Thursday, July 5, 2018

Pinchas “Covenant of Peace" Bamidbar (Numbers) 25:10-30:1

Parashah
Pinchas “Covenant of Peace"

Bamidbar (Numbers) 25:10-30:1


This weeks parashah continues from last week after twenty-four thousand Yishraelites were required to be killed by Hashem for committing harlotry with the women of Moab. Hashem stopped His wrath against Yishrael after Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, had Hashem's zeal and put a javelin through an Israelite man and a Midianite woman.

This weeks parashah consist of a new covenant of peace, honouring Phinehas family line due to his zeal. Hashem instructed Moshe to say (25:12-13):

‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace;
‘and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ ”

The Medianite woman that Phinehas put the javelin through was the daughter of chief Zur of Midian, and due to past events where the Medianites schemed and seduced the Yishraelites in Peor, Hashem told Moshe to harass the Medianites and attack them. 


Hashem asked Moshe and Eleazar to take a census of all the children of Israel from twenty years old and above so that the promised land could be divided amongst them - the total was six hundred and one thousand seven hundred and thirty, and of these only Caleb and Joshua survived from the original Yishraelites of the exodus as was numbered by Moshe and Aaron the priest when they counted the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, for Hashem had said of them, “They shall surely die in the wilderness.” After this the daughters of Zelophehad petitioned Moshe that they be granted the portion of the land belonging to their father, who died without sons, and was not part of those who gathered together against the LORD, in company with Korah, but he died in his own sin - God accepted their claim and incorporated it into the laws of inheritance, listing the way in which inheritances will be past on and not forgotten for all families.


Hashem commanded Moses to climb mount Abarim to see the land which He was giving to the children of Israel, though he was forbidden to enter it because he struck the rock twice at Kadesh. Hashem then told Moses to appoint Joshua bin Nun as his successor who would lead the people into the Promised Land.


Chapters 28 and 29 conclude with a detailed list of the various “communal offerings” that were to be brought to the Sanctuary when the people entered the land. Daily, weekly, and monthly sacrificial offerings are described, as well as the additional offerings that were offered on the major festivals of the Jewish year (i.e., Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret). In the NKJV Hashem is noted calling these “My offerings” repeatedly, describing to Moshe the importance and level of requirement that Israel must place on keeping these offerings.


Shalom
Graeme Politanski





Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bamidbar “in the desert" Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:1-4:20

Parashah
Bamidbar “in the desert"

Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:1-4:20


This weeks Parashah comes the day before Shavuot (weeks or Pentecost), which is the day in which HaShem gave the Torah to Moshe on Mount Sinai, also the day according to Acts 2:1-4 when the Holy Spirit manifested mightily amongst Yeshua’s disciples. According to the sages, the festival of Shavuot marks the culmination of the experience of redemption, sometimes called Atzeret Pesach, or the ‘conclusion’ of Passover. Since the Exodus from Egypt was intended to lead to the revelation given at Sinai, the goal of Passover was the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.


The Book of Numbers begins precisely where the Book of Exodus left off, with HaSham’s glory hovering over the Mishkan as Yishrael camped at Sinai. On the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt – exactly thirty days after the Mishkan was first consecrated – HaShem commanded Moshe to take a census of all Yishrael males over 20 years of age who would bear arms. Moshe and the heads of each tribe recorded the results, with 603,550 men in all. This number did not include the Levites, however, since they were designated to take care of the Mishkan and its furnishings during the journeys.

HaShem then gave instructions about how Yishrael’s camp was to be arranged. The Mishkan would occupy the central location, with three clans of the Levites surrounding it on the north, south, and west (Moses and Aaron’s tents were placed before the entrance on the east). The twelve other tribes were divided into four groups of three, each of which had its own flag and tribal leader’s tent. All of the tents of Yishrael were to face the Mishkan on every side. This camp formation was to be strictly maintained while traveling throughout the desert.

