WWOT – Weekly Words of Torah: Parashat Re’eh

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism

The book of Deuteronomy is a review of the previous books of the Torah, and this week’s Torah reading, Parashat Re’eh, has many portions that seem repetitious. One section, which has previously been read in the book of Exodus, contains the laws of Kashrut, in which we are taught that a Kosher animal must have a split hoof and chew its cud, and that a Kosher fish must have scales and fins. A list of animals that are permitted to be eaten is given, as well as a list of animals that are not allowed. Pure birds are allowed for consumption, as they are later explained in Jewish law as birds that are not birds of prey. Likewise, a list of permissible and non-permissible birds are given, and some of these Hebrew words are never seen, or rarely seen ever again, in any other place in the Torah or literature  – except in this Torah portion, and in Exodus, where the laws of Kashrut are also given. In addition, this week’s Torah portion includes the verse from which we derive the concept of separating meat and milk, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” (Deuteronomy 14:21)

I think the Kosher dietary laws serve an important purpose of reminding us that we are part of a covenant with God; one that binds us to other members of the Jewish community who have also committed themselves to the Jewish covenant with God. Keeping Kosher also teaches us discipline. We are in a contract to follow certain rules and regulations, ones that were first compiled in the Torah. Now, they remind us that we need to be conscious of all that we do, and this includes what we put into our mouths. Kashrut is not just about fish having scales and fins, but, rather, it is about creating community, and a bond with God, Torah, and Israel. Some food for thought!

WWOT, Weekly Words of Torah will be a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our new Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here.