Monday, August 8, 2011

Va’etchanan (I pleaded) - Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11

Obedience is again an overriding theme of this parashah which begins with Moshe pleading to be allowed to enter the Land; he is strongly rebuffed by the Lord and is told to never make this request again.  However, he will be permitted to go to the top of Mt. Pisgah and look over Eretz Israel.  

Strengthening Joshua, in spirit and in the eyes of the people, was Moshe’s task now.  Though surely disappointed at the previous denial, Moshe, as always, has the good of the people at heart.  Therefore, he obeys the Lord’s directive.

He then proceeds to a preamble before rehashing the laws and rulings he gave the people.  His words here indicate that that the people of Israel are an individually and corporately responsible people.  They are one, and not just the present generations, but those past and future as well.  In the Haggadah we are to consider/remember when we crossed the sea on dry land.

Many of the people going into the Promised Land were alive at the Exodus - Joshua, Caleb, many of the Levites, and the males who had not yet attained the age of 20 at that time.  They had been witnesses to the miracles, yet Moshe is recounting to them the events of Ba’al Peor and the occurrences at Mt. Sinai.  

We are to observe (study) and follow (do) the laws and rulings Moshe has taught us (4:5 - 6).  Why?  We are to be seen as a wise and understanding people, and those character traits will be noticed by all peoples (4:6 - 7).  We must pass these down from generation to generation; each of us needs to hold Him in awe as long as we, and our seed after us,  live on the earth (4:10).

Moshe proceeds to mention that inn the future the people will become corrupt and make a carved image resulting in expulsion from the land.  Verses 28 and 29 seem to indicate that they will serve the gods of other lands - a hint, I believe, that they will be slaves to other peoples as a result of disobedience.  The good news is that Adonai is a merciful God, and they will return to Him out of their distress.  Though we fail Him, He will not fail us, destroy  us, or forget the covenant with our ancestors (4:31).  Obedience to His laws and mitzvot will cause it to go well with us and our progeny (4:40).

Moshe reiterates the laws and then, in repeating the need to pass these on to each generation gives the sh’ma, or at least the beginning of it.  Hear and do.  It will be considered righteousness for us (individually and corporately) to be obedient to the Lord.  

We are also commanded what not to do - don’t make a covenant with the nations God is handing over to you - don’t show them mercy - don’t intermarry with them.  People who are set apart, sanctified, are to keep themselves pure from the world.  We cannot serve two masters.  We are either for HaShem or we are against HaShem.  There is no middle ground.  Should we fail to obey, He will repay us to our face (7:10), but by maintaining our love to Him and observation of His mitzvot brings grace to thousand of generations - us and our progeny.

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