Re’eh: When Did We Feed You?

Feeding Hungry Children“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”Matthew 25:37-40

We are told in the Torah Portion Re’eh , “Follow G-d your L-rd, fear Him, observe His commandments, hearken to His voice, serve Him and cleave to Him.” On the words “cleave to Him,” Rashi explains: “Cleave to His ways, perform acts of loving kindness, bury the dead, visit the sick, just as G-d has done.”

The Chassidic Dimension: Re’eh
From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIV, pp. 53-63.

For last week’s Torah Portion Eikev, I wrote that cleaving to God is actually an effort to bring the Messiah:

Cleaving to a Rebbe, honoring him, and learning from him, and then passing what you’ve learned to others and particularly down to the next generation in response to the desire to cling to God. When we cling to our “Rebbe”, to Jesus, we are fulfilling God’s desire.

In quoting the Master’s words above, as recorded in Matthew, I mirrored the interpretation of the Torah portion as rendered by Rashi:

Rashi’s comment must be understood: Since, according to Rashi , the verse means to tell us that we should cleave to G-d’s ways and act as He does, why doesn’t the verse explicitly state “cleave to His ways” rather than “cleave to Him?”

Moreover, since the command to cleave to G-d’s ways is stated as “cleave to Him ,” it is understandable that the ultimate unity with G-d is accomplished specifically through following G-d’s example and performing acts of loving kindness.

One SoulThe word “to cleave” in Hebrew, gives the sense of adhering or “gluing” yourself to the object of adherence. It is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 when the Torah states, “a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife”. It would be impossible for a human being to literally “cleave” to God as a man cleaves to his wife, and we see that to obey the will of God in this matter, we must attach ourselves to someone to typifies the characteristics of God (performing acts of loving kindness, burying the dead, visiting the sick, and so on), ultimately performing the behaviors we learn from them.

Jesus described his disciples, that is “us”, cleaving to God, as it were, by obeying the will of our Master and doing the same things he does; inviting the stranger into our home, clothing the unclothed, and visiting the sick and the prisoner. Sounds somewhat like knowing a tree by the fruit it bears (Matthew 7:20).

We might be tempted to force ourselves to do good deeds in order to “earn” favor in Heaven, but there’s something else to consider from this week’s Torah portion:

These concepts are relevant with regard to this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Re’eh, which begins: “See that I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.” The portion continues to allude to free choice, reward and punishment: “The blessing [will come] if you obey the commandments. and the curse [will come] if you do not heed. and go astray from the path which I have commanded.”

Moshe is telling the people that their observance of G-d’s commandments will not be a spontaneous response. Instead, they will constantly be required to make conscious choices.

Why does G-d grant man choice?

-Rabbi Eli Touger
Commentary on Torah Portion Re’eh
“The Power of Sight”
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1339ff; Vol. XV, p. 44

Good question, and one that’s been asked many times throughout the sometimes turbulent relationship between man and God.

Rabbi Touger continues:

Were man’s choice between good and evil to come naturally, he would not have any sense of accomplishment. What would he have earned?

For this reason, man is confronted at every stage of his spiritual progress with challenges which he must overcome on his own. By nature, evil has no substance, and as darkness is repelled by light, evil would be instantly subdued by the power of holiness.

The themes of loving God, obeying Him, having a greater purpose in life, finding our mission, have been part of a series of blogs I wrote recently, based on the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute course Toward a Meaningful Life. We see in the commentaries for Torah Portion Re’eh, that we not only bring something of the Messiah into the world now by behaving as he does, loving God and loving other people, but that our actions today ripple into a time when God’s manifestation on Earth will be absolute:

The ultimate expression of the potential of sight will be in the Era of the Redemption, with the fulfillment of the prophecy: “The glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see.” In contrast to the present era, when we can see only material entities and G-dliness is perceived as an external force, in that future time, we will see directly how G-dliness is the truth of all existence.

Nor is this merely a promise for the distant future. The Redemption is an imminent reality, so close that a foretaste of its revelations is possible today.

Feed My Starving Children logoWhat we do matters right now. What we do also matters in the Messianic age. It is inescapable. We have free will to act or to refrain from acting, to choose to cling to God or to withdraw from Him. Either way, there are tremendous consequences, not only for ourselves, but for people and events we effect, whether we realize it or not.

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?

Who will your next act of kindness or indifference serve or fail to serve?

Good Shabbos.

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