Parashat Re’eh begins, "See, I have given before you today a blessing." The word "Re’eh/See" hints to the ability to see G‑dliness in the world. "I" refers to G‑d, telling us that this power comes from the Almighty Himself. "Have given," means that this ability was given in a positive way. "Before you," can also be translated as "within you", that this help is integrated into our innermost being. "Today," that this strength is renewed each day by day. Use it!

Every Jew has his own innovative way to understand and to share the Torah.

On the same verse, the Kotzker Rebbe writes that the Torah was given to each person equally, but the ability to "see"—i.e. understand and absorb the Torah—G‑d gives each person according to his individual spiritual makeup. Every Jew has his own innovative way to understand and to share the Torah.

"You should follow G‑d". (Deut. 13:5) The Talmud asks, "And is it possible to walk after the Presence of G‑d? That is a consuming fire! Rather, it means to follow in G‑d’s way." (Sotah 14) The Baal Shem Tov explains this in a deeper way. What does it mean to walk in G‑d’s ways? Does G‑d leave signposts or directions for us to follow His lead? Yes! The daily events in our lives are, in fact, G‑d speaking to and directing us. We have to be sensitive and see what the message is. Tzadok Hakohen writes, if we only knew that each obstacle we find in our path is G‑d giving us excellent directions, we would dance for joy.

About giving tithes the verse says, "If the journey is too great for you and you can not carry it (the tithes) because the place ('hamakom') is too far, you may redeem it with silver". (Deut. 14:24) The famous Torah commentator of Safed, Rabbi Moshe Alshich, discusses the above verse in a unique context. When a person desires something, no effort he makes to reach his goal is considered difficult. On the other hand, when forced to do something against his will, even the smallest action is like a heavy weight. So it is with a tzaddik, who is oblivious to any effort involved in serving G‑d, as opposed to a person far from the path, for whom even the easiest commandment seems a tremendous burden.

This is the inner meaning of the verse, "if the journey is too great for you," i.e. the commandments are a weight on you, it is because "Hamokom ("place" is a way of referring to G‑d) is far from you." If you want your service to be easier and more natural, you must begin by examining your relationship to G‑d. Two men were carrying large filled sacks on their backs up a mountain. One man ran deftly up whereas his companion lagged lethargically behind. When asked why the difference in speed, the slow man answered he was being weighed down by his sack of coal, while the quick man responded that his was a load of diamonds. A change in perspective makes all the difference.

The ‘rosh’/head of the month determines the rest of the month...

This Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh Elul. The ‘rosh’/head of the month determines the rest of the month (just as the head controls the body), so this Shabbat affects a crucial time of the year. Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the first Chabad Rebbe, used the analogy of Elul being like a time when the king leaves his palace to meet his subjects in the fields where they labor. Usually, appointments to meet the king are difficult to obtain. Yet in Elul, the king makes himself available even to the most plebeian of his people to the extent that the king leaves his luxurious castle and journeys to them. All who wish to greet the king are welcomed by his shining joyous countenance. So too is our relationship with G‑d during Elul.

This month is a special time when G‑d allows the Jewish people to reach an elevated level of closeness to Him. G‑d’s ‘countenance’ shines upon us the 13 attributes of G‑d’s mercy and we reach a level of bonding to G‑d that supersedes the intellect; we connect from our very souls with total submission to G‑d’s Will. G‑d and the Jewish people that are compared to a father and son. "You are children before G‑d your Lord". (Deut. 14:1) The Talmud says that a son is like a limb of his father, completely subservient. (Eruvin 70) Since the souls of the Jewish people are a portion of G‑d above, it is within their capacity to arrive completely at this level of total submission to G‑d. No matter how far away we sometimes feel, the ability to come closer is within our reach, particularly during the month of Elul.

The famous rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov, the defender of the Jewish People, was so certain of his relationship with G‑d that he really did act as familiar as a son towards his father. He would say, "If You will forgive your people— good. But if not, I will claim that Your tefillin are not kosher! How so? According to Your Oral Torah, You also wear tefillin. (Berachot 6:1)> In Your (G‑d’s) tefillin it is written, "Who is like my nation Israel!" (as opposed to our tefillin which contains "Shema...G‑d is One"). If the Jews are not forgiven, the tefillin of You, G‑d, are not valid."

The first Sadigura Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Yaacov, connected this to what we say during Selichot (the additional prayers recited each morning from about a week before Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur) that G‑d should forgive us for the sake of His pe’er', His beauty. The Talmud says that tefillin are a 'pe’er', an adornment. (Berachot 11:1) Therefore, what we are saying during Selichot that G‑d should forgive us for the sake of His tefillin, that they should be kosher!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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