Happy anniversary (a few days early) to my dear wife, Linda, who is the mother of three Eagle Scouts and was a den leader for 10 years!
At Scout camp this summer, we had certain rituals that set the tone for something special. Each evening we cleaned up, got into full uniform, had dinner and then enjoyed a campfire or other special program of some kind. During the rest of the day we may have been off without only a buddy or with Scouts from other troops – at a merit badge class, on a hike, or swimming. We were dressed for whatever adventure we were undertaking – perhaps blue jeans for a service project or a swimsuit for canoeing. But in the evening we were with our troop and patrol, all together, dressed in the clothes that showed we were brothers in Scouting.
Throughout our study of the Torah during the last year, we have learned of special times that God created for us. When reading about the Exodus, we saw that God had Moses and Aaron warn Pharaoh that there would be times when God’s signs and wonders would appear, such as the Ten Plagues. We learned about the first Passover when God freed the Israelites from slavery, and the mitzvah to observe Passover every year. We also learned about the special day each week when God has us rest from our work and spend time in prayer and enjoying family – Shabbat.
This week, in Parasha Re’eh, we learn that God not only sets apart special times for us, but also special places. Over and over in Re’eh, Moses instructs the Children of Israel about how they are to live when they reach the special place that has been promised to them since the days of Abraham – the Land of Israel. Early in the parasha, Moses says “It shall be that when the Lord, your God, brings you to the Land to which you come, to possess it,” the people will be told of a blessing on Mount Gerizim if they obey God’s commandments and a curse on Mount Ebal if they do not. Deuteronomy 11:29.
Two sentences later we are told, “For you are crossing the Jordan [River}, to come and possess the Land that the Lord, your god, gives you; you shall possess it and you shall settle it. You shall be careful to perform all the decrees and the ordinances that I give you today.”
Several more times the Torah tells us that we are to obey the commandments in the Land that God has given us.
Most of these commandments relate to conducting ourselves in a holy manner in the Land. The Israelites are to destroy the places where the Canaanites worshipped idols. Once a resting place is found for the Tabernacle, and later when God sets a place for the Temple, offerings will only be made there, and not anywhere else. We are to avoid false prophets, to ignore people who tell us to worship idols and to punish them; to eat only kosher animals; and to perform justice by giving money or food to support people who have not been given a share of the Land, such as the Levites and strangers, as well as to widows and orphans.
By setting apart the Land as a place of holiness, God made it clear that our actions in this place were to be holy. After the destruction of the Second Temple and the oppression of the Roman Empire, we were expelled from our Land and now we live all over the world. Regardless of where we live, when we live in a holy manner, we lead the way for others – like a Scout does.
©2017 Nelson R. Block. Prior Derech Tsofeh are available at www.jewishscouting.org and on Facebook at The Jordan Block Shabbos Observatory.