PARASHAH: Re'eh (See))
ADDRESS: D'varim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17
READING DATE: Shabbat
AUTHOR: Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviyy
(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)
Let’s begin with the opening blessing for the Torah:
"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,
asher bachar banu m’kol ha-amim,
v’natan lanu eht Torah-to.
Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.
(Blessed are you, O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,
you have selected us from among all the peoples,
and have given us your Torah.
Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.
This is Parashat Re'eh (say "reh-eh"). The Hebrew word "re'eh" means to "see" or to "plainly behold". It is not an emphatic use of the word "behold", for if it were, another Hebrew word "hineh" might have been use instead. No, this word has a very practical approach in mind. The opening dialogue is a practical, heart-felt plea (from the part of Moshe) to see plainly (or behold) that HaShem is setting before the people a choice: to obey and consequently enjoy the blessings, or to disobey and reap the consequences of disobedience. His opening word "re'eh" is a call to understand the choice which is set before you.
"'See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot of ADONAI your God that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you don’t listen to the mitzvot of ADONAI your God, but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow other gods that you have not known.’" (D’varim 11:26-28)
I want to posit a similar challenge to those of you reading this teaching. I want to speak, not so much from a theological standpoint this time, but rather from a practical standpoint.
This week, like Moshe, I want to take a practical look at the Word of God. The Bible clearly offers a righteous standing with God, and it is this stance which draws all men towards the Light. For within the heart of every man there lies a "God-shaped" hole. An empty space. Only the Creator of all men can fill this void. And rightly so! For this is the nature and design of the Master Designer!So how do we allow him to fill this gap?
Torah – Its Roles and FunctionsFirstly the Torah teaches that we must recognize our need of repair. The Biblical examples give us ample opportunity to find ourselves within the matrix of a God-centric universe, a universe where we are either for God or (by default) opposed to God. This is the recognition of sin in our lives before we come to know who God is and what his plans are all about. The Word(s) of God, whether personally read, or heard (at the mouth of those who are his) cause our heart to begin to yield to the leading of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit). To be sure, the Torah teaches that all are sinners and that no one properly seeks after God (Romans 3:9-20). Only the call of the Ruach can lead a man to finding God; no man has found God of his own accord. Allow me to illustrate this by first explaining the role of the Torah in a sinner's life. The fine folks over at First Fruits of Zion have written a wonderful set of books on the functions of the Torah in the lives of believers. 'Torah Rediscovered' and 'Take Hold' are some of the finest examples of explaining our relationship to the Word of God that I have ever researched. As such, I highly recommend both books (see FFOZ link above for details). Quoting a few paragraphs from those works, I want to share with you the practicality of the Word of God, as it applies to both believers and non-believers, in helping to bring them into the plans and purposes of HaShem. Authors Ariel and D'vorah Berkowitz write:
Now this helps us to understand the role of the Torah in the life of an unbeliever. But what of the believer? They continue to explain:
So now as we examine the words of Moshe in our current portion, we can see that he is exhorting a group of redeemed people to walk in the inheritance and blessing that has been prepared for them since HaShem began to make a covenant with their forefathers. The blessings are the result of an obedient heart that desires to conform to the ways and teachings of an all-loving Father. HaShem is indeed the Loving Abba! He desires to bless and prosper his children (the redeemed). But in order to experience the non-salvific blessings (those blessings with no immediate bearing on the salvation of an individual), the person needs to avail himself of God's instructions. Please don’t misunderstand me here. Genuine faith must precede genuine obedience. Moreover, genuine faith is the kind that naturally leads into genuine obedience (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; John 14:15-21; 15:9-17; James 1:21-25; 2:14-26)!
Law Versus Grace?We in the organized Church have fallen for an age-old lie labeled “Law versus Grace”. In reality, after careful examination from the unified Word of God (Genesis through Revelation), there exists NO conflict between Law and Grace! Just before putting together this commentary I decided to do a Googleä search for the specific topics of either “Law Versus Grace” and/or “Not Under the Law”. As a Jewish man with a Scriptural understanding handed down to me from my Hebraic heritage (the one rooted in the Torah of Moshe) the resulting findings were saddening to me. Quite typically the views I am about to share with you here below freely flow from many, many Christian pulpits the world over. The authors’ names have been withheld for purposes of anonymity:
So, based on what we have just read is Law really opposed to Grace? Were God’s commandments so impossibly constricting that we as frail humans desperately needed Jesus to come and set us free from such bondage? Is this what grace is really all about? Is the Law really too hard for anyone to keep? What does the Torah proper say of itself in Deuteronomy 30:11-14?
“"11. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it [is] not hidden from thee, neither [is] it far off. 12. It [is] not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13. Neither [is] it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14. But the word [is] very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." (KJV)Wow! That doesn’t sound like bondage to me. To be sure, the last few words of verse 14 say that “thou mayest do it”! So far from teaching an impossible standard of obedience, the pasuk (verse) states that it CAN be done. But can I find contextual agreement within the pages of my New Testament? What does the New Covenant teach us about God's commands? The book of 1 John (5:3) gives us a definitive answer:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (KJV).”
Why does this passage surprise us as "New Testament" believers in Yeshua? I believe it has much primarily to do with the fact that we have been trained over the last 2000 or so years to believe that grace is diametrically opposed to obedience. Nothing could be further from the truth! Grace (given through his generous Spirit) is what enables us to properly obey in the first place! Were it not for God's grace, many of the saints of the TaNaKH period (Old Testament) would have surely perished under the "letter of the Law", based on their moral failure to uphold the many details that the Law spells out. Moreover, many of us today would also perish. This important “Spirit-led” feature is the secret to properly understanding the passage quoted by Moshe in Deuteronomy chapter 30 above! Moshe could boldly state “thou mayest do it” because he knew that when the Spirit of the God who gives the Torah comes to live within an individual, then the very same Spirit also writes the Torah on their heart, enabling them to DO it! Again, without the person of the Spirit living within us, we will fail to uphold the Law.
