Thursday, September 3, 2015

Parashat Ki Tavo ("When you go in") Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8



Parashat Ki Tavo ("When you go in")   Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

"When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there." (Deuteronomy 26:1-2).

If ever you have experienced the agony of waiting for fruit to birth on a tree then you will understand the context of my submission.   For example, an apple tree takes up to 10 years before any fruit is produced.   Eating the first apple that you have waited ever so long to enjoy might just be the sweetest apple you will ever taste.  So you can imagine how after being in the wilderness for 40 years that the last thing that they would want to do is give away the first  fruits of which they had waited for so long to enjoy.    How could they find joy in obeying this command?

And so we read in Deuteronomy 28:47-48: "Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore [all these curses will come upon you]..." (Deut. 28:47-48).

It is interesting to consider that the Israelites may have actually given the first fruits as commanded, but did they do it with “joyfulness and gladness of heart”?  Joy is a prerequisite for serving the LORD, and true joy is found in understanding the grace that He supplies us to do His will.
The Greek word for rejoice/joy in the Brit Chadashah is chairō (χαίρω) which is related to the word for grace/pleasure “charis” (χαρις).   There is such a profound connection between grasping and understanding grace and experiencing joy.   Which is why we read in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

So that is the challenge.  Stay joyful even when we are disheartened or saddened by the hardships of life.  Thankfully, the Scriptures never refute our emotional state, just read Psalms, but even in Psalms there is an underlying note of grace and thankfulness for it.

The Mishnah (Zeraim, Peah 1:1) mentions that there are things that "have no measure" because they have worth in this world and the next.  It includes kindness, justice, peace, honouring parents, etc ., however they suggest that the greatest of these is the study of Torah, "the study of Torah is equal to them all."  I have read that the sages believed that each word of Torah that you study is equal to obedience of all of the 613 commandments combined.   Maybe this was the same doctrine taught in the time of Yeshua.  He did spent some time explaining the significant difference between just listening and actually doing the commandments (wise and foolish man building houses).  

So I would suggest however, that doing the commandments is better than just reading them, after all, faith is dead without works and of course Yeshua stated, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  (John 14:15).  And even better than just doing the commandments, is doing them with JOY.
 
The Orchot Tzaddikim (a popular code of rabbinical ethics) adds that the reward done for mitzvot b'simchah - commandments done with joy - is a thousand times greater than one performed without joy or as Rav Shaul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, " Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you.”
           
Jon Eaton

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