Torah Portion: D’varim(Deut.) 1-3
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 1
Tonight we start the Book of D’Varim or “Words.” This is Moshe’s final address to the people before his exit from the world stage. It was delivered over a 37 day period, just before Israel began the settlement of the Land of Promise. Remember this is the same man who told G-d, back in Exodus 4:10 he was heavy of tongue and needed someone to speak for him. Here we see no need of another person to speak for Him. What brought about this change? It would seem to me, in the beginning, Moshe was not able to trust G-d completely. He saw himself as inadequate. He focused on that instead of what G-d wanted to do through him. At the end of his life he had changed. His focus was on G-d, on taking care of G-d’s chosen and speaking G-d’s truth to them while he still had the time to do it. His main concern was for their future. He did not do this in arrogance but in faith that what G-d was asking was his destiny and until his last day he could accomplish what G-d asked of him. This is an important lesson for all of us. When we know G-d has a walk for us we are to put our feet on the path, even though we may believe we are not capable of accomplishing it in our own strength or talents. Faith calls us to trust Him. In Deut. 2:31 we read where G-d spoke to Moshe about delivering the land of Sihon into the hands of the Israelites. It is interesting that the verse says the people are to begin to possess the land. G-d tells the people to take the first step, to begin the process, to trust Him to follow through. He calls us each day to trust Him. We are to have our faith in Him for the process. We are only to “begin” to possess what He has said. Our walk with G-d is a daily matter of trust for that day, believing and knowing that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. Philippians 1:6. Our life is built on that faith. Even though we do not know what tomorrow will bring our faith is in Him who does know and is always there to guide us and keep us. So, here in this verse we see G-d’s faithfulness to Israel even when they sin and fall. He is always there to pick them up and set them back on the path. He does the same for us. We may take a wrong turn or get off the path but if we come to Him, repent and ask, He is faithful to lead us on. We see this over and over in the life of the nation of Israel in this portion as Moshe goes back over their sins and also their victories. G-d’s love was always constant for His people and is for us.
Which brings me to my question of the week. In B’Midbar 14:2 we read where the people complain after the bad report of the spies, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if we had died in this desert.” However here in our portion today Deut. 1:27 we read, “You spoke slanderously in your tents. You said, G-d took us out of the land of Egypt because He hates us.” Here Moshe adds a new detail. This new detail occurred in the privacy of their tents when they were sitting around trying to absolve themselves of any blame in their failure to enter the land. Isn’t it interesting this happened in the privacy of their tents. How much easier is it for us to gossip and grumble when we are in the “privacy of our own tent.” Sometimes we say things we would never repeat in a large group or in other settings when people are watching and listening. May our conversations be godly no matter where we find ourselves. Here, to make themselves fee better about what they had done, they spoke of how G-d hated them and that was why they were where they were. Moshe, in the following verses, rebukes this baseless hatred by reminding them of what G-d had done for them, how “He carried them like a man carries his son.”
So their grumbling was not based on fact but on their perception of what had happened. With us, sometimes someone does something that hurts us, maybe something that they did not mean to say or do but because of how we see ourselves we build a case based on what we think.
Before going on further let me explain baseless hatred by looking at this phrase in Hebrew. Baseless is the English translation for “Henom.” This word in Hebrew carries the main meaning of free. Hatred that is free, no framework, totally out of control. Even if we have been hurt on purpose we often repay with interest. Scripture is very clear on this point. Read Psalms 45:7 and Hebrews 1:9. We are to hate sin. That is where the list stops of things we are to hate. Here in our portion we see, “Free hate” and the results of that hate. In our lives it is detrimental to our spiritual life to allow hatred a foothold. The results will be detrimental for our own life both physically and spiritually. G-d has given us the tools to live without “free hate” in our lives. We can rise above it by remembering He carries us as a father carries his son.
Tonight the fast day of Tisha B’av begins and ends tomorrow at sundown. It is the day when both Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. The first Temple was destroyed by Babylon and the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. In Judaism it is taught that the second Temple was destroyed because of free hatred among the people of Israel for each other. They had grown to hate each other more than their enemies. Let us not fall victim to hate in our own lives. It is a destroyer! May G-d give us the insight to see the root of this emotion in our lives and the ability, with His help, to rise above it.