Insights into Parshat Re’eh of Rav Moshe Ganz, Ram Emeritus of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.
The two major themes of Parshat Re’eh are:
A. “Distancing ourselves from idolatry”- A branch of this is the centrality of worshiping Hashem in The Place that He chooses- including the bringing of the first-born animal and coming there on the 3 Festivals. This theme also includes the prohibition of bringing sacrifices elsewhere as idolatry was rampant in sacrifices brought in private venues.
B. “Social Mitzvot” -Ma’a’ser Sheni, Shmitat Kesafim (cancellation of debts), Tzedaka and Ha’a’naka (providing for liberated slaves).
These two groups can be termed, respectively, “Yichud (Unity of) – Hashem” and “Derech (The Way of) Hashem”. The two groups appear to be completely removed and separate from each other. In fact, however, the bond that connects them is quite strong.
What is the connection?
The gods of idolaters are finite objects that can be described in clear terms. Idolatrous practices, especially those where the practitioners bring gifts or sacrifices, are the means through which the idolaters cling to their idols. If they have social commandments, they are non-intrinsic in their idolatrous worldview.
The Jewish Path is markedly different. The Unity of Hashem- Yichud Hashem- removing any physical element of G-d, leaves the existence of Hashem as something that cannot be comprehended on its own. It negates any description. We are certainly aware that Hashem exists. However the concept of Hashem is hazy as we do not possess the means to relate to Him in a direct fashion. All matters attributed to Him are parables.
While we do not recognize Hashem at all based on Him, we do recognize Him via His actions. For example, from how He rules over creation. As it is described in Anim Z’mirot (authored by Rabi Yehuda HaChassid) “They appraised You according to Your actions”. Thus our connection to Hashem cannot be a connection with “The G-dly Essence”. Rather it is expressed by clinging to His ways! As Chazal state, it is impossible for a human being to walk after the G-dly Presence (Shechinah), rather we are to adopt His attributes (Yalkut Shimoni, Remez 33).
Thus the groups of Mitzvot found in Parshat Re’eh are not at all removed from each other, but complement each other. For a Jew, the conclusion of Yichud Hashem is the centrality of Derech Hashem!