A general census of the Levites was then performed. Originally all firstborn sons of Yishrael were to serve as their family’s priest, but because of the sin of the Golden Calf, this privilege was revoked, and the Levites (who did not participate in that sin) were chosen instead. HaShem instructed Moshe to count all male Levites over the age of one month, with a result of 22,000. He then counted all the firstborn sons of Yishrael and discovered there were 22,273. Since there were 273 more firstborn in Yishrael than male Levites to represent them, those who lacked a corresponding Levite (as determined by lot) had to pay a five-shekel “ransom” to redeem themselves.

Within the tribe of Levi three separate family clans were counted, based on the lineage of Levi’s three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Each of these clans was assigned special duties to help Aaron and his sons do the work of the Mishkan. The clan of Gershon was responsible for the woven materials of the Mishkan, the clan of Merari handled the wooden framework as well as the courtyard and its sockets, and the clan of Kohath was responsible for carrying the sacred furnishings themselves. Note that Aaron and his two sons (i.e., Eleazar and Ithamar) were part of the Kohathite clan, though they alone were separated for special service. The Kohathites were warned not to directly touch any of the sacred objects, however, and only Aaron and his sons were permitted to insert the carrying poles and cover the objects before they could be moved.



Shalom

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Acharei Mot “after the death” Exodus (Vayikra) 16:1-18:30

Parashah

Acharei Mot “after the death”

Exodus (Vayikra) 16:1-18:30


This weeks parashah starting with Exodus 16 holds within itself a divine alignment between the procedures instructed by HaShem during Yom Kippur, and the death, blood, and resurrection of Yeshua.

It’s possible HaShem saw Aarons grief after the death of his son’s, and therefore made sure Moshe told Aaron to wait for the right time before entering the Holy place so he didn’t die. Maybe Aaron would have come before God hastily with the  wrong attitude, or in self hurt and not with the right motive on the day of atonement - no matter how Aaron felt, his opinions, or where his emotions were at, after entering at the right time in the presence of HaShem, I’m sure Aaron would quickly be in ore of HaShem’s Majesty.

        16:3 says:
        “Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull 
         as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.

The procedures from here continue. After washing in water, Aaron is required to dress in his more standard priestly attire perhaps identifying more so as a Priest needing cleansing from his sin. After taking two goats for sin offering, a ram for a burnt offering, and a bull as a sin offering for himself and his house, he then cast lots to determine which of the two goats is for HaShem to be used as the sin offering goat, and which would be used as a scapegoat, which would carry all the sins of Yishrael away. Aaron’s first sacrificial step points back to verse 2, as Aaron took the bull which was for a sin offering for himself and his house, killed it, he then took:

         16:12
        “a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his          
         hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil.
         16:13
        “And he shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of 
         incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.

And so the procedure continues. Aaron first offered to HaShem so that he and his house would be cleansed before offering for all of Yishrael to be cleansed. Perhaps a resemblance as Yeshua first lived as a man in righteousness, blameless and pure before He offered Himself for all mankind.

After these sacrifices Aaron sprinkled blood all around the tabernacle cleansing it from the sins of Yishrael before bringing the scapegoat in, and confessing all the sins of Yishrael upon the goat, then sending it away into the wilderness. There are many theories and traditional ideas as to what happened with the scape goat. Many Christian scholars think "Azazel" comes from the verb azal (אָזַל), meaning to "go away" (i.e., to banish), the Jewish sages generally regarded the name as a reference to a geographical location of some kind, perhaps to a mountainous region with cliffs and therefore the goats death (Bavli Yoma 67b). The Torah simply states that the goat should be”sent away"(וְ ִשׁלַּח) into the wilderness, after all, if the animal was meant to be killed as a sacrifice for sin, why wasn't it slaughtered at the Tabernacle, as was required for all other sin offerings? 

Is it not unreasonable to think that as Yeshua took the sins of humanity and is alive so the scapegoat also was able to live?

