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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Re'e

Parashat Re’e

Har Gerizim and Har Eival

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Parashat Re’eh opens with a reminder to Am Yisrael that they are about to enter the Land of Israel, where they will be obligated in a series of seminal commandments. First and foremost is a command to locate two mountains - Har Gerizim and Har Eival - and to pronounce a Berakha and a Kellala - a blessing and a curse. This commandment is expanded upon later on in Sefer Devarim (ch. 27), and, in fact, fulfilled in Sefer Yehoshua (ch. 8) after the successful capture of Yericho and Ai.

The Torah gives no particular reason for performing this ceremony, but it is clear from the reaction of the Canaanite nations that it was a ritual that had great significance. Immediately after the curses and blessings are presented the Navi reports two reactions. On the one hand, all those nations now join in a pact to fight "as one" against Am Yisrael (9: 1-2). On the other hand, the Givonim choose to present themselves as coming from "a faraway land" to make peace with the Jewish People. While before the ceremony on Har Gerizim and Har Eival the Canaanite leaders were willing to let Yericho and Ai fend for themselves, now they understood that something out-of-the-ordinary was taking place.

It appears that this ceremony - in many ways a reenactment of Matan Torah in the Land of Israel - clarified to the Canaanites that this was not simply a new nomadic tribe that would settle amongst them. These people were coming with a new belief system that totally rejected the basic values of the lifestyle that the Canaanites held dear. They understood (as we must) that moving to Israel is not simply a geographic move, it is a statement of belief in HaShem and acceptance of a moral, ethical, principled way of life.

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