Devarim

This week we start the fifth and last part of Sefer HaTorah, called Devarim or Deuteronomy. In English hadevarim means: the words. What this points at is the repetition of what Moshe (Moshe) has said before towards the people of Israel. For instance in chapter 5 Aseret Hadibrot are summed up again. By reading carefully we see that there are also differences. It looks like Moshe has given his own input with the original, probably after his experiences with how all this was accepted.

Of course all was presented to the Children of Israel at and around the meeting with Hasjem at Mount Sinai. But at this moment Israel is at the verge of entering the Promised Land. Specific directions needed to be given Moshe must have thought. Another important factor was that the Shechinah of Hashem, G-d’s presence, would diminish. That is because in the Olam Hazeh, this present world, our G-d is most clearly to be experienced and viewed in the desert. Reading Torah we cannot conclude anything else. By the way, one consequence of this is that when we are in a desert situation, a dry and lonely season in our lives, our Lord can be experienced so much stronger if we take the situation for granted and if we don’t fight it. We don’t have to thank the Lord for such painful situations, but we can thank Him in spite of all circumstances.

The much more complicated lifestyle of a nation in an organized state require extra directions. That is why Moshe gave them to us in Devarim. Of the 200 laws in Devarim more than 70 are completely new. Life would become much more “earthly” than before. Distractions like city life and the rat race, agriculture, court systems and governments would take away attention from Hashem. And because we are inclined to go our own way Moshe introduced extra regulations in Devarim. Before this fifth part of the Torah Moshe taught all the laws and the history of Israel so far. And in Devarim he gave us what was necessary for what was to come soon.

This means that Devarim is more the book by the hand of Moshe than G-d’s dictated words. Not Hashem but Moshe speaks, as we read in verses like 1:42, And the Lord said to me…, see also 2:9 and 3:2. In other parts of the Torah it says: Hashem spoke to Moshe. Being the highest qualified prophet of all Moshe had the authority to do so, being seated on his seat. Later on Yeshua would give a derivative of this authority to scribes and Pharisees, as we read in Matthew 23:2, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moshe.”

This all means that Torah is not specific in many areas. And for those who need more explanation our prophets have given more of that in their times. Our rabbis among whom also Yeshua have spoken in parables in order to enlighten us and illustrate what was taught already implicitly. It also means that we cannot just say: “Because the Bible says so”. What “the Bible” says is not always so easy to understand. Moreover much is not said and therefore left to interpretation.

When it comes to the question how to execute something Torah is dictating without many details the things to realize are:

1. that it is important to be convinced that it is G’ds will to observe Torah, however that is to be done after He opens our eyes for His presence and His love for us;
2. He must have good reasons to require from us to observe Torah, one of which is His love and care for us and His desire to have a close relationship with each of us;
3. our relationship with Him needs to be worked out in as many details of our lives as possible, like: our work situation (earning money instead of earning acceptance), our body (being a temple of G-d), self-respect (G-d loves us so we do not to doubt our high position of being G-d’s child), relationships (treating others with the respect we require ourselves), looking at problems as challenges (instead of being crushed by them), looking at judgmental people as having a problem of their own (instead of making it our problem), and so forth.

Shabbat shalom,
Lion Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua
Amsterdam, Holland