Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #45: Va’etchanan (I pleaded) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 3:23-7:11
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:1-26
Brit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 4:1-11; 22:33-40; Mark 12:28-34;
Luke 4:1-13; 10:25-37; Acts 13:13-43; Romans 3:27-31; 1 Timothy 2:4-6;
Yaakov (James) 2:14-26
The book of D’varim is called the “Mishnah Torah”; meaning a review of the Torah. But it includes over 70 new commands among the 199 listed. The repeated
mitzvoth concentrate more on those that will be of greater immediate
concern as Israel prepares to take possession of the Land (future) as a nation instead of a wandering people. This is in keeping with the idea that Deuteronomy is more a book of the “future” of Israel (all true believers). The first five books of the Torah provide a beautiful illustration of the fact that in order to successfully negotiate the future, we must learn from the past. Our experiences, beliefs, and values carve the path which we will take as we move forward in life, much as moving water slowly but methodically and consistently carves stone.
Let us consider the prohibition against idol worship. Although already taught, it had to be reinforced as the Israelites would confront inhabitants of Canaan, who were idolaters. Today, this applies to all true believers who must live among idolaters/antinomians in our “global village.” Moshe continues his final instructions to the B’nai Ysra’el. All that he says in the first part of his farewell address prepares the way for his exposition to follow as well as the application of G-d’s commands, statutes and ordinances because history and responsibility go together. G-d had done mighty and wondrous things for His People, both in blessing and chastening them. Throughout this parashah Moshe reminds Israel that they (we) are a privileged people, the people of G-d, separated unto the L-rd from all the nations of the earth. Indeed, it is when we forget who we
are and our high calling/serious responsibility to set an example for others that we descend into low living, returning to the Egyptian(sinful) way of life which is the path of least resistance.
Moshe then pleads with HaShem to enter the Land. Then he blames Israel
when G-d denies the request. After getting his mind realigned with this reality and G-d’s will, He stresses allegiance to G-d and the consequences to ourselves and our generations to come if we choose not to follow the One G-d and His Torah, neither adding nor subtracting from it (Deut.4:2). Look carefully at the sentence: “In order to obey the mitzvot of Adonai your G-d which I am giving you, do not add to what I am saying, and do not subtract from it.” The sentence clearly indicates that we must take G-d’s Word as it is and do not think we can improve upon it or change it in any way if we are to be considered obedient. Yet we know there are problems in rabbinic Judaism and in Christianity with this issue. On the rabbinic side, Oral Torah places a hedge around G-d’s Torah with extraneous laws that are not to be found in G-d’s Torah. In Christianity, it is taught that Yahshua abrogated all of the laws outlined in the Old testament and reiterated in the B’rit Chadashah “New” Testament and Church replacement theology is the order of the day.
The Cities of Refuge are designated and finally Moshe stresses the reaction of the nation after the giving of the Torah, and forewarns them not to deviate from it, either to the right or to the left. The first paragraph of the Sh’ma is recorded. Moshe warns the people concerning the dangers of prosperity and directs them to keep the commandments and to remember the Exodus. He forewarns them about the dangers of assimilation and tells them to never forget that they are the
Chosen People of G-d. This does not mean we are “better”. It means that anyone who professes to be a true believer are held to the same commands and regulations G-d outlined in the Old Testament; whether Jew or Gentile. Contrary to Secular Humanism taught in our schools today, there ARE absolutes and accountability for disobedience to G-d’s Torah. Those who have been wronged in this life can rest assured that the guilty will pay; either in this life or in the olam haba (world to come).
Verses 3:23-29 Moshe implores G-d to allow him to the Land. G-d’s
response is interpreted as an angry and terrible “No!” as a withholding of
grace. Then G-d instructs Moshe to climb to the top of the mountain and get
a clear view in all directions so that he might see and know that he has
already arrived. The promise has already been fulfilled. On a temporal and
personal level we often do the same as Moshe. We search with a
preconceived notion of what our success may look like. We look towards
the Promised Land- the right partner, the right job, perfect health, enough
money to live the perfect lifestyle, etc. If we become assimilated in
the world, we become blind to the destination G-d has ordained for those who
will follow Him. We miss out on the blessings He provides for us daily and those He had planned for us because we are fixated on a our humanly manufactured idea of what the Promised Land should look like. The blessing of this parashah is the opportunity to hear G-d’s words again, “Rav lakh!” (You have so much!) If you follow my commands, statutes, and ordinances, you are already on your way to the Promised land. We must lift your eyes beyond our own limited expectations. Like Moshe, we must climb the mountain to take in the bigger picture. We can look at Moshe’s climb up the mountain as a thumbnail sketch of his and our long arduous journey of strengthening, purification, refinement and transformation prior to reaching the summit and looking out over the Promised Land which we too will inherit if we follow G-d’s Torah. We also see how even a man such as Moshe was held accountable for his sin of not trusting G-d and denying G-d glory by striking the rock for water, denying the miracle and credit to G-d to its fullest extent.