After all of this and on the dismissal of the scapegoat, Aaron the high priest prepared for the important parts of the service which still remained. For the performance of these he laid aside his plain linen clothes, and, having bathed himself in water, he assumed his pontifical dress. Thus gorgeously attired, he went to present the burnt offerings which were prescribed for himself and the people, consisting of the two rams which had been brought with the sin offerings, but reserved till now. The fat was ordered to be burnt upon the altar; the rest of the carcasses to be cut down and given to some priestly attendants to burn without the camp, in conformity with the general law for the sin offerings ( Leviticus 4:8-12 , 8:14-17 ). The persons employed in burning them, as well as the conductor of the scapegoat, were obliged to wash their clothes and bathe their flesh in water before they were allowed to return into the camp.



In chapter 17 HaShem considers the habits and tendencies to follow old Egyptian ways of sacrifice and worship to idols. As life is in the blood 17:14 HaShem counters the Egyptian ways by requiring an offering at the tabernacle door of any animal that was killed either in or out of the camp. The Egyptians were known for making sacrifices to their gods in the open fields, also in drinking the blood of animals. HaShem made extremely clear that this was not to happen and that any who did would be cut of from Yishrael. Perhaps also this is why HaShem required the offering at the door of the Tabernacle, to draw them away from what was familiar to them in Egypt in the open field.



Chapter 18 continues in the same vein with HaShem explaining the difference between the past and the new, between the Egyptian rule and His Lordship. It’s clear that after 210 years Egyptian culture is ingrained in the Hebrews and HaShem is challenging their every way of thought, practise and perception. 

From the land of Egypt going to the land of Canaan HaShem declares that He alone is their God and the ways behind and before them are not their ways, they are set apart, chosen and live by a different, new code. This chapter talks of sexual immorality, who can be with who, and that HaShem considered other wise to be an abomination. This chapter clearly shows the mind and heart of HaShem in sexual matters that today seems murky and unclear not only to those that don’t accept His love and grace, but also amongst the Saints. 

Perhaps chapter 18 needs to be read a little more!
Both the Torah (Numbers 23:19) and the New Testament (Hebrews 13:8) reminds us that HaShem is unchanging, and therefore the clarity shared in this chapter remains for the current day.




Shalom

Graeme Politanski

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Parashah Yitro "Jethro" Shemot (Exodus) 18:1-20:23

Parashah
Yitro "Jethro"

Shemot (Exodus) 18:1-20:23


Now that the Yishraelites and some Egyptians (approximately 2.4 million) have left Egypt, management and keeping order was becoming a pressing issue. Jethro, Moshe’s father-in-law heard of the amazing things that happened in Egypt with the Hebrews, so he took Zipporah, Moshe’s wife, as well as Gershom and Eliezer Moshe’s sons to the wilderness where Moshe was encamped at the mountain of God. Jethro brought Zipporah and the two boys to Moshe because it is possible that Zipporah and the two boys went back to Jethro’s house after Zipporah saved Moshe by circumcising their son. It is believed that Moshe never fully obeyed HaShem’s command to Abraham, that every male at 8 days old must be circumsised (Bereishit [Genesis] 17:11), this may have been due to the influence of Zipporah who grew up in a home of many gods.

When Moshe met up with Jethro he told him all about his journey and what HaShem had done, and Jethro blessed the Lord and said, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods”, indicating an understanding of the authority of HaShem, however also indicating that Jethro never saw HaShem as the only true G-d.

After experiencing what would have been a massive impacting day of council with Moshe sitting as judges for all of Yishrael (18:13), Jethro brought wise council to Moshe in regards to the way in which Moshe judged the people, suggesting to chose G-d fearing men as rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens, giving them the authority to judge small matters and only bringing the greater matter to Moshe to judge. Jethro also explained to Moshe that he ought to stand before HaShem and bring the people before Him, also teaching the rulers the statues and the laws, guiding and developing them - these days we call it leadership or Pastoral training, also position with authority. Moshe heeded Jethro’s council, then Jethro departed.

