Saturday 31st August 2019 30th Av 5779
PARASHAT RE’EH by Herschel
Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17; Isaiah 54:11-55:5; Mark 9:40-50
The next three Torah portions - Re'eh, Shoftim, and Ki Taitzei - contain the bulk of the commandments found in Deuteronomy. Up to now, Moses mentioned such fundamental commandments as the necessity to love and fear HaShem. There are also general exhortations against idolatry. Moshe also gave inspirational sermons stressing the people's duty toward God and their obligation to live up to the holiness of the Land.
Moses begins this recitation by putting the commandments into perspective, saying that the choice of whether or not to accept the Torah in its totality is nothing less than the choice between blessing and curse, life and death:
26. See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse:
27. The blessing - that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your
God, that I command you today:
28. And the curse - if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem,
your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today,
to follow gods of others, that you did not know:
Doesn’t the language in verse 28 seem somewhat superfluous? If you disobey, surely the implication is that you have turned away from G-d’s covenant? Why then does Moses mention ‘if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, and you stray from the path’, as if they were two distinct actions?
The chazal (sages) teach that this double emphasis contains a moral lesson for us. What this is teaching us is something more than mere neglect or complacency.
Sometimes, we are sluggish, inattentive or careless with the result that we do not obey G-d’s instructions fully.
Last week’s parasha is called ‘Eikev’ which means ‘heel’. Jacob’s Hebrew name is Ya’akov’ which shares the root ‘eikev’. He was born clutching his brother’s heel.
Now, midrashically, the word eikev – heel - alludes to the sort of commandments that people may regard as relatively unimportant, so they tend figuratively to "tread on them with their heels." Thus, the Torah assures Israel that if they are careful to observe even these neglected or what we might call the less important commandments,they can be certain that God will reward them with His covenant and kindness (Rashi).
Yeshua emphasized this principle in Matthew 23:23, when he rebuked a certain sect of the Pharisees (not all Pharisees):
"Woe to you, Torah scholars and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint and dill and cumin, yet you have neglected the weightier matters of Torah—justice and mercy and faithfulness. It is necessary to do these things without neglecting the others.
Here, he refers to what could be called the lesser and the weightier matters of Torah and the Lord emphasized that we are instructed to do both with the same diligence and attention We cannot make a false dichotomy of what we consider to be greater or lesser important commandments when it comes to G-d’s Torah!
When Israel stood before the Mountain of Revelation, they bound themselves to the entire body of G-d’s revelation:
Exodus 19: 6b-b9
These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael." So Moses went, called for the elders of the people, and put before them all these words that Adonai had commanded him. All the people answered together and said,
"Everything that Adonai has spoken, we will do."
כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר יְהוָה נַעֲשֶׂה
Moses stressed that we cannot pick and choose when it involves G-d’s instructions. The blessings promised by God were contingent on Israel's acceptance of the entire Torah in its entirety.
In other words, in our own minds, although our ‘yes’ might not be ‘yes’, at least I don’t commit adultery or I don’t steal. I’m not that bad. That is often how we think and we neglect Paul’s caution in 1 Corinthians 10:13 – ‘let him who thinks he stands take heed, less he fall’. Or, to the community at Laodicea in Revelations 3:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. Oh, that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of My mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have made myself wealthy, and I need nothing.' But you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may dress yourself and so the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed, and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore, be zealous and repent. (TLV)
The double emphasis in Deut 11:28 of not listening to nor straying from the path, is a caution against such doublemindedness. The one thing we know with certainty is that HaShem abhors syncretism – mixture.
We also know with absolute certainty that we are called to whole hearted devotion, whole hearted service and whole hearted obedience to G-d’s Word.
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Torah of Adonai. Happy are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with a whole heart, who also do no injustice, but walk in His ways.
King David was guilty of many terrible sins including adultery and even murder. Yet, the Apostles record that ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do My will' (Acts 3:22). The clue to this is that when David was confronted by Nathan in , his immediate response was “against God I have sinned” (2 Sam 12:13).
It appears that a willingness to repent before HaShem, is a key to a tender and obedient heart that will enable us to walk in His ways!