Moses sets before the people the choice of a blessing if they obey God or curse if they do not. Moses details many laws including those of Kashrut. Details of the tithe system are set out as well as the three pilgrim festivals.
Edie Friedman was born in Chicago. A student in the 1960's, she was heavily influenced by the civil rights and peace movements. She founded the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) in 1976, of which she is now the director. She is a regular speaker and writer on race and asylum issues.
Interpreting those passages of the Bible which exhort people to violence presents us with an ongoing challenge. Parshat Re’eh contains a number of these uncomfortable passages. On a more positive note it also contains some tangible injunctions on our responsibilities towards the poor, offering a compelling challenge to each and every one of us. It is this theme of the parsha which I will address. One of the most quoted passages comes from Deuteronomy 15.7.
“If, however there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.”
Other difficult but important commandments are also contained in this chapter such as sharing all property with the Levites as well as with strangers, orphans and widows and setting aside every third year one-tenth of your wealth for the poor.
Today, poverty is still very much with us. We still need constant reminders about our individual and collective responsibilities to help diminish it. One of the most impoverished and vulnerable groups in Britain today are asylum seekers. Thousands of them are facing destitution struggling to survive on just £5 day. After escaping from unimaginable circumstances, they have come to Britain (as they have done for centuries) and try to put their world back together again. But too often they are vilified by sections of the media and certain politicians.
Allowing asylum seekers this right has many benefits not only to the asylum seekers themselves but to society generally. It reduces the burden on the tax payer, provides asylum seekers with a route out of poverty, avoids leaving asylum seekers dependent on charity or statutory support and helps the long term integration of those who are eventually allowed to stay. This means they will be in a better situation to make their contribution to British society, like the many refugees before them.