HaShem continually had a way, an answer, be it with Aaron as Moshe’s mouth piece (Shemot 4:14), the cloud cover and fire for light (Shemot 13:21), the parting of the sea to provide a way (Shemot 14:21) or now the wisdom to lead such a mass of people.

On the third month (Sivan/May) Yishrael was in the wilderness of Sinai and Moshe went up the mountain to HaShem, were HaShem spoke with Moshe and said something very interesting (19:5-6):

  • “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”


Yishrael agreed and Moshe relayed this message to HaShem, in which HaShem relayed back through Moshe that in three days He would assent on Mount Sinai in a pillar of cloud so all could see and experience HaShem’s presence to witness and believe forever - Yisrael was to consecrate themselves and be ready. Once Moshe came down from the mountain, he made this statement to the people:

  • “Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives.”


On the third day, there was a mighty spectacle as HaShem ascended upon Mount Sinai and spoke with Moshe, giving him the ten commandments. These moments put the fear of G-d in Yishrael as they said to Moshe:

  • “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”




This weeks parashah has almost unbelievable imagery as we receive a glimpse of the power and might of HaShem. It leaves me with two questions:

1. What is the meaning of chapter 19:6 when it says, should Yishrael obey HaShem’s voice and keep His covenant, Yishrael would be to HaShem, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. Many questions stem from this one statement, for example does this apply to men and women, as the language is inclusive from verse 6-14, then verse 15 can be viewed from a point of men only, or for the cause of both husband and wife, being inclusive language of the women. If all were to be priest be it both men and women or just men, what would this look like today, and would it have changed in the course of history?


2. What was the purpose of verse 15 when it says: “Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives”? If marriage is a union under G-d’s blessing what is the purpose of separation in order to be consecrated?



Shalom
Graeme Politanski

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Parashah Bo "Enter" Shemot (Exodus) 10:1-13:16

Parashah
Bo "Enter"

Shemot (Exodus) 10:1-13:16


The need to remember, is something that has always been with humanity - so easily we loose focus, and need to be able to reason well. After 7 miraculous plagues, HaShem hardens Pharaoh’s heart, that He might demonstrate His favour towards the Hebrews, not only so all the nations would fear the G-d of the Hebrews and perhaps turn toward Him, but also for future generations to remember and fear the one true G-d, as even now we do. For a king  to be able to acknowledge he is subject to another authority, a humble heart is required, as stated in Shemot 10:3, 

                “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?”

Still today this same stubbornness abounds in so many people, as we are kings and rulers of our own lives, though HaSham continues to do the miraculous all around, and offer freedom to those that would humble themselves before Him. Partial obedience is not obedience at all, as HaShem demonstrates in Shemot 10:11, when Pharaoh asks the demands from Moses, then Pharaoh only partly meets these demands while trying to stay in control of a situation that he obviously had no control over to stat with.

HaShem continually hardens Pharaohs heart, perhaps knowing that Pharaoh would never bow his knee to the true G-d who was not created by man. HaShem used Pharaoh as a tool to demonstrate His glory for all the world to see for generations to come. After the plague of locus, then came darkness that one could feel (10:21) for three days, followed by the final tenth plague of death that would bring Pharaoh to his knees and force him to humble himself before the G-d of the Hebrews. The first born of every house was struck because of Pharaoh’s disobedience, and therefore Pharaoh’s mind was changed and deliverance came to the Hebrews. This resembled what would later come with the life of Jesus, as the son of G-d was later taken for our sins that we would be justified and redeemed, being set free. 

That night the14th (12:6) of Nissan, when HaShem passed over the houses of the Hebrew’s that had blood over the doors, has now become what we know as Passover, according to the Lord’s command in Shamot 12:13-14:

                “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. 
                 And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not 
                 be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

                ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast 
                 to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast 
                 by an everlasting ordinance.”

Nissan was also made the first month of the Hebrew calendar (12:2). 

