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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


D’var Torah Parashat Re’eh: Destruction of Religion

Ayelet Schuster
Freshman Ayelet Schuster shares her thoughts on Parashat Re’eh. Photo by Jared Schultz.


Shabbat Shalom. In this week’s torah portion, Re’eh, Moses gives his final speech to the Israelites. This speech tells the Israelites all the commandments God has given them. Moses starts by telling them that they are going to be crossing the Jordan and dwelling in the land which God has given them. Then Moses explains that the Israelites have to destroy all the places where other nations worshipped their Gods, and in the place God chooses they must bring their burnt offerings, sacrifices, and tithes. Moses then explains the laws of Kashrut, what animals may be eaten and how to prepare them. Finally Moses explains the holidays of Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot.

In Deuteronomy 12: 2,  it says

אַבֵּ֣ד תְּאַבְּד֠וּן אֶת־כָּל־הַמְּקֹמ֞וֹת אֲשֶׁ֧ר עָֽבְדוּ־שָׁ֣ם הַגּוֹיִ֗ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתֶּ֛ם יֹֽרְשִׁ֥ים אֹתָ֖ם אֶת־אֱלֹֽהֵיהֶ֑ם עַל־הֶֽהָרִ֤ים הָֽרָמִים֙ וְעַל־הַגְּבָע֔וֹת וְתַ֖חַת כָּל־עֵ֥ץ רַֽעֲנָֽן

“You shall utterly destroy from all the places where the nations, that you shall possess, worshipped their gods, upon the lofty mountains and upon the hills, and under every lush tree.”

Why do the Israelites have to destroy all the places where other Gods were worshipped? Even though they are going into the land their God has given them, that doesn’t mean the people who lived there before them deserve to be punished.

Living in peace with people that have completely different beliefs than you can be hard. The Israelites were told to destroy the idolatry because they couldn’t handle living with people who had different beliefs than they did. The Israelites need a place that was their own to worship God. Having people around them could take away from their connection with God, and make it harder for them to still believe in everything they know about God. Even though it isn’t necessarily the greatest thing to destroy someone’s gods and places of worship, it helped the Israelites become a larger and stronger nation.

Matthew Berkowitz, the director of Jewish programs for The Jewish Theological Seminary, says that the Torah is expressing its concern for the native people and the practice of idolatry. He believes that with the excitement for the Israelites to become a settled nation, also comes some concerns. The nation is a young nation and they are still all finding their place in the world. Since they are going into a new country with people who don’t have the same practices as they do, the people could become an influence for the Israelites and turn them away from God and to idolatry.

The Israelites are a new nation, which means they are different from the other nations around them. The people around them could be a great influence on them and make them turn away from their beliefs. By destroying all the idols of the Canaanites, they are showing their loyalty to God. They are proving to God that they will never change their beliefs and worship idols.

In the world right now, trying to destroy a religion is a terrible thing. The Jews have had it happen in the worst way possible, the Holocaust. In the Torah, the times were different and the Israelites thought what they were doing was ethical. But in the modern world it’s completely different. Hitler wanted to destroy the Jews, and he turned it into the worst time in history for the Jews. Sadly, there are many more people that are trying to get rid of other religions and nations nowadays. It’s not an uncommon thing to hear of someone wanting to kill others who believe in different ideas than they do. Even now, there is a struggle for people to live in peace with someone who has different beliefs than they do. God made it easier for the Israelites to live in peace, but how can we live in peace without hurting anyone around us?

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