In Parasha Re’eh, we learn again that God has brought the Children of Israel to their new land to be holy, and to avoid the practices of the Canaanites. God gives several commandments, through Moses.
God knows the people will be attracted to idol worship, and commands the Israelites to adhere strictly to certain rules everyone must follow when doing certain “everyday” things.
First, to make sure the Israelites are not tempted by the customs of idolatry and out of respect for the holiness of the land, God instructs them to destroy all the idols and their altars, “sacred” pillars and trees, and even avoid using the idols’ names.
Next, God commands that offerings will only be made at the site God chooses for the Tabernacle. Over time, there were permitted national altars at Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob, Gibeon and finally, Jerusalem. During periods before and after the Tabernacle was in place at Shiloh, and before the Temple at Jerusalem, even when there were national altars, certain optional offerings could be made at private altars, but not required offerings like the sin offering and the guilt offering.
God expands the law regarding the use of kosher animals as food, and commands that, even though required offerings of animals cannot be made at private altars, people could use kosher animals for food at their homes.
God also warns the people against copying the idol worship and other practices of the Canaanites.
Finally, God commands the people to avoid false prophets, and also a city where many people are encouraging the others to worship idols.
One lesson of this parasha is the importance of one’s surroundings – the people we spend time with, the customs and ceremonies we follow, and even the food we eat. God recognized we are all influenced by the people and things around us, and commanded us to avoid people doing things that copied idol worship or lessened the importance of holy things, such as the required offerings. Our everyday activities and habits form who we are. If we are around people doing things that are mean or hurtful to others, or bad for the community, we may end up doing the same things.
We can “help other people at all times” by talking to our neighbors about acting appropriately or, if they refuse, by being careful not to adopt their poor practices.