According to biblical numerics the number 10 signifies ‘testimony, law, responsibility and the completeness of order’. Egypt experienced 10 plagues that would be a testimony to Yisrael for all time to come, of HaShems judgement, and the completeness of His power as the 10 plague’s also represent and fulfil the power of the 10 predominant gods and goddesses of Egypt of that time, demonstrating who is the G-d of gods.

  1. Hapi- Egyptian God of the Nile (water turned to blood)
  2. Heket- Egyptian Goddess of Fertility, Water, Renewal (frogs coming from the nile river)
  3. Geb- Egyptian God of the Earth (Lice from the dust of the earth)
  4. Khepri- Egyptian God of creation, movement of the Sun, rebirth (Swarms of Flies)
  5. Hathor-Egyptian Goddess of Love and Protection (Death of Cattle and Livestock)
  6. Isis- Egyptian Goddess of Medicine and Peace (Ashes turned to Boils and Sores)
  7. Nut- Egyptian Goddess of the Sky (Hail rained down in the form of fire)
  8. Seth- Egyptian God of Storms and Disorder (Locusts sent from the sky)
  9. Ra- The Sun God (Three Days of Complete Darkness)
  10. Pharaoh- The Ultimate Power of Egypt (Death of the Firstborn).

Perhaps HaShem was doing more than just delivering them from the location, or from being under Pharoah’s rule, but also from the deception of the Egyptian gods.

Once delivered Moses declared in remembrance and celebration of what HaShem had done;  “Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem”, just as HaShem redeemed the Hebrews first born, Moses followed this  up saying (13:16):

                “It shall be as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes, 
                 for by strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

What was intended as a metaphor, that they should keep them distinctly in view and carefully attend to them, soon after their return from Babylon became literal, as the Hebrews had accordingly portions of the law written out and worn about their person. These they called tephillin, i.e., “prayers." Still remembrance of the Passover has never been forgotten, perhaps at times its meaning has lost significance to some, but the tradition and name (Passover) is widely heard of, its significance religious circles is considered, and its power and relevance in the Jewish life is still powerfully reminding that HaShem is the one true Lord or Lords.



Shalom

Graeme Politanski - 2018

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Vayetzei "and he went out" Bereshit 28:10-32:3

Parashah
Vayetzei (and he went out) 

Bereshit (Genesis) 28:10 - 32:3


In this weeks Parashah Bereshit 28-32, Jacob left Beersheba for Haran to his uncle Laban's house. Approximately 51.9 miles into his 3318.3 mile journey (approximately an 8 week walk) towards Haran, Jacob stopped for the night in a place called Luz. Jacob laid his head on a rock and while sleeping he dreamed of a ladder from earth into heaven with angels ascending and descending and HaShem stood at the top. Later in John 1:51 Yeshua also referred to this vision when talking to Nathanael. When Jacob woke from his dream he was so moved by its reality he said 28:17:

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”

Jacob took his rock pillow and set it up as a pillar, poured oil on top of it and renamed Luz to Bethel, meaning “House of God”. In this dream HaShem spoke to Jacob reassuring him that he will be kept safe, and HaShem gave the promise to Jacob of the Promised Land. Jacob was so moved by this whole experience that he made a vowel to HaShem that would be considered and debated in the local church for  thousands of years - that’s the matter of tithing. Jacob promised HaShem:

“If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

Note: Jacob made this vowel to tithe, on the proviso that HaShem fulfilled His word to Jacob.

So Jacobs journey continued where he stopped at a well, just off from his destination at Laban's house. Jacob approached the well at the same time most of the local herders had their flocks at the well to be watered. Not too long after, Laban’s Daughter Rachel brought her sheep to the well also. This encounter with Rachel brought Jacob to end up at uncle Laban’s house to stay and serve him, however Laban asked Jacob what he desired in turn for his service - out of Laban’s two daughters Jacob chose the beautiful Rachel in turn for his service. After an agreed upon 7 years of service Jacob asked for Rachel in marriage, however Laban was deceitful and gave Rachel’s sister Leah to Jacob in marriage. The next morning Jacob finally realised Leah was not Rachel (perhaps her eye colour gave it away), and therefore Jacob decided to work another 7 years for Rachel (the one he loved). 