Chap. 4:1-40 We learn we are forbidden from making and/or worshipping any graven image. As Messianic Jews we also know that an idol does not have to be a graven image. It is anything that takes priority over G-d. The people were not to marry those from surrounding nations lest they be drawn away from the G-d of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We see this in our own time with those who are
married and have two different faiths. A major problem in America is the idea that acceptance and tolerance should have no bounds; that there are no rules, no deity.
This philosophy is in direct contradiction to G-d’s Torah. Loving thy neighbor does not mean allowing, supporting, and/or promoting antinomian behavior. G-d repeatedly warns us that we are to be a separate people, setting the example He provides through the written and the Living Torah (Yahshua ha Mashiach).
The commentators give another reason for the Biblical command against idolatry: it is perversion of the metaphysical order. We must subordinate our will to G-d’s will; nullifying our human desires and instincts just as Yahshua submitted to the Father’s will. The nature of pagan worship is just the opposite. It is an attempt to influence and ultimately control spiritual forces. Our purpose is to achieve moral growth by emulating Yahshua’s behavior- not to influence spiritual forces into helping meet our own egotistical desires. Indeed, the prohibition against idolatry is not only mentioned here and, in the Commandments, but throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy alone it is reiterated in 4:15-19, 23,25,26-28, 6;12,14. To pour salt in the wound, Beit-P’or is brought up again. (Deut3:29, 4:3, 4:46). While P’or was a place where idolatry was practiced, it was also a place where 24,000 were killed
by a plague due to fornicating with the women of Midian at Baal’s
prompting and enticement.
Often when it comes to our actions, we forget the principles that we were
taught as children, but we remember them when chiding our children.
We may give speeches about integrity and corporate greed only to have pushed our own agenda in a certain direction through creative manipulation. So it is that the Torah warns us not to forget its principles for ourselves yet to teach them to our children. Consistency is the message for us and our children, just as is our G-d and His Torah.
Verse 4:20: Moshe tells the people that G-d has “taken you out
of the smelling furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of inheritance for
Him.”. The words “iron furnace” (kur habarzel) in Hebrew. Why does the
Torah use this phrase when it could have used the word “oven” as in
Malachi (13:19) where it states, “behold a day is coming, burning like as
oven?” According to Rashi the word “kur” (furnace) is likened to “a vessel
in which gold is purified.” This would explain why the Egyptian exile is
referred to as “kur” and not “tanur” (oven). An oven is used for everyday
cooking. A furnace, on the other hand, has the specific function of refining
gold. G-d ordained that His chosen would have to be refined to perfection.
This could only come through adversity and trials as well as intermittent
mountain-top experiences for encouragement and rest. To whom much is
given, much is required. Each Pesach we are reminded that our ancestors
were slaves in Egypt’s furnace until G-d chose to deliver them. Today our
own wilderness experience starts with deliverance from our past life in
“Egypt.” Then, we too must cross the sea and begin our walk in Torah.
Whenever Israel/true believers forget who they are and starts to assimilate the ways of foreign nations and religions, it guarantees a trip back to the furnace.
Verse 41-43: Moshe establishes the three cities of refuge for those who may
have killed someone by mistake; Betzer- in the desert located in the flatland east of the Jordan and the Dead Sea for Reuven; Ramot in Giliad for Gad, which is also east of the Jordan and north of Bezer; and Golan in Bashan for the Manashi also located on the east side of the Jordan and north of Ramoth. Looking up these names and places will add to your learning experience.
Chap.5: Although this section may seem like repetition of the
commandments given in Exodus, it is actually a journey to a deeper level of understanding. As we noted I the beginning of this lesson, the earliest title given to the Book of Deuteronomy was “Mishneh Torah, the repetition of the Torah.” When the commandments are given this time, it is to a generation who did not
experience the fire and thunder as did the previous generation. Instead they
are given just before they enter the Land. Deuteronomy 6:4-11 opens a profound mystery, which is the Sh’ma. “Listen (Obey) Israel, YHVH is your G-d, YHVH is
One; a complex Unity; not a Trinity. Indeed, when Moshe was told to climb the mountain and lift his eyes, we are being invited to receive a glimpse of Unity. From the summit of this mountain, everything that Moshe thought back then and what we think now are separate because of the tension between our selfish animal souls and our G-d’s souls. When we enter the Land, we will finally have peace and will be united with YHVH/Yahshua. It will be “Echad-One”. Only at the end of our race will we come to this realization as did Moshe.
Verse 29 echoes the passage in Parashah Hukkat in Chapter 20:17 where Moshe is asking for passage through Edom: “We will go along the King’s Highway, not turning aside either to the right or to the left until we have left your territory.” In this parashah Moshe now instructs, “Therefore you are to be careful to do as Adonai your G-d has ordered you; you are not to deviate either to the right or to the left. You are to follow the entire way (notice he does not say ‘pick and choose’), which Adonai your G-d has ordered you; so that you will live, things will go well with you, and you will live long in the land you are about to possess.” This
is how we must follow our King’s highway; the Torah.