So we step out and try to keep God’s laws. What happens when we fail God? Well for one thing, grace steps in and allows us to try time and again to accomplish the good pleasure of our Father in Heaven. Grace says, "I know you’ve tried and you’ve failed. In fact, you will never reach perfection until my Son returns. But that is okay. I am not expecting perfection. You just do your best by giving me your whole heart, soul, and strength, and I will fill in the rest!" That is grace!
Moshe is giving 'Am Yisra'el a chance to experience the grace of God on an everyday level. They had already witnessed the supernatural hand of the Almighty as he delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, which by the way, forms a picture of deliverance from sin for us today. That was surely a monumental event! Yet, now HaShem is teaching his people that since they were free, they no longer need follow their old passions and ways of life. To be sure, Moshe has told them on an earlier occasion to "circumcise their hearts" in order that they might genuinely be obedient to God!
Does this feature sound familiar? It should! For this is a "New Testament" feature as well! So we see that a circumcised heart is God's desire for his children. This heart is a heart which will say to the LORD, "All that you ask of me, I will do!" The passages that illustrate this throughout the unified Word of God are too numerous to point out in this study!
The message of the ages remains strikingly clear: "Love God with your whole heart, soul, and might, and he will cause you to walk in his ways!" His ways include salvation, healing, financial blessing, relationship building, promise of healthy and plentiful offspring, as well as numerous things that I can’t name here! His blessings are reserved for those who would soften their heart to hear his voice! His blessings are reserved for those who will surrender their will into his hands and allow him to shape their lives into the pattern of that of his Only and Unique Son, Yeshua the Savior of the world!
Therefore, "see"! The choice is yours! Do you want blessing? Or do you want the curse?
I choose the former…
Davar Torah, With Insights by Union for Reform Judaism
It is quite rare that the Torah repeats itself. When we do find repetition in Torah, we know that the message being given is an important one. In Parashat R'eih, we have such an example. Deuteronomy 13:1 is a repetition of an admonition given just prior in Deuteronomy 4:2, "Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it." The Torah's commandments are set-they are not to be altered in any way, by either adding to or subtracting from them.
Rashi uncovers this principle much earlier in the Torah. In Genesis 3, we read about the conversation between the serpent and Eve. The serpent asks Eve if God had commanded her not to eat from any of the trees in the garden. Eve responds, saying, "It is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said: 'You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die' " (Genesis 3:3). Eve's response is actually inaccurate. The command that God gave to Adam earlier, in Genesis 2:16-17 is, "Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die." In her response to the serpent, Eve embellishes the command by saying "you shall not eat of it or touch it. . . ." The original admonition only prohibited against eating of the tree. There was no prohibition against touching it. In his commentary to Genesis 3:3, Rashi warns us that Eve's embellishment, though innocent in intent, is inappropriate. Rashi comments that if one is tempted to add to a command, one may actually take away from performance of that command in the end.
When we reach the Book of Deuteronomy at the end of the Torah, we find this principle illuminated again — not just once, but twice. But why repeat it in Deuteronomy? Surely the point was made sufficiently in Genesis. Yet, when we look closely at this concept of not adding to or subtracting from the commands of the Torah in its context in Parashat R'eih, we come to an even deeper understanding of the principle.
To understand this principle in a more profound way we must look at the verse in relation to its placement in the text of R'eih as a whole. While our version of numbering chapters and verses demarks this focal verse as Deuteronomy 13:1, at the beginning of a chapter, many commentators consider this verse linked to chapter 12. The verse then serves as a summation to the discussion in chapter 12, which instructs the Israelites to create central places of worship and destroy the places and practices of idolatry.
What follows Deuteronomy 13:1 is a seemingly disparate list of other rules, warnings, and instructions for the Israelites as they begin establish their community in the Land of Israel. These commands include how to recognize and avoid false prophets, details of the laws of kashrut, instructions for tithing, guiding principles for the establishment a system of social equity around debts, and guidelines for the observance of the Shalosh R'galim, the Three Pilgrimage Festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
Another way of understanding the placement of Deuteronomy 13:1 is to see it as a link between the first part of the parashah (Deuteronomy 11:26-12:31) and second part (Deuteronomy 13:2-16:17). In viewing the verse as a link between the two parts of the parashah, we come to a new understanding of R'eih as a whole and of the principle at its center.
In Pirkei Avot 1:2 we learn, "The world is sustained by three things: by Torah, by avodah [worship], and by g'milut chasadim [acts of loving-kindness]." When we look at all of the disparate topics in R'eih, we see that we are being instructed how to observe these three pillars of Jewish life. We find the pillar of Torah in the commands about belief in one God and the prohibitions against idolatry or inappropriate sacrifices; we find the pillar of avodah in the commands about centralizing worship, observance of the Shalosh R'galim, and kashrut; and we find the pillar of g'milut chasadim in the commands regarding the ethical treatment of others. R'eih paints a picture of Jewish observance that is balanced on this tripod of Torah, avodah, and g'milut chasadim.
Now, when we look to the pivotal verse, 13:1, at the center of this discussion, we see it in a different light. "Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it." These commandments represent the roundedness of Jewish life and observance, as God has envisioned it. God's instructions for us have a sense of purpose and balance from their inception. To add to or detract from any of these commands would impair this equilibrium and throw everything off balance.
The closing blessing is as follows:
"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,
asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,
v’chay-yeh o’lam nata-b’tochenu.
Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.
(Blessed are you O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,
you have given us your Torah of truth,
and have planted everlasting life within our midst.
Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.
Torah Teacher Ariel