Jacob now surrounded by women, being Leah and her maid Zilpah, as well as Rachel and her maid Bilhah, had to manage the relationships wisely as Rachel felt his love, and Leah longed for it, and due to this HaShem opened Leah’s womb and Rachel was barren. In a similar way as with Abram and Sarah being barren, now also Rachel was barren and Rachel also gave her maid to conceive with Jacob to have children for her, just as Sarah did to Abram. Then Leah followed the example of her sister and also gave her maid to Jacob in marriage whom also bore children to Jacob. After children coming from both maids and Leah, finally HaShem blessed Rachels womb and she bore her own child, Joseph. Many years have gone by and Jacob has been deceived by Laban so the time to depart came, however Laban again tried to keep Jacob from leaving. After much disagreement, and due to the blessing Laban had received since Jacob has looked after his flocks, Jacob managed to talk Laban into letting him take the worst of the flock marked by speckles and stripes, while Laban would keep the pure perfect stock. Jacob was favoured by HaShem and in his wisdom and from a dream Jacob came up with a method to breed strong good spotted and speckled stock - this led to much blessing and wealth for Jacob.

It came to pass that Laban and his sons saw all that Jacob had acquired in live stock, servants, wives, children, camels and they didn’t look favourably upon it, so HaShem said to Jacob:

“Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”

Jacob left to go back to Beersheba, however as he did so Rachel stole Laban’s idols… the question is, Why? It reminds us of Lot’s wife looking back - Did Rachel trust more in her fathers idols than the God of Jacob? Was it for keep sake and memories? Or was it to cause her father to reconsider his gods and see HaShem as the true God that blesses as He did for Jacob? Laban through anger and jealousy chased Jacob down and searched their tents for the stolen idols, however came up empty as Rachel was sitting on them on her camel (deception taught her by her father). Though to the very end Laban was deceived about his rights, his wealth, his daughters (as his own though married to another) - he made a covenant with Jacob that day, that allowed Jacob depart without the concern of Laban’s wroth following him.

This parashah has looked at a portion of Jacobs life that set him up for his dependance upon HaShe. Jacob walked in the blessing and protection promised him in a dream both financially and materially, Jacob also learnt the power of honouring his word and staying true to himself and the God that guides him - this was a foundational part of Jacob’s life.

Shalom

Graeme Politanski

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Parashah Re’eh רְאֵה (See) Devarim 11:26-16:17



