Parashat Re’eh – Roots and Identity – 2009

Parshat Re’eh August 13, 2009

When a person wants to validate his identity, he delves deep into his roots, verifies the provable facts; he can even check his genealogy and examine the origins that manifested into what he is. Parshat Re’eh is the historical substantiation of Israel as a nation in the Land of Israel. After passing through the Jordan and reaching on that day to the holy site of the Mountains of Gerizzim and Eval, a clarification was made to all of Am Yisrael- Devarim: 27:9 “This day you become a nation to the Lord your G-d”. After the long journey of 40 years in the desert, with it’s fiery ordeals there were those that begged to turn back to Egypt, thinking of Egypt as a home (and conveniently forgetting their servitude there), – Numbers 14:4 “and we will return to Egypt”. Those people believed that their roots and original identities were in Egypt, in the cozy way many of feel about Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin or any other galut city Jews grew to know and love. They knew well that their founding fathers came from the Land of Israel but conceived them as being isolated tribes from that place.

On the day they entered the Land, in our parsha, the passuk emphasizes “This day you have become a nation”. Even on Har Sinai, at the time of the giving of the torah, Hashem said: “Vehayeetem li segulah mekol haamim”, in the time frame of the future tense, “and you WILL BE a chosen nation”- when you come into the Land, because there is no nation without a land. There is no Israel without the word of G-d. This had to happen first (the giving of the Torah), then the covenant on the two mountains later. But they were not entering a new land, they were not conquering a new patrimony: They were returning to their original roots, to the same land that the forefathers received Divine revelation, to the same land where the founding fathers, the roots of the identity of all of Israel as a people remained forever.

And now that we have returned to the Land in these truly redemptive times, what is more expedient, suiting the occasion of Israel in her restored glory, than returning to her original home in the Land of Har Gerizzim and Eval in the Land of Shechem, the Land of Abraham, Jacob and Yosef, where the sons return to the fathers and confirm the Divine domain in and for all of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith

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