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Shabbat Commentary

18/19 Aug: Shabbat Re’eh comes in 8:03 pm, goes out 9:07 pm

In Parashat Re’eh, we read, “Be careful to heed all the words that I command you, that it may benefit you and your children after you, forever, when you do what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your G-d.” The phrase ha-tov v’ha-yashar, good and right, offers a different type of instruction than what we’ve received in the past. The very beginning of the Parashat already reminds us that we will receive blessing in our lives if we follow G-d’s commandments, and if we do not, we will be cursed. But this verse, and doing what is good and right, is different from following G-d’s commandments. If the verse wanted to remind us to be shomrei mitzvot, it would explicitly say so.

Rashi (d. France, 1105) looks at this verse and explains that tov, good, is what is seen as good “b’einei shamayim,” in the eyes of the heavens. In contrast, what is yashar, or, right, is not in the eyes of the heavens but rather in the eyes of other humans. Rashi’s interpretation indicates that we should be drawn to do what we might call “morally right” both from G-d’s perspective (which we can never know for sure) and from other people’s — what we might call what is “socially right/acceptable.” This idea can help us think about the best way to lead our lives. It is important to abide by certain societal standards and what is right by others, yet it must also be OK with G-d. Both of these aspects contribute to our moral compass.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

August 17, 2017