You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. Deuteronomy 12:31
The Torah portion for this week is Re'eh, which means "see," from Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:11-55:5.
Much of the world was shocked after it was revealed that during last summer's conflict, Hamas had purposely placed their children in the same places where they kept their weapons. Arsenals were uncovered in kindergartens, hospitals, and playgrounds. Our enemies even went so far as to publicly state that they are proud and happy to sacrifice their children in the name of their god.
Such tactics are unthinkably cruel. But even more unthinkable is their callous attitude toward the value of children. It is the complete opposite of the value that Israelis place on life and especially their children.
In this week's portion we read: "You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods." God was speaking about the inhabitants of what would later become Israel. In some ways, this willingness to sacrifice children is very much present today in some cultures.
However, it's important to understand that there are plenty of ways to "sacrifice children" in non-violent ways, and these must be avoided as well. How many people unknowingly sacrifice their children by neglecting them because they worship money and chose more hours in the office instead? How many people impose impossible standards upon their children, harming their esteem, because they worship the gods of honor and pride? Indeed there are many ways to "burn" a child, including verbal abuse, embarrassment, and the like.
We all make mistakes, and no one is the perfect parent, but we can all improve the way we treat the children in our lives. Our portion also provides a lesson in positive child-rearing. We read that when the people brought sacrifices to God in the Temple, they were commanded to bring their children with them. The children were included, and they learned by inspirational example.
Try taking a child with you to serve God's purposes. Bring them to pray, to a soup kitchen, or to visit an elderly neighbor. Let them know that they are loved and cherished and let them learn in a positive, self-affirming way how to be a good and godly person.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President