Two Minute Torah Podcast
Shalom, this is Rich Moline, Chief Outreach Office for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Thanks for listening to KOACH's Two Minute Torah, a project of our wonderful college department.
I can remember only a couple of things from kindergarten. I remember being chastised for using a broom to clean a table (we'll save that story for another day), and I also remember what we were taught to do when walking towards an intersection. We were told to stop, look and listen.
Re'eh, says this week's parashah, re'eh Anokhi notein lifneikhem hayom, brakhah u'klalah. See — this day I set before you blessing and curse.
How do we see that? What are we supposed to see? Is this how we are to fully understand God's commandments? To see them? What are we looking for?
Yet two weeks ago, Parashat Vaetchanan, tells us — Sh'ma Yisrael — Listen — Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad. Listen Israel — Adonai our God, Adonai is Unique.
So what are supposed to do? Look or Listen? Or maybe that kindergarten adage applies to life as much as it applies to traffic.
Judaism really does require us to use our senses. The smell of wonderful food cooking before Shabbat. The feel of a tallit on our shoulders or an etrog in our hand. The sound of the shofar. The sight of loved ones at our Pesach Seder. And taste — where do we even begin?
It's nice to talk about —
but it's more than a theory. This week's parashah is
all about our senses.
Sight — chapter 11:26 — Re'eh anokhi notayn lifneykehm hayom, brakhah u'klala
See, this day I set before you blessing and curse
Smell — chapter 12:13 — Hishamer lekha pen-ta-aleh olatkha bekhol makom asher tireh
Take care not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like
Touch or Feeling — chapter 15:12 talks about setting Hebrew slaves free every seven years — and tells us that if a slave does not want to leave because “he loves you and is happy with you,” we need to pierce his ear:
V'lakakhta et hamarteiyah v'natata b'ozno u'va'delet, v'hayah lekha eved olam
You shall take an awl and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall become your slave in perpetuity.
Hearing — chapter 12:22 — Shmor v'shamatah et kol had'varim ha'eleh asher anokhi mitzavhah
Observe and hear all these things which I have commanded you
Taste — Chapter 13:3 —Lo tokhal kol toayvah
Do not eat anything abhorrent
All five senses in this one parashah — all directing us to use them as part of our own Jewish being. And if we're not fortunate enough to have all of our senses, it's clear that the use of these senses is not limited to just a few and we should be encouraged to use those that we do have.
So what does this tell us, really? It says to me that when we read about loving God with all our heart, all our souls and all of our might that it's not simply limited to speech or thought. Jewish life is meant to permeate every part of our being.
Re'eh anokhi notayn lifneykhem hayom bracha u'klalah. See, I set before you this day blessing and curse. Don't limit yourself to only one aspect of Jewish life. Stop, look and listen — and see it, hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it.