The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary

By Steven; Sarah Levy | Go to book overview

RE’EH

❖ Personal Best
The Torah states, “[And] Enoch walked with God” (Gen. 5:22), on which the sages say, “Enoch was a cobbler, and with every single stitch that he made, he achieved mystical unions [ ] with his Creator” (Midrash Talpiot). Citing Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (1810–83), Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (1892–1953) writes that this midrash cannot possibly mean that while Enoch was stitching shoes for his customers, he was engaged in mystical thoughts, because this would constitute an impermissible distraction from the work for which he was being paid. Rather, this means that Enoch lavished attention on every stitch to assure that it would result in a sturdy and comfortable pair of shoes for its owner. In the process Enoch achieved “mystical unions” with his Creator, who also lavishes beneficence on others. Enoch’s focus on giving his best to others touches on a theme raised in a verse from Parashat Re’eh that describes the offerings to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Then you must bring everything that I command you to the
site where the Lord your God will choose to establish His
name: your burnt offerings and other sacrifices, your tithes
and contributions, and all the choice votive offerings that
you vow to the Lord. (Deut. 12:11)

Rashi comments on one of these offerings:

the choice votive offerings: This teaches that one should
bring [offerings] from the choicest. (Rashi, Deut. 12:11)

Rashi explains that this verse instructed Jews to bring their very best offerings to the Temple. The inherent message—to put forth one’s best efforts—is just as relevant to our social relationships, work, and community involvements today. Not only are we more likely to achieve better results in our endeavors, but, like Enoch, by attending to rich detail, we may realize a purity of process that draws us closer to our Creator and to God’s creation.
Questions for Discussion
1. The story of Enoch the cobbler illustrates how a beautifully done job can itself be an act of religious devotion. Have you undertaken any task or responsibility with a similar level of devotion? If so, how do you understand why you acted this way? Would you consider your deed an act of religious devotion? Did a matter of principle underlie your resolve?
2. What person do you know or know of who best resembles Enoch the cobbler in elevating a seemingly ordinary responsibility into something akin to a mystical union?
3. Do you believe you consistently give your best efforts to your social relationships? Is there anything more you might do?

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The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction - Introducing Rashi xv
  • Genesis 1
  • Bere’shit 3
  • NoaḤ 6
  • Lekh Lekha 9
  • Va-Yera’ 12
  • Hayyei Sarah 15
  • Toledot 18
  • Va-Yetse’ 21
  • Va-YishlaḤ 24
  • Va-Yeshev 27
  • Mikkets 30
  • Va-Yiggash 33
  • Va-YeḤi 36
  • Exodus 39
  • Shemot 41
  • Val-‘Era’ 44
  • Bo’ 47
  • Be-ShallaḤ 50
  • Yitro 53
  • Mishpatim 56
  • Terumah 59
  • Tetsavveh 62
  • Ki Tissa’ 65
  • Va-Yak’Hel 68
  • Pekudei 71
  • Leviticus 75
  • Va-Yikra’ 77
  • Tsav 80
  • Shemini 83
  • Tazria’ 86
  • Metsora’ 90
  • ’AḤarei Mot 93
  • Kedoshim 97
  • ‘Emor 100
  • Be-Har 103
  • Be-Ḥukkotai 106
  • Numbers 111
  • Be-Midbar 113
  • Naso’ 116
  • Be-Ha’Alotekha 120
  • ShelaḤ-Lekha 123
  • KoraḤ 127
  • Ḥukkat 130
  • Balak 134
  • PinḤas 138
  • Mattot 141
  • Mase’Ei 144
  • Deuteronomy 147
  • Devarim 149
  • Va-EtḤannan 152
  • ‘Ekev 156
  • Re’Eh 160
  • Shofetim 163
  • Ki Tetse’ 167
  • Ki Tavo’ 171
  • Nits Avim/Va-Yelekh 174
  • Ha’Azinu 177
  • Ve-Zo’t Ha-Berakhah 181
  • Subject Index 185
  • Index of Sources 189
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