Parashah Re’eh  רְאֵה (See)  Devarim 11:26-16:17 

Rabbi Akiva is reported to have said: "Though everything is foreseen by Adonai, yet free will is granted to man" (Avot 3:19).    Which would be great if we weren’t so prone to mess up – even when we see.   
Parashah Re’eh begins with a warning, and a desperate appeal to obey the commands of G-d.
(רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה)  Re'eh Anokhi notein lifneikhem hayom, brakhah u'klalah “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse.” Deuteronomy 11:26.  Israel is given instructions from Moses that if they obey the commandments they will be blessed, but if they choose to disobey they will be cursed.  It is then emphasised in Deuteronomy 12:28, “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee”     This is the most obvious and straightforward instruction.  Of course we will choose to be blessed.  Won’t we?
The plea to observe these commands is both a personal and community order.  Re’eh (רְאֵה – you see) is a singular word whereas lifneikhem (לִפְנֵיכֶם – before you) is a plural word.  This denotes that even though the request is personal the consequences will affect the whole community – either blessings or curses.  This is called arevut (עֲרֵבוּת), "mutual responsibility”.  Which brings me back to my first complaint.  Freewill is wonderful until we understand that we are relying on other people’s freewill also.    Sin affects the whole world.    Of course the flip side, is that when the community obeys G-d, the blessings are personal.   “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people”. Proverbs 14:34.
The parashah continues with instruction to kill anyone in their midst or even destroy cities who try to get Israel to serve other gods.     There is no middle-ground on this.  It was all or nothing.   Every part of us, all of our senses, are to serve the one true HaShem.  This parashah includes reference to all five senses.
Sight — chapter 11:26 — See, this day I set before you blessing and curse.  We should “see” the requirements and the consequences that will follow.  Our eyes are the window to the soul but also the way we relate to our community (so it’s personal and social).
Smell — chapter 12:13 — Take care not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like.   The odour of burning flesh is substantial.
Touch or Feeling — chapter 15:12 talks about setting Hebrew slaves free every seven years unless he/she loves you and is happy with you, in this case pierce his ear:
Hearing — chapter 12:22 — Observe and hear all these things which I have commanded you.  Can’t talk about hearing without mentioning the Sh’ma.  ‘Hear oh Israel’ !!!  Amen
Taste — Chapter 13:3 — Do not eat anything abhorrent.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34.8
The parashah then appears to contradict itself.  “But there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless you…” Deut. 15:4” and then states a few verses later, “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” 15:11.   So which is it?   Are there poor people or not?
Rashi commented on the verse saying that as long as you fulfil the will of G-d, the poor will be among others, but not among you.   But if you do not fulfil the will of G-d, then there will be poor among you". Rashi, Deut. 15:4
This is interesting because Yeshua said, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” Matthew 26:11.   Is this because he was comparing the two statements from this parashah?  Without Yeshua there is no complete obedience.  They were rejecting Him and thus rejecting the will of God which brings poverty.  They could have him ‘always’ or they could have poverty ‘always’.  Blessing or poverty.  Yeshua is the fulfilment of G-d’s will (Torah).  Or as Yeshua put it, “I have come to fulfil the Law” (Matthew 5:17 paraphrased).
On a side note: I recently read that a baby enters this world with closed hands, but enters the next world (dies) with open hands.  My consideration is that when we act with closed hands we are living as this world dictates, but when we have open hands to the poor as directed in Deuteronomy 15:11 we are acting dead to this world and living in the world to come. 
Besides giving to the poor, this parashah includes, cancelling debts, setting free slaves, dedicating the first born and tithing.   Each of these subjects is an essay themselves but the scriptures on tithing (Ma’aser) is up for great debate amongst Christian theologians who never take the time to read it in Hebrew.  Yes, there are three tithes mentioned in this portion of Torah:
 Ma'aser Rishon: A tenth of a farmer's produce was given to the Levite to support the priesthood and Torah teachers of Israel.  I have no problem with people tithing at church.   Having been in church for decades, I have been involved in so much debate about whether we are to do Law or not, but basically, yes.
 Ma'aser Sheni: A form of self-tithe to be used to rejoice the goodness of G-d, taken to the appointed place of worship (later Jerusalem) and eaten there. I had never heard this preached from the pulpit but I did an extensive research paper on it several years ago which suggests very strongly that this is also one of the “storehouses” that G-d commands a blessing upon in Deuteronomy 28:8
Ma'aser Anni: In the 3rd and 6th year, the Ma'aser Sheni was given to the poor instead.  The poor could then glean from the crops and enjoy the good of the land.
The parashah then commands in Duet 16:16, “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty”.  This is the Shelosh Regalim, the three major pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavu'ot, and Sukkot. 

The parashah ends with a powerful statement.  “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee”.  Seriously, we just spent half a parashah describing what needs to be given and done and then the very last verse appears to turn it all on its head with ‘give as he is able’.  Why?  Because it is HaShem who makes us able. It is the blessings that He has given us.  He does not ask anything from us that he does not supply.   So to give to the poor, tithe, set slaves free, cancel debts and even the pilgrimages are a blessing themselves that we are ‘able’ to give and do because he has made us able.

Shalom Jon Eaton