Parshat Reeh- ‘Choose Life’: A Privilege or a Duty? In a world that sees relativism and absolutism as interchangeable, the Torah tells us, loud and clear: there is good, there is evil, there is wrong and right, and there is truth and falsehood. Chana Assis is the Principal of OTS’ Jennie Sapirstein High School for …
“Parsha and Purpose” – Reeh 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha
“Transforming Adversity Into Opportunity”
“Transforming Adversity Into Opportunity“
The year was 1969, and Shirley Chisholm had just made history as the first Black woman ever elected to Congress. She represented a heavily-urban district that included the neighborhood of Crown Heights, New York, where she resided.
Chisholm had high hopes of improving the lives of her constituents, many of whom were poor and uneducated, by serving on the House Education and Labor Committee.
But instead, powerful politicians maneuvered to blunt her influence and popularity back home by forcing her to focus on issues irrelevant to her inner-city constituency: they relegated her to an obscure subcommittee of the Agriculture Committee.
Representative Chisholm was understandably frustrated. But one day, she received a phone call from the office of a rabbi who lived just one block away from her: none other than Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
At the Rebbe’s urging, Chisholm shared her feelings of hurt and anger at being sidelined from a position in which she could truly help her district.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s response surprised Chisholm – and changed the trajectory of her career. “What a blessing God has given you!” he said about her appointment to the Agriculture Committee. “This country has so much surplus food, and there are so many hungry people. You can use this gift that God gave you to feed the hungry. Find a creative way to do it.”
Shortly afterward, Congresswoman Chisholm met with Bob Dole, then a first-term senator from Kansas, who told her that Midwestern farmers were producing more food than they could sell and losing money on their crops.
Chisholm immediately recalled her conversation with the Rebbe, and knew what to do. Together with Senator Dole, she led the way in ensuring that those most in need would have access to food through what became the Food Stamp Program and WIC.
In other words, the infrastructure of welfare in the United States changed forever as a result of a meeting between Congresswoman Chisholm and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
When Chisholm retired from Congress in 1983, she credited the Rebbe: “A rabbi who is an optimist taught me that what you may think is a challenge is a gift from God. And if poor babies have milk, and poor children have food, it’s because this Rabbi in Crown Heights had vision.”
This week’s parsha opens with the words,
“ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה”
“Behold I set in front of you today, blessing and curse.”
Nachmanides comments that deciding whether something is a blessing or a curse is up to us. As Representative Chisholm learned from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we can decide whether to view things as a challenge or as an opportunity.
Whether it involves our physical health, our mental health, our economic health, or any aspect of our lives; whether in the context of this COVID-19 pandemic or anytime, we always have the power to choose whether we see the glass half empty or half full.
May we always be blessed with the ability to transform what may seem to be a curse into a blessing and to turn challenges into opportunities.
This week’s “Shabbat Shalom” is dedicated in celebration ofYakira Bryna Elison’s 6th Birthday— 28 Avby her loving grandparentsIan and Bernice Charif of Sydney, Australia Shabbat Shalom: Reeh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “If there will arise in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of dreams and he gives you a sign …
Parashat Shoftim: What does a calf have to do with the laws of war? The conquest and settlement of the land involved many challenges, and the Torah prepared the people of Israel accordingly. We aspire to uphold our morality and holiness even when at war. Rabbi David Brofsky is a ra’m in Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Maria …
Parashat Re’eh: A Personal Vision that Changes Everything Everything rests on a person’s own vision. Will that person succeed in using that deep vision to discern between blessing and curse, and make the right choice? Aliza Goldberg is the director of Midreshet Lindenbaum’s AMLAT Program for young women from Latin America Parshat Re’eh is generally …
This week’s parsha commentary has been dedicated by the Charif family of Sydney, Australia in honor of their granddaughter Leia Yardena Elison’s 2nd Birthday Shabbat Shalom: Reeh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “Behold [see], I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, when you internalize [heed] …
Parshat Reeh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) Rabbi David Stav The Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim) is comprised of three important sermons delivered by Moses, and our parsha centers on the most important of the three, concerning the commandments. One of the most important commandments that Moses tends to emphasize concerns the rampant idol worship that existed in the world …
Parshat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “You shall smite, yes smite, all of the inhabitants of that city by the sword…and you shall burn entirely with fire the city and all of it spoils to the Lord your God, and it shall be an everlasting desolation (tel); it shall not be …