Provided by American Jewish World Service, pursuing global justice through grassroots change.
In Parashat Re’eh, the Israelites are given intimation of the shape of their future society across the Jordan River. The portrait of the Israelites’ world-to-come generally radiates an exuberant sense of well-being–reflecting a society contentedly organized and functioning smoothly.
The desert nomads are regaled with how they will yearly process to a central site for the dedication of their agricultural bounty. Here, they will “rejoice before the Lord your God with your sons and daughters and with your male and female slaves…” And if the way is too long to travel with such plenty, the pilgrim will exchange his bounty for money to spend at God’s designated site on “anything you may desire” (Deuteronomy 12:12, 14:23, and 14:25-26).
In this halcyon world, the bounty of the land will be mirrored in a generous social order: Debts will be remitted and slaves freed each seventh year–sent off with gifts from their masters “out of the flock, threshing floor, and vat.” The “stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” will celebrate the festivals with each household. And, if God’s commands are hearkened: “There shall be no needy among you…” (Deuteronomy 15:1, 15:12-13, 16:14, and 15:4). With these tantalizing promises of communal celebration and a caring civil society, Parashat Re’eh holds out the promise of idyll, plenty, and joy.
There are, however, fissures veining the serene portrait. Until the people have “come to the resting place, to the allotted haven,” this bountiful existence will not be fully realized. The world of festive in-gatherings and pilgrimages will not be established until God “grants you safety from all your enemies around you and you live in security” (Deuteronomy 12: 9-10). Realizing the promise of the well-ordered, abundant society that our parashah describes depends thus not only on arrival in the land, but also on reaching a state of peace therein.
Ushering in Peace
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