses’ series of talks to the people Israel shortly before his death, after they have wandered through the wilderness for 40 years. The emphasis changes from history to law, in this portion. Over the next several weeks, Moses will review many of the laws that the Israelites received from God, occasionally adding new ones.
This portion begins with the notion that the Israelites are given free choice. They can choose a life of blessing by obeying the commandments that God has given them, or they can choose a life of curses through disobedience. As they cross over into the Promised Land, they should be careful to obey all the laws that God has set before them.
The major theme of this portion is the centralization of worship in one holy spot that God will choose, a place for His name to dwell. All other so-called holy places are to be torn down. All offerings must be brought before God in that one central place. The requirement of a central place tended to unify the tribes and prevent divisions within the faith. (Eventually this place would be the Holy Temple in the city of Jerusalem.) Again the Israelites are warned against following the ways of the nations of the land.
Once again Moses summarizes the dietary laws. Only animals the have a split hoof and chew their cud can be eaten. Fish must have fins and scales, and there is a long list of forbidden birds, mostly birds of prey. The Israelites are given various other laws, including the requirement to tithe and to cancel all debts every seven years. The portion ends with a review of the three pilgrimage festivals, Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, when all Jews had to appear at the centralized sanctuary.
Prepared by Rabbi Avram Kogen. Edited By Cantor S. Levine.
If… there is a needy person among you… within one of your gates… do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather, open, you must open your hand and lend him enough for whatever he needs. Beware lest there be the base thought in your heart: "The seventh year of debt forgiveness is approaching," so that you are mean to your needy kinsman and give him nothing. He will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will incur guilt. (15:7-9) (Based upon translations by Jewish Publication Society and Professor Everett Fox.)
The words, "WITHIN ONE OF YOUR GATES" teach us that the poor of one's community take priority over the poor of another community. -- Sifre Devarim, (A work of legal Midrash on Deuteronomy attributed to the School of Rabbi Akiva, 2nd Century C.E.)
I only know that the Torah commands me to assist the poor of my own community. From where in the Torah do I derive the obligation to assist the poor of other communities as well? From the words, OPEN, YOU MUST OPEN YOUR HAND. The apparently superfluous use of the verb OPEN a second time teaches us that we open our hands to the poor of our community and to the poor of other communities (when we are able to assist both. For the Talmud, no word of the Torah is actually superfluous. What appears to be an unnecessary word is actually there to teach us something new.) --Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Metzia, 31b