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Parshat Re'eh: The Joy in Observing All the Commandments

Published on Thursday October 7th, 2021

Accepting the words of our sages is not obvious to everyone. Thus, some readily accept the commandments of the Torah, but have more difficulty with rabbinic decrees. A verse from our Parsha reminds us not only of the importance, but especially of the place occupied by the decisions of our sages in the precepts of the Torah.

The verse announces in the Parsha of Re'eh: "Observe and listen to all the precepts that I give you, that you may be happy, you and your descendants forever, because you will have done what is right in the eyes of the Eternal your G-d" (Devarim 12:28).

Now, there lies a certain incoherence in these words. First, what does it mean to "observe" even before "listening"? Moreover, why is the happiness of future generations invoked precisely in this verse? Finally, it seems incorrect to mention in one sentence two causes for the same effect: "Observe and listen so that you are happy (...) because you have done (...)".

According to the Or HaChaim, these various questions are solved when one becomes aware of the fact that the "safeguard" of the Torah resides precisely in the submission to all rabbinical precepts. For it is necessary to know that when our Sages impose new decrees and widen the extent of certain prohibitions, it is by no means to impose superfluous "chumrot" on us or to show an increased zeal. On the contrary, every decision of the Sages is in truth the only way to keep the Torah intact, and to preserve its observance.

For contrary to what one might believe, the Torah is considered only according to the model where it imposes precepts, which themselves need to be maintained with the help of additional barriers. In other words, the Torah drew the outline of laws and prohibitions, knowingly leaving it to the Sages to intervene, and to readjust it later ... This explains the verse of our Parsha: "Observe and listen" - My observance of the Torah is directly dependent on obedience to rabbinic prescriptions. For it is only in this way that respect for the Torah can be preserved forever for all generations to come.

It is also in this sense that the apparent redundancy is explained in our verse: "Observe and listen" - if we accept wholeheartedly the decrees pronounced by our Sages, we will then have the assurance "to be happy" and this, by the merit of having done "what is good and right in the eyes of G-d" - for that is the only way we will be sure to have scrupulously accomplished the will of our Creator.

Yonathan BENDENNOUNE - © Torah-Box Account

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