Parashat Re’ei-- Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
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Questions for Young Children
• Do you know the word “consequence?” What does it mean that your actions have consequence?
• Can you give an example of something you chose to do today that had a good consequence?

Questions for Older Children
• Do you always or usually chose to do whatever will lead to good consequences? Can you think of a time you didn’t do that and what happened?
• Does doing well always lead to reward? Does doing bad things always lead to punishment?
• God seems very concerned that the Israelites might adopt the worship customs of the Canaanite tribes when they settled in Eretz Yisrael. Do your neighbors have religious customs that you think might be fun to adopt? Is there a difference between curiosity about different religions and adopting another religion? Does curiosity lead to accepting another religion?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• Why do you think the blessings and curses are to be pronounced from mountaintops just before the Israelites enter Eretz Yisrael?
• How likely is it that the Israelites would assimilate into the Canaanite pagan culture had God not so strongly prohibited all things connected to pagan worship?
• Why do you think that some other cultures focus on the stereotype of a Jew who is tight-fisted when much of the parasha enjoins Jews to financially help the poor and the needy? How generous do you think Jews in your community are?

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Create more ways to serve up choice and make your guests obey the command Re’ei! (Look! or See!)

  • Create a Shabbat salad bar for your dinner.
  • Invite each guest to choose one dish that you will cook or each guest will bring for the Shabbat meal.
  • Discuss: In the opening of this parasha Moshe announces God’s two alternatives—a blessing and a curse. Are most choices binary—either/or?
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Parashat Re’ei is Moshe’s third discourse to the people. It begins with the promise that God will bless the Israelites if they obey the commandments. If they disobey, the Israelites will be cursed. Their choice. Both ritual and civil laws follow the general admonition and the parasha concludes with a review of the pilgrimage festivals: Pesah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Some verses repeat previously stated laws, others appear here for the first time. Note that laws about people precede laws about property. In the ancient Mesopotamian codes, the opposite was true. Procedural law is interspersed throughout the parasha. One of the clearest themes in this parasha is how important it is for the Israelites to have a central place of worship.

Find the food connection...

 רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם--הַיּוֹם: בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה

See this day I set before you a blessing and a curse.
--Deuteronomy 11:26

Choice! A dessert course with plenty of choices.


The Side Dish 
Does Deuteronomy 13:1 (“Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it”) stop you in your tracks and make you ask if we Jews have perverted the entire Torah? At first glance the verse seems to mean we should all be literalists and that the rabbinic tradition flies in the face of this verse. Think how many Torah based commandments we no longer follow beginning with sacrifice. Think how many laws and customs we follow that are not in the Torah like synagogue worship. You may remember my similar thoughts on Parashat Va’ethanan. In case you’ve forgotten, I’ll review.

Hezzkuni, a 13th century French commentator, posited a very narrow interpretation of this verse and Deuteronomy 4:2 “ You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you.” Hezzkuni notes that both verses precede exhortations to worship God alone and denounce idol worship and pagan practices. Thus, the command to not add or subtract refers to laws against idol worship. Thanks to Hezzkuni’s insights, the rabbis relied on the principle that God has given us laws to live by, therefore the rabbis who continue the tradition of Moshe must interpret and maintain a living law.

If you carry a tallit bag on Shabbat when you walk in the eruv or follow any other extra-Torah law, you can thank the rabbis that follow Hezzkuni’s line of thinking.





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A Dash of Halakhah
Deuteronomy 12:3-4 is the basis for the principle of mohekh (elimination). Pagan gods are to be eliminated: “Tear down their altars...obliterating their name from that site.” On the other hand, the name of God must never be erased (m-h-kh is the root for erase, eliminate, or obliterate). A prefix combined with a name of God may be erased but not a suffix. The Shulhan Arukh lists seven names of God that fall under this law. That's the reason we bury or store  books or scrolls containing God’s name. 

A Dash of Imagery
See for models of the Temple, the place God refers to in Deuteronomy 12:5. The purpose of this organization, The Temple Institute, may also provoke table talk.

A Dash of Conundrum
Rabbi Akiva is credited with the saying: “hakol tzafui v’har’shut n’tunah.” “Everything is foreseen [by God] yet free will is granted [to individuals].” Avot 3:19a
How do you understand this and what dilemma is Rabbi Akiva trying to resolve?

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Meringue Nests
Pareve and gluten free--serves 8

Can be prepared a day ahead.                   rsz 04 reeh meringue nests on parchment copy

Ingredients for meringues

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. superfine sugar 
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 eggs, room temperature 
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions for meringues

  1. Preheat the oven to 300º and place the rack in the middle.
  2. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Stir together the sugar and cornstarch.
  4. Separate eggs and set the yolks aside for the lemon curd recipe.
  5. Beat the egg whites on medium high in a mixer and add cream of tartar and salt. Once the whites are creamy, begin to gradually add the sugar/cornstarch mix until the whites are stiff.
  6. Add the vanilla and beat until the meringue is glossy and holds a stiff peak.
  7. Drop a large spoonful of meringue onto the parchment paper and shape into a circle with a depressed center. Repeat until you have 8 shells.
  8. Reduce the oven heat to 200º and place the meringues in the oven. Bake 1-1/2 hours.
  9. Turn off the oven and leave meringues inside to cool. Leave at least 3 hrs. or overnight.

Topping ingredients

  • 1- 8 oz. carton of Richwhip
  • Your choice of fruit like mango, kiwi, pineapple or mixed berries.

Lemon Curd ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 6 Tbsp. pareve margarine

Directions for lemon curd

  1. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a heavy saucepan until well combined.
  2. Add lemon zest and juice and margarine.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
  4. Don’t let the mixture boil but remove it as soon as you see bubbles forming around the edge. The curd will thicken as it cools.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until dessert. It keeps about a week.

Simplest presentation: Fill meringue shells with fruit and serve. Omit lemon curd and whipped cream.

Most elaborate presentation: Whip cream. Place a spoonful of lemon curd in each shell. Top with whipped cream. Guests can then choose to top the nests with their favorite fruit.

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