16 Av 5776 פרשת וָאֶתְחַנַּן, ט”ז אב, תשע”ו
In the end of the last portion, we read that the LORD our God goes ahead of us to fight for us. Moshe will constantly be quoting the past in order to prepare this next generation who would be the ones to enter the Promised Land. In this portion, Va’etchanan Moshe repeats to his people how sorry he is that he would not be able to accompany them into the land and he pleads with the Creator who tells him to be quiet. This demonstrates how human our heroes in the Bible were with all their failures including Moshe.
These next chapters contain multiple teachings: the Ten Commandments, the Shema, the Tefillin and mezzuzot and about us being the am segullah – עַם סְגֻלָּה , a treasured people and about being the chosen people. I want to make emphasis of Deuteronomy 4 which is such an important chapter to understand. Moshe Rabeinu admonishments show us that we need to know our past, our greatest teacher before we can know where we are going. Israel had lost that message and needed a reminder. Moshe warned his people that they were a privileged nation and needed to take heed of the Creator’s Words. In verse 7, he said “What great nation is there that has its gods as near as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call to Him? And what great nation has laws and customs as upright as the entirety of this Torah which I am laying down for you today? But take care as you value your lives; do not forget the things which you yourselves have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as your live; Teach them to your children and to your children’s children.” This is call for us to teach this wonderful revelation not only to our children’s children but also the world.
Starting with Chapter 4: 1 it says: “1 ‘And now, Israel, listen to the statues and judgments which I am teaching you today, so that, by observing them, you may survive to enter and take possession of the country which the LORD, God of your ancestors, is giving you.
The word “Shema” in the Hebrew translated here as “listen” actually means “obey”. Moshe was admonishing the people of Israel that if they were obedient they would have a long and peaceful life but if they did not, they would suffer the consequences. The greatest gift that our Creator gave man was free will with the capacity to communicate and make decisions right or wrong. With this came responsibility.
Verse 2 says: 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. The Torah was given to us and we did not have the authority to change any of it. All the major religions without exception have theologized His Word, making His Divine Revelation human using it for their own purposes. Every religion is divided into many groups each giving it their own interpretations. The Torah on the other hand gives us moral and ethical understanding not legalism. It speaks of a compassionate Creator. Whenever people change the Word of God, they are trying to make themselves equal to the Creator. They have thus created their own false gods and at the end of chapter 4, the Creator is speaking exclusively against idolatry.
Moshe is going to advise the people about what would happen when they go in to possess the land and how they needed to cleanse the land. It needed to be tahor. The people there had many other gods and traditions and this new nation could easily be destroyed. Let’s read from verse 32 ‘Put this question, then, to the ages that are past, that have gone before you, from when God created the human race on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything like it ever heard?33 Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you have heard it, and remain alive?34 Has it ever been known before that any god took action himself to bring one nation out of another one, by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors — all of which things the LORD your God has done for you before your eyes in Egypt?35 ‘This he showed you, so that you might know that the LORD is the true God and that there is no other.
Hold on to this thought: Moshe Rabeinu is telling them that just because man has created a god does not make it God. There is only One true God of the universe.
We continue: 36 To instruct you, he made you hear his voice from heaven, and on earth he let you see his great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard his words.37 Because he loved your ancestors and, after them, chose their descendants, he has brought you out of Egypt, displaying his presence and mighty power,38 dispossessing for you nations who were larger and stronger than you, to make way for you and to give you their country as your heritage, as it still is today.
Today Israel is having problems with people who call themselves “Palestinians” but in actuality there is no such people; rather they are made up of Jordanians, Egyptians and Lebanese Arabs. If you want to use the term Palestinian, it would belong to the Israelis who were given that name by the British. The Jerusalem Post used to be known as the Palestinian Post. It is a well known fact that lies repeated often enough soon are accepted as true. In the same way, the repetition of these false gods didn’t make them true or real.
“39 ‘Hence, grasp this today and meditate on it carefully: the LORD is the true God, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.40 Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children after you may prosper and live long in the country that the LORD your God is giving you forever.’…..44 This is the Torah which Moses presented to the Israelites.45 These are the stipulations, the laws and the customs which Moses gave the Israelites after they had left Egypt,46 beyond the Jordan in the valley near Beth-Peor..”
The Creator from the beginning was warning Israel not to accept the gods of the other nations. We were to eliminate them and to know there are no other gods besides Him. Whenever Israel tried to be like the other nations they would be assimilated into the other nations, losing their identity and they would forget who their true God was.
15 ‘Hence, be very careful what you do. Since you saw no shape that day at Horeb when the LORD spoke to you from the heart of the fire, 16 see that you do not corrupt yourselves by making an image in the shape of anything whatever: be it statue of man or of woman, 17 or of any animal on the earth, or of any bird that flies in the heavens, 18 or of any reptile that crawls on the ground, or of any fish in the waters under the earth 19 When you raise your eyes to heaven, when you see the sun, the moon, the stars — the entire array of heaven — do not be tempted to worship them and serve them. The LORD your God has allotted these to all the other peoples under heaven,
In other words — do not worship the creature that God has created; rather worship the Creator.
