Parashas Re’eh

In this week’s parashah it is written (Devarim 12:2-6):
You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whose land you are taking over worshipped their gods: on the high mountains and on the hills, and under every leafy tree. You shall smash their altars, break their pillars, and burn their sacred trees in the fire; you shall cut down their graven images, and you shall obliterate their name from that place.
[And] you shall not do thus to Hashem, your God. Rather, only at the place that Hashem, your God, will choose … to place His Name there shall you seek His Presence and come there. And there you shall bring your [various offerings].
The second part of this passage teaches us two things: first, that we must not erase the Name of Hashem, and, second, that we must not worship Hashem in the way that the idolaters worshipped their gods.
The Maggid elaborates on the second point. The ancient idolaters, the Maggid notes, would offer sacrifices to the heavenly bodies in order to induce them to convey blessing. They were trying to get their gods to direct themselves toward them, and they therefore built their altars on mountains and hills. The purpose of their sacrifices was to get their gods to give them something, and bringing the sacrifices on high places was meant to ease the way to this goal.
The offerings we bring Hashem, however, have a completely different purpose: they are designed to bring us closer to Hashem (as reflected in the term korban for offering, which is related to the word karov, meaning “close”). Thus, we must follow a completely different procedure in bringing offerings. We must destroy all the high places where the idolaters brought their sacrifices, so that we will not bring our offerings there. Instead, Hashem Himself will designate a place – the Beis HaMikdash – in which to concentrate His Presence, and we must go to this designated place to bring our offerings. By bringing ourselves physically into Hashem’s house, we bring ourselves spiritually closer to Him.
In addition, we must destroy the images the idolaters constructed to represent their gods. Hashem cannot be represented by an image, for His true nature is beyond human conceptualization. Moreover, a graven image is a means the idolaters used to bring their gods down to them, and thus is an illegitimate object. We must not try to bring Hashem down to us, but rather we must bring ourselves toward Him.  
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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