Torah Portion: Re’eh (See) D’Varim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17

Haftorah Reading Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 54:11-55:5

Tonight, at sundown the Hebrew month of Elul begins. This starts a forty-day period of concentrated introspection and repentance that will end on Yom Kippur. Of course, repentance is something we should be involved in on a daily basis. However, this does remind us of the importance of not allowing unconfessed sins to fade from our minds but instead to deal with them quickly.

Again, tonight we read a Torah portion that contains a wealth of spiritual insight for us . I want to begin with the very first sentence. To do that I want us to look at the Hebrew words used by Moshe as he spoke to the people. I think this will give us a deeper understanding of what he was saying to the people.

The sentence begins with the word, “Re’eh.” This  is the Hebrew word for see or look, or pay attention. What is most important is that it is written in the singular form. Moshe wanted everyone, each person individually, to pay attention. This message was specifically for each of them. The next important word is lif-nei-him. This word is plural and means, before you. So Moshe is saying to each person that he was giving them, as a group, words that would be important to them as a person and as a group. The last word in Hebrew, notin, This word, give, is singular and present tense. It means each person is given these words of G-d every day to direct their life. They are responsible as individuals to act upon it.

These three words should help us as well as we go through our days. We, individually,  are to pay attention to what G-d says through His word to us. We are also to pay attention as corporate people of G-d. His Word is new every day. It should lead us every day. Of course, we are free to listen or not. So, Moshe gave the results of both of these choices. Obeying brings blessings, rebellion brings curses.

I have two other words to give you before we move on. In 11:27 it reads, “A blessing if you obey” and in verse 28 it says, “A curse if you will not.” The odd thing is that in these two verses the English word “if” is used but in Hebrew there are two different words used. In verse 27 the Hebrew word is most often translated as “when.” While in verse 28 the word is correctly translated as “if.” So, if we look at verse 27 and use the more common translation it would read, “When you obey.” What difference does it make to say, “When you obey.” Or “If you obey.” Using the word when gives the thought of immediacy. When we are faithful to G-d’s Word we can expect a spiritual feeling of a good and faithful servant. (Matthew 25:16-23) While when we stray from the Word we might feel good for a short while but if we are attentive at all, there will come that conviction of the Father that we have missed the mark and strayed from the path. This conviction should drive us to repent.

So, as we live our life each day we have two options, the blessing or the curse. If asked, I think each of us would choose the blessing. In the Messianic scripture in Matthew 7:13-14 we read Yeshua’s words, “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” So here Yeshua is giving His followers the choice between blessings and curses. Walking in the way of blessing and joy is narrow and it demands faith, obedience and hard work. There are few who will make the effort.

Our modern culture is about freedom, prosperity and pleasing self. Things such as honor, cleanliness before G-d, rules and regulations are not the values of our day. Freedom is important if it is set to the music of G-d’s Word. It must be the freedom to do the right thing, the good thing. G-d has given us the spiritual freedom to make the choice of blessing of the narrow way. It is up to us, to each of us, to make that choice. I pray we all, each day, choose life and not death, blessings not curses.

Now to my question of the week. We read Moshe telling the people what they must do when they cross into the land. They were to put the blessings on Mt. Gerizim and the curses on Mt. Eval. We read his instructions in 11:29. Where else can we find Mt. Gerizim mentioned in scripture? In John 4 we read where Yeshua met the Samaritan woman at the well. Mt. Gerizim is still held as holy by the Samaritans because there the blessings were put on the mountain.

My first question had to do with the word Simcha or joy in English. We see it seven times in our portion, 12:12, 12:18, 14:26, 16:11 and 16:14-15. We also see the famous quote from the Messianic scripture found in James 1:2-8. We all have read about or know of believers who are suffering greatly because of illness or other things that might have come into their life. What kind of joy are they to have? As believers, we are never to forget what G-d has done for us. He lifted us out of sin and set our feet on solid ground. Being a believer does not mean we will never suffer pain or loss. However, James says in his verses, the testing we undergo should produce steadfastness, eternal life and fellowship with the Father and Son everlasting. This is not a fake or false joy but a joy rooted in trust and the love of G-d.