Parashat Reeh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)
11:29 And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.
Comment: Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal: During a messianic Jewish Bible Study many years ago, someone from Israel told us that these two mountains are side by side, yet the blessed one has trees, and the cursed one is barren. I checked a photo online, which seems to verify what he said: http://holylandphotos.org/browse.asp?s=1,2,6,438,440&img=ICHMMG07
12:11 Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:
Comment: There will be one center for worshiping Gd. This will be Jerusalem. The tense is the future. Nowadays, the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed, but Jesus said in John 4 that we could still worship Gd “in spirit and in truth”. Revelation 22 tells us that in the future, there will be a new Jerusalem, where Gd will dwell together with His people.
12:20 When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.
Comment: It’s very considerate for Gd to allow His people to eat meat, even if His original “meal plan” for Adam and Eve was vegetarian (Genesis1:29). I don’t eat a lot of meat nowadays, but I personally find that after eating meat I can focus better and longer on my research. Some of my academic colleagues told me about this phenomenon first, and I later verified this from my own experiences.
13:1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
Comment: A false religion can come with a real sign or wonder …
13:2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Comment: … to seduce you to betray the true Gd.
13:3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Comment: You shouldn’t be swayed by the sign or wonder. Since Gd is using this to test your faith.
Christians cannot count on converting Jews by telling them how effective it is by praying in Jesus’ name. It is very natural for Jews to think they have already been forewarned by the Bible verses here, that a false religion can be empowered with signs and wonders to lure them to worship a different god. In my opinion, the emphasis of the missionaries should not be how effective a different name (Jesus) is, but instead, to prove that Jesus is not one of the “other gods, which thou hast not known,” that the vs 2 above forewarns the Jews. Instead, they need to emphasize on proving that Jesus is the same manifestation of the LRD that appeared to the forefathers of the Jews numerous times in their Torah.
14:3 Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.
Comment: From the context, it is clear that the “Thou” refers to the Jews. Jews need to eat from a selection of kosher foods to be detailed in this chapter. But the gentiles are allowed a much wider variety of foods (with a few restrictions such as not eating blood). For example, generally speaking (and with certain exceptions), Jews are not allowed to eat pork, but gentiles (including the Christians among them) are allowed, since they are descendants of Noah (Genesis 9:3,4; Acts 15:29). Jewish Christians were allowed to eat nonkosher foods for the sake of spreading the faith to the gentiles (Acts 10). However, it is possible that Jewish kosher foods are better for physical and spiritual health (and even for IQ). Surely Jews have been blessed by eating them, see, e.g., Daniel and his companions in exile (Daniel 1). In the future, I believe all mankind will eat food that is “more kosher than kosher food”, i.e., they will eat vegetarian as Adam and Eve did, and even lions will eat grass by then (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:7; 65:25). Many Christians believe that this will happen in the world to come starting from the 1000 year millennium, brought by Jesus’ second coming (Revelation 20,21,22). In my opinion, those Jewish Christians who struggled to give up kosher food temporarily for the sake of spreading their faith (Acts 10), will be able to reign together with their Messiah in this new world (Revelation 20:4), now eating “more kosher than kosher food”, (i.e., vegetarian,) together with all mankind and even all animals (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:7; 65:25).
14:23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
Comment: Tithe means one tenth. This is the second tithe, which the owner of the produce himself can eat in Jerusalem, which is different from the first tithe given to the Levites mentioned in Numbers 18:21. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_tithe.
In general, frugality is a good quality, but here the Bible teaches about eating a tenth of the produce (instead of being too frugal) “before the LORD thy God”. It is a very wise teaching. By specifying a proportion. It can make people enjoy what Gd has given with a first hand experience, yet not overspend towards poverty. Nowadays there’s no temple in Jerusalem, but still we should be willing to spend for enjoyment before Gd. Christians often do “potluck” together at Thanksgiving dinner (where each family brings a dish). Jews spend a lot on meals for sabbaths and holidays. We show our Heavenly Father how much we enjoy what He gives us. It is like a child eating a dish in front of her mom who cooked it, or eating an icecream in front of her dad who bought it for her, in order to show her enjoyment and appreciation. There is a Jewish teaching that people will never become poor due to spending for sabbaths and holidays. https://www.sefaria.org/Beitzah.16a?lang=bi
There is also a story about a poor Jew who purchased a big fish for his Shabbat dinner and then found a big pearl inside. https://www.sefaria.org/Shabbat.119a.5?lang=bi
14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
Comment: It is a commandment to spend this second tithe money to eat and rejoice before the LRD, instead of saving that money for any other usage, not even for buying new clothes or giving to charity, with the exception that …
14:28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
Comment: … during the 3rd and 6th years in each 7-year Shemitah cycle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmita, you should allow your second tithe to be used by …
14:29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
Comment: … all these poor neighbors, so that they can also eat and enjoy before your LRD. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_tithe
Eating is the best way to enjoy what Gd has given, with a direct experience of satiating the hunger, quenching the thirst, tasting the delicacies, and enjoying the friendship and love of those who are present (including people and Gd).
15:1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
Comment: The seventh year (Shemitah) is a “sabbath year”, similar to the seventh day as the sabbath day. (See also Leviticus 25:2-7.) There is a Jewish tradition that even the seventh millennium is like a “sabbath millennium”, which introduces the world to come. I think this corresponds to the millennium kingdom described in Revelation 20, to be brought by Jesus’s second coming. Counting from the creation of this world, Jewish calendar says that now is the year 5782. (By the way 5782 is a sabbath year since it’s divisible by 7.) If so, then the seventh millennium is coming soon. In fact, Jewish preparation for the sabbath each week may be considered as a weekly drill to prepare for the coming of the world to come. Better preparation before sabbath leads to better enjoyment on sabbath.
16:15 Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.
Comment: “thou shalt surely rejoice.” I regard this as both a commandment and a promise. Although the current verse is talking about the feast of tabernacles (v 13), I think it can be more generally said that there is enjoyment in observing Gd’s commandments. As Psalm 119:47 says: “And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.”
Many Christians have a wrong impression that the laws are restrictions and heavy burdens. This is because they have not really experienced firsthand the joys in observing sabbaths and biblical holidays. Gd is our “heavenly dad” and He promises us fun for following Him. Without joy, it would be very difficult for us to follow Gd’s commandments year by year, generations after generations.
Sometimes when I see someone more successful than myself, I ask how come I didn’t get this position or this award? But then when I recalled the sabbaths that I spent with my family, I ask, does he enjoy his Saturdays as much as I do my sabbaths? The level of enjoyment at my sabbaths may be likened as a Chinese kid who celebrates his awaited Chinese New Year. But instead of celebrating once a year, we celebrate (sabbath) once a week. Moreover, even very simple foods at sabbath cannot dilute the joy. When I spent sabbaths in China alone as a visiting scholar without a kitchen, I washed ahead of time raw tomatoes and cucumbers, and bought simple cooked foods such as sauteed eggs. When I found a packet of preserved tofu or spicy mushrooms I felt very happy. I bought two packets of bread and a bottle of juice for “kiddush’’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiddush, in order to celebrate Gd’s rest after His creation, which reminds me that He is confidently in charge of everything. The Talmud talks about a special spice for sabbath that only its observers can taste, I have tasted it personally many times and I verify that it is true. https://www.sefaria.org/Shabbat.119a.8?lang=bi
As Psalm 84 says: (84:10) “ For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand…” (84:12) “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.”
16:17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.
Comment: As King David says to Gd in 1 Chronicles 29:14: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.”