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    Cutting others out – Re’eh

    The sidra says, “Do not cut yourselves for the dead” (Deut. 14:1).

    On one level this rule forbids self-mutilation. It acknowledges the deep psychological wound when a death occurs and prohibits responding with a physical gash.

    Our practice of cutting k’ri’ah takes account of the grief but limits us to cutting and tearing our garments.

    There is also a metaphorical interpretation of lo tit’god’du when we see that the sages in Sifrei say, “You shall not cut yourselves into factions but remain bound in one bond.”

    This warning reads lo tit’god’du as if it were lo te’asu agudot agudot, “you shall not cut yourself apart into rival groups”. Though originating as a Midrash this rule has become halachah.

    It does not prohibit disparate views: rabbinic literature is full of debates in which one side disputes with another. The disputes range from practical ways of living a Jewish life to theological principles such as whether it was better for man to have been created or to the contrary, whether it might have been better for God not to have created man.

    What the verse is telling us is that the Jewish people must remain one family and not seek to cut out any other Jewish group.

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