Torah Portion: Re’eh (See) D’varim(Deut.) 11-16
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 54:11-55:5
Tonight we read a Torah portion that has as its theme the creation of a central place of worship that G-d chooses. We see this in the warnings about idolatry, the holidays mentioned, the sacrifices to be brought and food to be eaten – all things that guard the people against idolatry. Israel was to be different, a people reflecting G-d, not themselves. An unseen G-d, who had no form, was to be the goal of everything they did. The emphasis was on rejecting the easy path and being about building a close relationship with Him.
In Deut. we read about G-d’s people doing good and right in the eyes of G-d. My question this week had to do with this verse. In Deut. 6:18 we see these same words used again and in Psalms 125. So what does it mean to do good and right in the eyes of G-d? First, how do we define good? I think in these verses, “good” means good from G-d’s perspective. “Right” is a word that can be tricky. Things that are right in one case may not seem to be right in another, at least from the world’s viewpoint. I think these verses are calling on His people to reconcile these words to be able to do both good and right as seen from G-d’s viewpoint, no matter what the world says. We are to reflect Him. It is also interesting that the Hebrew word for right is the same word that can mean righteous or straight. To live such a life is a challenge for us. It takes work and a closeness to the Father. This is hinted at even in Deut. 12:2 where the verse describes idol worship. Pagan man worshiped idols on any mountain, hill or even under a tree, it was easy, just stop anywhere. Jerusalem however, in Psalms 125:2 is described as a place surrounded by mountains. To go there took physical and spiritual work. It is not easy even today. So here today in our Parasha Moshe is telling the people to not become victims of the easy but to put in the effort to come to the Father. Worship in Hebrew has the same root as the word for work. So it is work. Our life then is to be spent living a life that is good and straight before our Father, to make those decisions that bring us everyday closer to Him.
A couple of verses that will give us an idea of how this works out in our lives are found in Deut. 15:7-8, 11. In those verses we read of giving to meet the needs of the poor among us. Again there are a couple of words that speak to us. In verse 7 we read where Moshe cautions us not to harden our heart toward the poor. Where else have we read about the effects of a hard heart? When Moshe went to Pharaoh we read where he hardened his heart against the people of G-d. He didn’t see them as people but as a threat to his kingdom, or at least less than him. In any case the same words are used here in our verses of Moshe telling the people not to do this toward the poor among them. He told them not to “shut their hands.” In verse 11 he repeats this command, “to open our hand widely.” Here in Hebrew the word for open is written twice, like “open, open” to add emphasis. This brings us to a thought I wanted to share with you about free choice.
Here Moshe is saying basically to exercise your free choice and help your brother. Why? Let’s talk about free choice for a moment. I think it is very important for us to understand the concept of “free choice.” We need to understand this and work toward being in the place where our choices match G-d’s will and purpose for us. So what is the deepest true nature of free choice? Free choice at its deepest is one that is free from all considerations or calculations. If we see a dollar and a nickel lying on the ground which do we choose to pick up? We can choose either freely but we would probably pick up the dollar first because it has the greatest value. It is worth more than the nickel. So was our choice really free? No. We were manipulated by value. We considered which was worth more to me. True free choice must transcend reasons or calculations. We see an example of free choice in Genesis where G-d chose one of two sons. It says, “Jacob I have loved.” G-d chose Jacob because he could. He created the world by His choice, not for any other reason. And because He chose it, it says in Genesis, “it was good.” So now our only pursuit is to do good. We do it not from a calculation of what’s in it for me, what can I gain or how will I be punished if I don’t do good. We do good because of who we are in our depths. When G-d created man He breathed into him and he became a living soul. Genesis 2:7. So we carry that part of G-d within us. Our soul is that part of G-d. We do good because we must. It is what pleases our Maker. It is who we are as His child. To get to that place takes work on our part. as believers in the Messiah. Yeshua was our perfect example of doing good, and doing the will of His Father. So here in these verses we talk about giving, helping the poor. It should never be a calculation but something we do because it is what we are. It does not matter if we are recognized or not for our efforts or even if it makes us feel good about ourselves but just because it is who we are as children of G-d.
This should translate into every area of our lives. It is not limited to just helping the poor. We should be living our lives everyday to please Him. Our motive should not be for a reward but because we can do nothing else in serving the Lover of our Soul.