Location, Location, Location: Re’eh 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do you feel when a place which holds nostalgic value for you is altered? Do you think of it as a natural part of the march of time, or are you frustrated that a place looks nothing like it did when your cherished memories were made?

The Torah text from this week seems to address this by preferring to keep important ritual moments in one place, rather than multiple locations:

The Pitch: “Take care not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like, but only in the place that the Lord will choose in one of your tribal territories. There you shall sacrifice your burnt offerings and there you shall observe all that I enjoin upon you.” – Deuteronomy 12:13-14

Swing #1: “Deuteronomy, in contrast to Exodus [20:24], commands a centralization of the cult, one consequence of which would have been a regularization of religious practices in the service of a consistent monolatry propagated by the center.” – Steven Grosby, Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient & Modern

Swing #2: “The idea of centralization, which is expressed here, means a concentration of political and religious power in the capital. The concentration of religious power in Jerusalem required the cultic unification of the national deity Yahweh.” – Thomas Römer, The So-Called Deuteronomistic History: A Sociological, Historical, and Literary Introduction

Swing #3: “The Torah speaks in general terms without specifying in whose tribal territory this place will be located. It turned out to be the territory of Benjamin.” – Rabbeinu Bahya

Late-Inning Questions: How might it be significant that the location of sacrifices is located in the territory of Benjamin? Might this be because Benjamin is Jacob’s favorite son (other than Joseph, whose descendants’ territories are split between his two sons)? Or might this be consolation for Benjamin being the youngest of Jacob’s sons? How do we choose the places that mean the most to us?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Pursuant to the recommendation of the TBT reopening task force, we are, on a trial basis, augmenting our Livestream Shabbat services with an in-person minyan for Friday night, August 28th; Saturday morning September 5th; and Friday/Saturday, September 11th-12th, by reservation only, for up to a maximum of fifteen family units (no more than 20-25 people) wearing masks and maintaining a distance of twelve feet. Please see the Temple website for further details.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of choosing significant places, is it bothersome that the National Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, New York – the hometown of Abner Doubleday – when it’s all but certain that Doubleday had nothing to do with the invention of baseball? Or is it more fun to maintain the myth?

Shabbat Shalom, and stay safe!