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    What’s wrong with cities – Re’eh

    The weekly portion deals with idolatrous cities.

    Uprooting the idolatry to which the inhabitants have dedicated their way of life comes in harsh terms: “You shall surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the sword, destroying it entirely. You shall burn the city and all its spoil and it shall never be rebuilt” (Deut. 13:13-17).

    The only thing that can save the city is repentance.

    In some ways this reminds us of Abravanel’s interpretation of the Tower of Babel, whose inhabitants determined to defy God by building a city. Abravanel says that if people build a megapolis there is a real danger that it will become a concentration of evil.

    The Midrash illustrates the situation by saying that so adamant were the people of Babel that they only wept if a brick got broken, but if a human life was lost they didn’t care that much.

    We who mostly live in cities are so used to urban dwelling that we can’t quite understand why so much fuss is made over what can go wrong in city life. We probably all remember our childhood days when our teachers got us debating which was better, city or country life.

    One thing we should never forget is that close communities can encourage addictions and indulgence and the evil is hard to uproot.

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