Parshat Re’eh

By Rabbi Cheryl Weiner, PhD, BCC, ’07

Reflection and Renewal

Our parshah this week Re’eh is often translated as “Behold or “See” — I place before you today a blessing and a curse…. As the Torah portion at my birth, seventy plus years ago, I feel that this has been the guiding message of my life. As I have aged, I have learned to take that which has felt like a curse and to re-frame it into a blessing. When I have wandered off the pathway towards goodness or good sense, life has turned me back to finding meaning and to transform the curse into blessing.


In the Jewish tradition, when you turn seventy, you are considered to have fulfilled your life’s mission, led a complete life, and you get to start over again. As part of my spiritual journey, I have reflected on what has come before and created a new set of priorities for the next stage of life. Some of the messages of Re’eh become the messages of what to do next. We are instructed to build a Temple in which God can dwell. Thus, I am looking for a way to transform our congregational life to foster a more inclusive and proactive environment to serve elders by modeling the LA Chai Village in Miami. How will this make a difference?


We are instructed to ignore the words of false prophets to worship idols. As part of that message, I am trying to sort through the false messages about global warming. What can I advocate for to address issues of climate change? Do I stop eating meat? Do I recycle more? Do I stop using any kind of plastic? Do I find alternative modes of shopping to support local industries and food purchases? What do I do personally and what do I do to create collective change. I live across the street from the ocean, where side streets flood during high tide and where hurricanes are intensifying as I write. My local government, never mind our national government, denies adverse effects from climate change. How do I make a difference in this message?


The mitzvah of charity/tzedakah obligates a Jew to aid a needy fellow with a gift or loan. How can I create a legacy to contribute my gifts, both spiritual and material to help someone in need? Is my work as a hospice chaplain enough? Is my helping immigrants re-settle enough? Are the charitable choices that I have made enough? I am working on a volunteer project to make people aware of how the work of the suffragettes to secure the vote for women has impacted the lives of women who came of age in the sixties. Is this enough to aid those who may lose their healthcare or their access to equal pay for equal work?


We are mandated to free the slaves. I have advocated against sex trafficking in Florida and participated with AJWS in advocating against child slavery, child marriages, and life-long servitude world-wide. Is this enough? Do we need to offer reparations to those who were the victims of slavery in this country? What are the costs involved and how have we all inherited the legacy of slavery?


And then we are instructed to participate in three pilgrimage holidays to visit with God and to renew our souls through the message of each. Creation, Revelation, and Redemption. We are given the blessing of being able to celebrate our heritage, to bring blessings into the world and to experience the blessings of our tradition as we live and leave our legacies in the world. Behold, as we move into the month of Elul and the entry into the preparation for Rosh HaShanah, our new year, how do we choose blessings?