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ב"ה

Stating the Obvious

Friday, 17 August, 2012 - 2:00 pm

Oftentimes my children nag me for reminding them of the obvious. “Clean your room,” I might say, adding that if not they will suffer the consequences of not finding their own toys and clothes.

Although it may seem self-evident at the time, it’s often only a few weeks later when they can’t find something that they learn to keep things tidy themselves. There’s no need to remind my son when he is frantically looking for a book.  But in the interim, many days can pass without the sense of urgency.

In short, if it’s not on the front burner, it may get forgotten.

***

In this week’s parsha of Re’ei we are told, “And you shall slaughter of your cattle and flocks which G-d has given you, as I have commanded you.”  However, nowhere else in the Torah is there a specific instruction on the laws of Shechitah (kosher slaughter).

The Talmud explains that although the details of this commandment are not written anywhere in the Torah, these are the laws of ritual slaughtering which were given orally to Moses on Mount Sinai.

In fact, Mamonides (Rambam) points to this verse as explicit proof for the Oral Tradition, for even the Written Torah refers to it by adding the words, “As I have commanded you.”

***

Now, you might ask, “Why does G-d need to explicitly state, ‘As I have commanded you’ if we already possess the Oral Torah and know – through tradition – what He commanded us? Isn’t it stating the obvious?

Indeed, it is obvious. But that’s only if it stays on the front burner. Throughout history, however, we have faced many challenges to the Oral Tradition – both from within and from without. Offshoots of Judaism have created other religions that deny the Oral Tradition. The oppression of Judaism and the shuttering of Torah academies have threatened the tradition with extinction.

Thankfully, we’ve always had that fatherly reminder, chiding us to remember that there is more to explore, bringing it back to the front burner.

***

As we usher in the new month of Elul, a month of stock-taking and preparation for Rosh Hashana, let us take heed from the parsha and pledge to keep Yiddishkeit proudly on the front burner.

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