Re’eh – “Truify”

In modern society, many people believe that the truth is not an absolute, but, rather, relative. That is far from the Torah perspective. Hashem’s Divine direction for existence, the Torah, the Blueprints of Creations, and the Handbook of Mankind is the absolute truth without any question or doubts. This is obviously true because the Almighty, All Knowledgeable, All Goodly, and perfect in every possibly way, Hashem, created the ultimate truth. Indeed, even when there are arguments within Jewish Law as to what the absolute truth in fact is, these arguments are based on the misunderstandings of feeble-minded human beings. Though they put all their efforts into arriving at the ultimate truth, at the end of the day no matter how great of an intellectual and how wise they are, they aren’t perfect. Therefore it is possible to have dissenting opinions as to what the absolute truth is; but the arguments are all based on the same sources, the Written and Oral Torah. Ultimately, one must live by a mesorah, a single tradition, that is one’s link to the ultimate truth.

But how can we be so confident that our truth is the only truth…?
We find in this week’s Torah portion of Re’eh the prohibition of not worshipping Hashem the same way as idolators worship their gods. The Torah states, “You shall not do so to Hashem, your G-D; for every abomination to Hashem which He hates, they did to their gods, for also their sons and their daughters they would burn in fire to their gods” (Devarim 12:31). The lesson the Ralbag learns from this pasuk is “that it is not befitting to put in efforts to serve Hashem in the manner that idolaters serve their gods. For the rituals of idolaters were disgusting and very farfetched for people. They thought they had to brutalize themselves when serving [their gods,] while also burning their sons and daughters in fire to their gods. This was their way in all manners [of worship]. However, our pure Torah does not burden us to do disgusting things and things which are not nice. But everything put into order for us are for the sake of life of our body and the life of our soul, which are sweet for the soul and heals the bones.” 

We clearly see from here that Hashem’s ways and His Torah, which He proscribed for us to live by, are just, good, and nurturing for mankind, and for all of existence. Yet in the next perek, by the “Wayward City” where an entire Jewish city was found guilty of idolatry and their punishment was that those who worshiped idols were to be executed and all their possession burned to ashes. (In fact, the gemara in Sanhedrin 71a says this never actually happened and never will, but the concept is potentially there, and there are lessons to be learned from this mitzvah). The Torah states about this mitzvah: “You shall surely strike down the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroy it with all that is in it and its livestock, with the edge of the sword. And you shall collect all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn with fire the city and all its spoil, completely, for Hashem, your G-D; and it shall be a heap of destruction forever, never to be rebuilt. And nothing that is doomed to destruction shall cling to your hand, so that Hashem may return from His fierce wrath, and grant you compassion, and be compassionate with you, and multiply you, as He swore to your forefathers” (Devarim 13:16-18). The Ralbag takes as a lesson from these pesukim that “cruelty towards the wicked is compassion for the good, for exacting judgement on the “Wayward City” subsides the wrath of Hashem from the Jews and brings upon them mercy.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
We find specifically in today’s day and age a conviction that one must be gentle and nice to everyone, no matter who they are, how they act, good or bad. Why act the same way as they do, killing and beating? The judicial system should be soft on crime, no more capital punishment, ever. Criminals are alive, why should they be treated violently and differently than any morally decent individual, and if one treats them nicely maybe they will change their ways and be better people. That is the philosophy of this movement in a nutshell. They would say that G-D and His Torah contradicts itself for on the one hand the Torah stands for the highest quality of morality, justice, and nicety, but on the other hand it talks of wars, bloodshed, capital punishment and the eradication of the heathens, or the wicked. This movement would ask, why is this fundamentally moral?
What we see from here is that in order to understand the ultimate truth, the Divine Torah, Hashem’s Word, one must have a solid grounding and foundation in emuna and bitachon, belief and trust in Hashem. Once grounded in this faith, one can truly understand and find answers to these difficult answers. Being that there are levels of recognition of faith in Hashem, the more confident one is in his or her faith the more of an impetus one has to dig deeper, to learn harder and find answers in the ultimate truth of the Torah. It makes sense then that the ability to appreciate the profundity of the Torah and to really go b’iyun, in depth, into the truth and fine details of the Torah is correlated with the amount of emuna and bitachon one has in Hashem. For the clearer and more steadfast a belief and trust one has, then that will give a person the impetus to learn harder and to arrive at the truth of the Torah.
The ultimate example of this is Avraham Avinu by Akiedas Yitzchak [the Binding of Isaac]. Hashem gave Avraham a test which seemed to go against the logic of the Torah (why Hashem did such a thing is for a different time, or for one of such great faith to learn the answer by themselves). But Avraham had such a clarity of faith in The Creator, The King Of All Kings, that he wholeheartedly went through with this test, until Hashem insisted on replacing Yitzchak with a ram, to sacrifice on the alter. We see the extent of the excitement Avraham had for fulfilling Hashem’s will, for the Torah says, “And Avraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey…” (Breishis 22:3). About this the Ralbag says, “It is befitting for a person to act with speed and alacrity (zrizus) to perform Hashem’s will and even though one is already feeling pain or suffering over this. For we find that Avraham Avinu quickly went to fulfill this mitzva, and he woke up early to complete it with alacrity, even though the whole concept seemed strange and painful.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Avraham was on such a high level of belief and trust in Hashem that even when Hashem’s command seemed very strange, and was quite painful, the thought of sacrificing his only son with Sarah Imeinu who he was waiting to have for so many years, who was supposed to be the progenitor of the Chosen Nation, but still in all he was able to delve into the matter and make sure he fulfilled Hashem’s word with such speed, alacrity, and precision. This is a model of a true ben Torah, which we have to ask ourselves, when can we reach the level of our forefather Avraham and strive with great depth to reach our potential.