20 but the LORD has chosen you, bringing you out of the iron-foundry, Egypt, to be his own people, his own people as you still are today.21 ‘ The LORD is angry with me because of you; he has sworn that I shall not cross the Jordan or enter the fine country which the LORD your God is giving you as your heritage.22 Yes, I am to die in this country; I shall not cross this Jordan; you will go over and take possession of that rich land.23 Be careful not to forget the covenant which the LORD your God has made with you, by sculpting an image or making a statue of anything, since the LORD your God has forbidden this; 24 for the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
God will not share His Deity with anyone or any idea. I am sad to say that today I have difficulty calling myself a Messianic Jew since that term has been so corrupted. I have had to distance myself from groups which worship a man-made god instead of the true God. The Messiah was not called to be God but as a messenger of the Creator. The worst part is that due to this creation of a human god called Jesus Christ, the reality of Yeshua being the messiah had been removed from my people, the Jewish people. Many of the religious Jews believe that we Messianic Jews have enthroned a false god, a human god. This is another god. Any religion has the right to believe whatever it wants but they do not have the right to impose it upon the Jewish people. I repeat to you that Yeshua never started a new religion. The problem is that religion has placed in the minds of the people that he is a god but to the Jews this is idolatry. The Creator does not share His Divinity with anyone or anything. It doesn’t matter how the theologians try to force this understanding into the Scriptures, God’s revelation hasn’t changed…you shall not add or take away anything from My Word. I challenge you to show me where Yeshua said that he was starting a new religion. On the contrary if you read the so called NT or as we call it, the Messianic Writings, you would see that he denied that he is God.
Another important thing to understand is that Yeshua never spoke to the gentiles. He might have occasionally had words with them but he was not their teacher. His audience, his students as a rabbi with his own yeshiva, as an itinerant preacher solely in Israel, was to his own people the Jews. His role as Mashiach was to bring his people back to the Torah in order for them to fulfill their role of being ohr l’goyim, light to the gentiles. In Matthew Yeshua said that he didn’t come to abolish the Torah. He knew the Torah and never spoke against it. Whenever the NT speaks against the Torah in any way it is not from God. The theologians confuse people with their fancy vocabulary but the message was always a simple one. Who were Yeshua’s greatest enemies and still are today? I am not speaking of the Jesus Christ who is the god of the gentiles. I am speaking of Yeshua the Messiah, the Jewish prophet and rabbi. He never said I am God nor was he equal to God. All our heroes were very human and so was he. He was a rabbi and not perfect as it is written in Kohelet— there is not one man who has not committed sin (Ecc. 7:20).
Moshe is asking the people of Israel not to go over to the other side, not to make false gods and to keep themselves clean. What has the constant problem been with Israel? They continuously make new rules and regulations for the people that God has not asked them to do; they constantly bring in new traditions and doctrines that have nothing to do with the Torah. Without realizing it we have been infected with the virus of paganism and idolatry. We worry about other religions instead of examining our own. Our Messiah Yeshua’s greatest enemies were from the organized religion, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They didn’t want him to rock the boat. He was a true revolutionary and called them hypocrites accusing them of changing the Words of the Creator for their own gain. He pointed out how they would travel miles to make converts (Jews who did not follow their way) placing upon them greater burdens than even they were willing to bear. He used very strong terms for them like vipers and white-washed tombs because he knew that we who follow the Creator cannot speak with a double tongue. When we speak in the name of the Creator we can’t be like a politician who speaks out of both sides of his mouth and gain popularity by being nice. Yeshua was a pain in the neck to them so they plotted to get rid of him by accusing him of being against the Roman Empire moving him from the religious setting into the political setting. In that way he could be destroyed. Were all the people of Israel involved in that scheme? Not at all; the great majority of Israelites saw him as being a great teacher and messiah.
Today we are experiencing something similar. Who are the ones doing the most damage on the world stage today? Two groups, the religious people and the politicians together hand in hand are creating havoc among the peoples of the earth. Who suffers? It is the children, women and the innocent victims of their hatred. That is what Yeshua came to warn the people about. If they kept on the path toward idolatry they would be destroyed. Is it coincidence that not long after Yeshua was killed, the second Temple was obliterated? No one can deny the historical facts. From the moment that the people were expelled from Israel 1700 years or so ago, it has taken a miracle to bring us back to the land. Today instead of learning from our mistakes we get worse and worse, and once again we want to be like the other nations. Israel has been called to be unique, am segullah – עַם סְגֻלָּה , a distinct people. When the eternal God calls us, we are different and we are carriers of the Truth. It is not easy but it is fulfilling to live for Him. It has nothing to do with being religious or fanatic. Our Creator gave us chochma and bina, wisdom and intelligence. He is a God who is not only involved in the spiritual aspects of our lives but He is a God of action. He acted and participated in our lives and is still with us today. If Israel still exists it isn’t because of a few strong men; it is because our Creator promised our forefathers that Israel would never be destroyed. He would always be with them. What other nation that has suffered so much throughout history and has failed as often still exists? What has Israel done to deserve such unabashed hatred at the United Nations? Do you know that the tiny state of Israel has more sanctions against her by the United Nations than any other nation in the world? They are constantly attacking Israel while saying nothing about China, North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or any of the Arab countries? How can Israel be the worst when even those Arabs who live in Israel will admit that they have more freedom there than being any other country in the Middle East? This is what happens when politics are mixed with religion; it becomes an incendiary cocktail. It is time for us to stand up for what is true. When we have the Creator in us, He changes our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, and renews our minds as we read about in both our prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He gives us His ruach and His Word is with us in the same way that He was with us when we left Egypt. Let us ask ourselves very seriously whether we follow a religion or whether we follow the true God. Which God have you chosen? Our Creator does not share His Divinity with any other created being. There is only One – “Shema Israel Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.” – שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד.