Blog Vaetchanan 16 Av 5778 בלוג וָאֶתְחַנַּן, ט”ז אב תשע”ח
I would like us to take time today to carefully glean from Moshe Rabeinu’s farewell speech in Devarim (Deut.) 4 to his people knowing that he would no longer be with them. This will also give us an understanding of what the Mashiach came to do – to bring us back to Torah. The word “shema”, “hear and obey” is repeated several times in these chapters emphasizing Moshe’s desire for us to truly pay attention to the Creator’s message.
Deut.4;1 1 “And now, Israel, listen to the Chukkim and Mishpatim...” He is not speaking about religious laws but about principles that we need to apply in order to truly live our lives well and about how to conduct ourselves within community. I was asked, ‘Do we have the right to interpret the Torah?” Interpretation is good as long as we follow the principles set down in Torah.
Deut. 4:1 continues “…which I am teaching you today, so that, by keeping them, you may live to enter and take possession of the land which the LORD God of your ancestors, is giving you.” Most of the world is telling us that we Jews do not have the right to live in the land. The reason that Israel is so hated is because the world refuses to acknowledge the Words of the Creator.
Deut. 4:2: 2 “You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God just as I lay them down for you.” SIMPLE…do not add or take anything from His Words. Who gave the rabbis or any other religious leaders permission to do that? How often have I told you not to believe man but to believe the Creator? It reminds me of Yeshua ben Yosef who spoke to the people in his sermon on the Mount. He said that he did not come to abolish the Torah but to fulfill it. He was letting them know that they had changed the Word of God and were in trouble because of it. It is as much a fact then as it is today. We interpret the Word of God by what is convenient to us instead of according to the Truth. Yeshua told us “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” He was using a euphemistic term for the Creator who would set us free from spiritual slavery as we come to know Him.
Deut. 4:3 3 “You can see for yourselves what the LORD has done about the Baal of Peor; the LORD your God has destroyed all those of you who followed the Baal of Peor.” Here Moshe is repeating Israel’s history written in Bamidbar, when Pinchas killed Zimri and Kozbi. According to our sages many of the people died through sexually transmitted diseases from their promiscuity with the Midianite women.
Deut. 4:4 “but those of you who stayed faithful to the LORD your God, are all alive today.” Here he is speaking to those who chose to follow the Creator without being too literal or fanatic.
Deut. 4:5-6 “Look: as the LORD my God commanded me, I have taught you Chukkim and Mishpatim, for you to observe in the land of which you are going to take possession. 6 Keep them, put them into practice, and other peoples will admire your wisdom and prudence. Once they know what all these laws are, they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation!” What distinguishes Israel from the rest of the world? The TORAH. Israel does not exist without the Torah, without which they are like any other nation. Isn’t that what is happening today? They have religion but ignore the written Torah.
Deut. 4:7-8 “And indeed, what great nation has its gods as near as the LORD your God is to us whenever we call to him? 8 And what great nation has laws and customs as upright as the entirety of this Torah which I am laying down for you today?” He is telling Israel that they have a great diamond in their hands which makes them the wealthiest of all nations, but they would disappear as a nation if they did not honor it.
He then reminds them about their time at Mount Sinai. Deut 4:13 “13 He revealed His covenant to you and commanded you to observe it, the Ten Words which He inscribed on two tablets of stone.” What is this covenant? It’s the Ten Commandments – our basic constitution. If we simply apply its principles we would be the holiest of all nations.
He reminds repeatedly about our role and what would happen if we disobey. Deut. 4:23 “Be careful not to forget the covenant which the LORD your God has made with you…” He continues with all the various types of idolatry which could make us fail. Today our idolatry has become very sophisticated. Idolatry is any false god that replaces the Creator. It is pernicious. Examine the various religions of the world to see how man has replaced Him. What amulets or what type of horoscopes do you look up to? Materialism, status, power, ideologies, sophisticated philosophies can all be idols to replace God. Who is your god?
Here is the key! Deut. 4:29 29 ‘If, however, from there you start searching once more for the LORD your God, and if you search for Him honestly and sincerely, you will find him.” It starts from within. If we open our hearts without condition and sincerely seek Him, He won’t hide from us. There is no secret formula to finding Him. We need to take the initiative. Yeshua told us “seek and you shall find…” That is from Torah!
Deut. 4:30 “You will suffer; everything I have said will befall you, but in the final days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to his voice”. People who love prophesy take this to mean that we will start to believe in God in the “final days” before Mashiach returns when there will be earthquakes and disaster but that’s for the religious gurus who want us to follow them out of fear. In Hebrew the sense is given that it is our own personal time frame. We don’t need to wait for the Messiah’s return to have a personal relationship with the Creator. We will see His Glory when we see the changes in our lives when we search for Him NOW!
Deut. 4:31 “For the LORD your God is a merciful God and will not desert or destroy you or forget the covenant which He made on oath with your ancestors.” Many of us have left religion in order to follow the Creator not man. That is why we are not popular; we don’t offer anyone riches or power, but we are leading people to have a true relationship with the Creator. I can offer you all the regulations you need to satisfy your need for religion; but I don’t have any power. The Bore Olam sends messengers who bring the good news to the people. Each of you is one of these special messengers; not by how much you speak but by HOW you live. The Torah brings life and Israel can survive only with the Torah; without it, Israel is destroyed. We need to pray that this competition between the religious factions will stop and turn instead to seek emunah (faith) and bitachon (trust) in the Creator. Our traditions mean nothing without the Creator. Form means far less than deeds from the heart. The Creator wants a relationship with us and judges us by our intention – kavanah. We can fool each other but we can’t fool Him. May we each have the wisdom to understand what He is conveying to us.
Finally, as Moshe Rabeinu is telling his people, Israel exists to give away the Torah, Israel without Torah, does not have a reason to exist!