Chap.6: There is no doubt that the climax of this chapter is found in verses
4-9; the Sh’ma. Starting with verse 4 the word used for “hear” is Sh’ma which means hear the words, internalize them and then act on them every day continually. Interestingly, there is no word for “obey” in Hebrew. The word used for the concept of “obey” is “Sh’ma. This is the meaning Yahshua uses throughout scripture when he says “Let him who has ears to hear…” This phrase is also at the conclusion of each of the epistles found in Revelation. In other words, hear what needs improvement and make the changes!
Verse 5: “And you should love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, all
your soul, and all your might.” Rashi has an interesting take on this verse. If
we examine the order of the verse we see that at first there is an increasing
expectation of love from the “whole mind” to “life itself”. Then the verse
seems to retreat to “all of one’s might/money/resources”. It is as if I say “I
love you 300. I love you 400. I even love you 200.” This seems to make no
sense since 200 is already included in 400. Therefore, Rashi is eluding to the
pathological personality type whereby money is more dear than obedience
to G-d. Indeed, this plays out many times when people reject the commands of G-d because they won’t give up ham or shrimp, and tithing is not in their vocabulary.
Verse 6: “These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your
heart; and you are to teach them diligently to your children, and speak of
them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you
retire, and when you arise.” Not only are the people of Israel commanded to
repeat these words; they are also commanded to make the entire Torah the
focus of their thoughts, speech and actions. This is also found in the Sifri
(halachic Midrash on B’midbar and D’varim.) It is actually in the term used
for ‘and you shall speak of them”, (v’barta bam) that gives us the exact
context of this verse.
The Torah’s use of the verb D-B-R and the combination with the preposition
BAM is explained:
According to (Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michal, 1809-1897), D-B-R
refers to the human capacity for speech, and is therefore the most inclusive
term for speaking. Other terms for speech are A-M-R and S-P-R. D-B-R is
used when one explains in detail and elaborates all in ones’ considerations.
Therefore, V’dbarta must refer to ongoing, expansive speech. Had the Torah
meant this verse to mean a mere mention of Torah during the course of one’s
day, it might have said “V’amarta.”
Verse 8-9 are the commands for the mezuzah we place on our doors to the entrance to our homes, and the T’fillin placed around our foreheads (between your eyes) and arm (hand/yud) with the accompanying prayers. It is interesting that the command to wear tzitziot, to provide a constant reminder of the commands, is not mentioned here but commanded in Numbers 15:37. Reading that scripture we also see that wearing them is a reminder against following after the lusts of our eyes and hearts and being led into idolatry. People tend to take this very lightly, feeling they can master their natural drives. If this were so easy, G-d would not have taken so much time, detail and space in Torah to teach us how to protect ourselves
against such sin. We must keep in our hearts the action taken by Yosef when
confronted by Potifer’s wife in Genesis 39:9-15. First, he told her she was
sinning against G-d. When she continued to attempt seducing him, he ran.
We cannot dilly-dally in situations that place us in danger of idolatry/sexual
immorality. We must keep the words of Torah before us at all times. We can
only do that by “hearing”; Sh’ma…. Ysra’el!
Haftorah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:1-26
Parashah V’etchanan is always read on the Shabbat after the 9th of Av- a
Shabbat known as Shabbat Nachamu, the “Shabbat of Comfort.” The
comfort of this parashah embraces far more than the beginning verses of the
Haftorah: “Comfort, comfort My people, “says your G-d. Speak to the
heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been
fulfilled, that her iniquity has been conciliated, for she has received from the
hand of G-d double for all her sins.”
This message of comfort is a prophecy concerning the eventual Redemption
and assures Israel that the destruction and exile are merely temporary
phenomena in the context of an eternal covenant.
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 12:28-34
In these verses we are reminded of the consistency of Torah and Yahshua’s
interpretation and teaching of G-d’s written Torah, not the traditions of men. Yahshua describes the most important mitzvah as the Sh’ma and the second as “You are to love your neighbor as yourself.” The Torah teacher rightly discerns that following these two commands means more than all the legalistic offering
of sacrifices and burnt offerings. Again, the spirit of the law or Torah
observance must come before the letter of the law but not exclusive to the letter of the law. Indeed, if one follows these two commands, they will lovingly offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to YHVH Elohim.
Sages Wisdom: “And love your Elohim… with all your heart.” (6:5)
Rashi explains that it means to love YHVH with the yetzer tov, “the good
inclination” and the yetzer ha’ra, “the evil inclination. How can this be?
When we can admit that we have sinned against YHVH Elohim and don’t
try to justify our evil actions, then we love YHVH through our evil
inclinations. Similarly, when we choose to take the action that is consistent with G-d’s Torah over our physical and emotional desires, we are demonstrating our love for YHVH/Yahshua over our evil inclinations related to self.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart