Thursday, July 18, 2013

Va'etchanan / Implored Devarim/Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11


Our parashah begins with the following phrase, "And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying".  In the King James version, "besought" is used instead of "pleaded".  Moses is our writer, and of course, he is seeking for the Lord to reconsider His decree that Moses would not be able to move into the land to which all the others were going to enter.

"Pleaded" means, "appeal or request earnestly", and while "besought" means basically the same thing, within the word we notice that someone is seeking something.  Now this is not the first time that Moses had sought to enter the land of destination.  Essentially, his whole life had been a searching, watching his footsteps so to speak, to follow the way that had been laid out before him.  There had been two times, however, in which his lack of self-control would result in punishment.

However, this decree by HaShem is as a result of Moses' having an instance of lack of self-control.  Numbers/Bamidbar 20:7 - 8 inform us that though Moses was to take the rod, he was only to speak to the rock and it would then gush forth with water for the people and their beasts.  Instead, Moses lifted up the rod, berated the people as if he and Aaron were the ones responsible for them, stated that he and Aaron were fetching the water from the rock, and then he struck the rock twice (see Numbers 20:10 - 11).  The punishment that resulted was that his 40 years in the wilderness would end without arriving and entering into the final destination.  I guess in some sense we could think of his 40 years in the wilderness as being his punishment.

Forty years in the wilderness as a punishment?  How so?  We shall consider Shemot/Exodus 2:11 - 15.  Of course we recall the event.  Prince Moses is out for a stroll in Egypt, when he saw and Egyptian smiting a Hebrew.  Moses knew his heritage, and seeing this miscarriage of justice, came to the Hebrews aid, slew, and then buried the Egyptians body.  The next day Moses saw two of his brethren Hebrews fighting and chastised the aggressor.  However, the challenged one let it be known to Moses that his deed of the day before, murder, had been observed.  Moses, upon hearing that Pharaoh knew of the incident, fled to Midian.  How long was he "banished" from his people?  Forty years.

Before proceeding, please do not think that I believe that Moses had a problem with self-control.  He did in these two aforementioned instances, but I believe we would all agree that he showed great restraint numerous times in the wilderness.  The earning and/or reward for a lifetime of honor, glory, and integrity can be instantly diminished by a regrettable action, and more-so for those in leadership (see James 3:1).

Back to the theme of seeking.  Chapter 4 begins with Moses commanding the people to hearken to the statutes and judgements he, Moses is teaching them.  He recalls the incident at Baal-peor, but he also states that those that did cleave to the Lord were still alive.  One must be seeking to be obedient in order to cleave to the Lord.

This is the premise that Moses speaks in the beginning of 4:6, "Keep therefore and do them;...".  If the Israelites keep and do them, verses 7 - 8 speak of the other nations desiring what God's chosen people have.  But how are they going to keep them?  They must teach them to their sons and their grandsons.  What is to be taught?  Verse 10 tells us that especially when the people stood at Mt. Horeb and heard the voice of God, and not just hearing the voice, but hearing Him declare His covenant.

Would that be a memorable day?  Do you remember what you were doing when the planes hit on 9/11?  when the Apollo XI astronauts landed and then set foot on the moon?  when President Kennedy was assassinated?  when you made your commitment to the Creator of all?

For the rest of the parashah, diligence must be given to perform what God, through Moses has commanded.  These are positive commands, even the ones that sound negative.  Why?  Because the obedient one is seeking to obey the covenant Maker, and we each must be seeking to remain in covenant - see 6:1 - 3.

  "Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which
                the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you
                might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so
                that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your
                God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I
                command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be
                prolonged.
       "O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well
               with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the
               God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk
               and honey.


What commentary on this portion could fail to mention the sh'ma?  May I not be the first!  Look at the sh'ma as it appears in verses 4 - 9.  These actions are to be accomplished; the people must seek, purpose in their heart, mind, soul, and strength to complete them.  If they do complete this never-ending task, then they will receive the never-ending rewards of verses 10 - 11, and they will not see the falling away and the resultant disciplines presented in verses 12 - 16.

May He be eternally blessed for His Word and His word.

Before I close completely, I have one short, final thought I would like to present.

Go back and look at Deuteronomy 3:27 and consider where Moses will be geographically immediately prior to his death.  What is he to do?  Compare that to a promise made in Genesis 15:18.  Were the 2-1/2 tribes settling east of the Jordan not in the eretz Yisra'el?  Furthermore, did the people settle in the whole of the land of promise?  No, emphatically NO!  Let us realize that what most of us visualize on a map as Israel is  only a very small portion of the land promised to Abram and his seed in Genesis 15.  There is more yet to come!

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