This coming week’s (8/07/2021) Parsha is Re’eh (Deut. 11:26-16:17). In this Torah portion, we are reminded that several of the commandments in the Torah condition us in the virtue of self-control.
For example in Deut. 14:3-21 we are reminded about unkosher foods:
 Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.
 These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat,
 The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.
 And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.
 Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.
 And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.
 These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat:
 And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.
 Of all clean birds ye shall eat.
 But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and ossifrage, and the ospray,
 And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
 And every raven after his kind,
 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
 The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
 And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,
 And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
 And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.
 But of all clean fowls ye may eat.
 Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
(Deut. 14:3-21 KIV)
Why did YHWH give us the Koshrut (Kosher laws)? Some say they were given for health reasons, others say they were given for no reason we can ever know. The first century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria believed that they were given to teach us the virtue of self-control. He wrote:
XVII (100) Moreover, Moses has not granted an unlimited possession and use of all other animals to those who partake in his sacred constitution, but he has forbidden with all his might all animals, whether of the land, or of the water, or that fly through the air, which are most fleshy and fat, and calculated to excite treacherous pleasure, well knowing that such, attracting as with a bait that most slavish of all the outward senses, namely, taste, produce insatiability, an incurable evil to both souls and bodies, for insatiability produces indigestion, which is the origin and source of all diseases and weaknesses. (101) Now of land animals, the swine is confessed to be the nicest of all meats by those who eat it, and of all aquatic animals the most delicate are the fish which have no scales; and Moses is above all other men skilful in training and inuring persons of a good natural disposition to the practice of virtue by frugality and abstinence, endeavouring to remove costly luxury from their characters,
(Special Laws IV)
This is in keeping with the teaching of 4th Maccabees which says:
For whence is it, otherwise, that when urged on to forbidden meats, we reject the gratification which would ensue from them? Is it not because reasoning is able to command the appetites? I believe so. 34 Hence it is, then, that when lusting after water-animals and birds, and fourfooted beasts, and all kinds of food which are forbidden us by the law, we withhold ourselves through the mastery of reasoning. 35 For the affections of our appetites are resisted by the temperate understanding, and bent back again, and all the impulses of the body are reined in by reasoning.
Then in Deut. 15:1-3 we read about the year of releasing debts:
 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it;he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’s release.
 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
(Deut. 15:1-3 KJV)
The author of 4th Maccabeees tells us that this commandment teaches us not only the virtue of self-control of our desires, but the virtue of justice as well:
 Thus the law says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…or anything that is your neighbor’s.“
 In fact, since the law has told us not to covet, I could prove to you all the more that reason is able to control desires. Just so it is with the emotions that hinder one from justice.
 Otherwise how could it be that someone who is habitually a solitary gormandizer, a glutton, or even a drunkard can learn a better way, unless reason is clearly lord of the emotions?
 Thus, as soon as a man adopts a way of life in accordance with the law, even though he is a lover of money, he is forced to act contrary to his natural ways and to lend without interest to the needy and to cancel the debt when the seventh year arrives.
 If one is greedy, he is ruled by the law through his reason so that he neither gleans his harvest nor gathers the last grapes from the vineyard. In all other matters we can recognize that reason rules the emotions.
(4Maccabees 2:5-9 RSV)
This weeks Torah portion demonstrates to us that the Torah teaches us to use our reason to exercise control our desires and emotions, so that we might manifest such virtues as self-control and justice.
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