THISSHABBAT: Pray a little, sing a lot, study even more

Candle lighting this Shabbat, August 18, is at

7:30 p.m. DST

Shabbat ends  Saturday, with Havdalah at 8:32 p.m. DST

This Shabbat, we offer prayers for the new month to come—Elul, the sixth month of the Jewish year and the final month before Rosh Hashanah (which is the start of the Jewish CALENDAR year, but NOT the Jewish year itself; it's complicated). A feature of this week's parashah, R'eih, is the reprise of the laws of the Sabbatocal Year, with perhap some modifications from the original law in Sefer Sh'mot (Exodus). The Torah's aversion to child sacrifice is also featred, in rather strong language. This Shabbat is the third one to follow Tishah B'Av, and has a special "haftarah of consolation." To download this week's Shabbat booklet, click here.

THIS WEEK: Shabbat M'varchim

Parashat R'eih

D'varim 11.26-16.17, pages 1061-1084

FIRST ALIYAH: What clause in verse 12.3 explains what Machir and Yair of the M'nashe tribe did on the east bank of the Jordan?

SEVENTH ALIYAH: According to verse 16.1, God freed Israel from Egypt at night, but everywhere else in the Torah it says that happened in the morning. Is this an error, or a sign of another author?

The third 'Haftarah of Consolation,'

Yishayahu 54.11-55.5, begins on Page 1085.

NEXT WEEK: Shabbat Parashat Shof'tim

D'varim 16.18-21.9, pages 1088-1106

SECOND ALIYAH: In verses 17.14--15, how many commandments regarding choosing a king are there, and how can we determine this?

FIFTH ALIYAH: Based on verses 19.4-5, if someone accidentally kills a former enemy, is he guilty of manslaughter, and eligible for a City of Refuge, or is he a willful murderer and must be put to death?

The fourth 'Haftarah of Consolation,'

Yishayahu 51.12-52.12, begins on Page 1108.






Written evidence for the Canaanite practice of child sacrifice comes from classical writers, some quoting an older Canaanite source, describing the religion of Phoenicia and its Mediterranean colonies, especially Carthage (Phoenicia was part of Canaan). According to them, people would sacrifice one of their children by fire when they sought some great boon from the gods, especially to avert some type of calamity.

Archaeological evidence for this practice comes from special precincts in Phoenician colonies, such as Carthage, where hundreds of urns have been found containing charred bones of both young children and animals. These precincts are not normal cemeteries for people who died a natural death, as shown by the facts that some of the burials are of animals and that the human burials are limited to children. Moreover, many of the urns, from the 8th to 2nd centuries B.C.E., are buried beneath steles inscribed with dedications to the gods, thanking them for answering the offerers' prayers.

Reliefs from ca. 500 B.C.E., found at Pozo Moro, Spain, show a two-headed monster receiving offerings of small people in bowls. Since some of the cultural influences identified at the site are Phoenician, these reliefs may also reflect Canaanite practice.

Earlier evidence of Canaanite child sacrifice is found in Egyptian reliefs that show besieged Canaanite cities. As the Egyptians attack, the people of the city are engaged in a religious ceremony, praying toward heaven and dropping the bodies of dead children, who had apparently been sacrificed, over the walls. In these reliefs, the victims are not burned; but under identical circumstances King Mesha, of Moab, in the 9th century B.C.E., stood atop his city's walls and offered his son as a burnt offering in the hope of preventing defeat.

Underlying child sacrifice was the belief that for the most earnestly desired benefactions from the gods, the most precious gifts had to be offered. The biblical reverence for human life made the Bible view this as the most outrageous of the Canaanites' abominations. But, as the case of Yiftach (Jephthah) and others cited indicate, there were times when even some Israelites accepted the gruesome logic of child sacrifice and actually practiced it.

—Adapted from the JPS Torah Commentary to Deuteronomy