Parashas Re’eh

In this week’s parashah, it is written (Devarim 13:1): “The entire word that I am commanding you, guard it to fulfill it – do not add to it and do not subtract from it.” The directive not to add to or subtract from the Torah is stated previously in parashas Vaeschanan (Devarim 4:2), and I present here an explanation based on the Maggid’s commentary on that parashah.
The Maggid explains the directive with a parable. A man of modest means made a match for his son with the daughter of a close friend. In the discussions over the marriage arrangements, the man promised to furnish his son with three sets of clothes. His counterpart replied: “My dear friend, I know that you can afford only two sets of clothes. If you take it upon yourself to make an extra effort and provide three sets, which is beyond your means, you will be forced to have them made with cheap, low-quality material, and then the three sets taken together will be inferior to two good sets. So I ask for just two.”
The parallel is as follows. Hashem knows our capabilities, and He designed the Torah’s mitzvos match them. He took care not to overburden us. In this vein, it is written (Micah 6:3): “O My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me!” In connection with this verse, the Midrash expounds (Vayikra Rabbah 27:6):
In the edicts I have issued you, I have not burdened you. When you read the Shema, I have not required you to stand or [as a gesture of fear] to appear before Me with your hair disheveled, but rather I have told you to read it in your usual state, “as you sit in your house and as you walk on the way, as you get up and as you lie down” (Devarim 6:7). … I gave over to you ten species of animals [as permitted for food – they are listed in a later segment of this week’s parashah, Devarim 14:4-5]. Three of them are domesticated: the ox, the sheep, and the goat. And seven of them are undomesticated: the hart, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the pygarg, the antelope, and the mountain-sheep. But I have not burdened you and told you weary yourselves on the mountains to catch undomesticated animals to bring them as offerings before Me. Rather, I told you to bring Me domesticated animals as offerings.
Since Hashem carefully tailored the Torah to our capabilities, He told us not to add to the Torah by taking extra obligations upon ourselves and performing acts of service that He did not command. For if we do, we will inevitably come to subtract from the Torah in some other way, paying insufficient attention to some of the existing mitzvos and performing them sloppily or tardily.
In the directive we quoted at the outset, Hashem tells us to “guard” the mitzvos. The charge to “guard the mitzvos” is repeated in the Torah many times; we see that Hashem stresses this matter. The duty to guard the mitzvos is a key aspect of our relationship with Hashem. We should bear in mind the great love Hashem has for us. He regards us like a son. Thus, later in our parashah, the Torah states (Devarim 14:1): “You are children of Hashem your God.” Similarly, David HaMelech speaks of how Hashem regards him like a son (Tehillim 2:7): “You are My son; I have begotten you this day.” Hashem delights in us the way a father delights in an only son who was born to him in his old age. We can easily imagine how such a father watches over his son day and night. In the same way, Hashem constantly watches over us. If we consider how Hashem cherishes us and cares for us, we should feel great joy over our relationship with Him, and should keep Hashem and His Torah constantly in the forefront of our minds. Thus, in the first paragraph of the Shema, the Torah tells us (Devarim 6:5-6): “You shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon thy heart.” In the same vein, David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 16:7-8): “I bless Hashem who advises me … I have placed Hashem before me constantly.”
Thus, rather than adding to the Torah, we should pay proper attention to what Hashem told us to do, fulfilling the mitzvos meticulously, eagerly, and with great love. Avraham set an example for us in the way he fulfilled Hashem’s command to bring his son Yitzchak as an offering (Bereishis 22): He woke up early, and personally saddled his donkey, chopped the wood, and carried the knife, and made sure that all necessary preparations had been made so that there would be no delays in fulfilling the mitzvah. If we follow his example, our deeds will shine with splendor.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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