Beyond the Commandments
Torah Portion: Va’etchanan (I Pleaded) D’Varim (Deut.) 3:23-7:11
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 40:1-26
Today we read an epic Torah portion. We read again the Shema and the Ten Commandments. We also read a brief passage with high implications for the way we are to live a moral life in our day.
To begin with, I want us to look at Deut. 5:30. This verse tells us, “In all the way that the L-rd you G-d has commanded you, you shall walk.” I want to use this verse as a jumping off place for our study tonight. What does this verse say to us about our daily walk?
There are a few words in this verse I want to examine more closely. In Hebrew these words are B’col haderek (In all the way). This is our inclusive phrase meaning in all we as G-d’s people do we must be attentive to stay on the path of the L-rd. We are not to allow ourselves to become lazy in how we relate to the world and to people in particular. We are to be aware of who we are as G-d’s people and who we represent to the world.
Romans 15:4 tells us everything written in the past was written to teach us so that with the encouragement of scripture we might patiently hold on to our hope. Our life, our way, as G-d’s people, is to be an example to the people around us. To carry this out we must stay in hearing range of that still small voice of G-d as we go through our day.
To go a bit deeper into what this entails I want us to look at Deut. 6:17-18. It reads, “Be very diligent to keep the commandments of the L-rd your G-d, and the testimonies and decrees with which He has charged you. Do what is right and what is good in the L-rd’s eyes, so that it may go well with you, and you may go in and take possession of the good land that the L-rd swore to your ancestors to give you.”
What stands out to you in these two verses? After reading about the commandments, testimonies and decrees then we read, “Do what is right and what is good.” What is obvious is that of course we are to live according to the written word of G-d. which includes the commandments, decrees and testimonies. That is kinda the minimum. What the good and right tells us is that there is more. We are to relate to the people around us of course by the first things mentioned, commandments, decrees and testimonies. However, we are required to do even more.
Think back over your life about who has left an impression on your life. I expect we will all remember those people who touched us with their goodness and righteousness. It might be a person who went further than just what was commanded them. We remember people who went the extra mile or people who were there for us in difficult times, loving us and reaching out to us. G-d expects His people to be this kind of person. We are to do more than just what is commanded. Of course we are to keep G-d’s word, but here in this short phrase He is telling us to give thought also to do what is good and right in His eyes.
Surely we are not to murder, to steal and all the other commandments. However, G-d wants us to never get stuck just doing what is written. I believe G-d expects us to consider things like what does it mean to be a good and righteous husband or wife. What is a good friend? When is it right to praise and when is it right to correct? What matters is not only what we do, but the way in which we do it. Do we use a soft voice when it will help? Do we relate to people with gentleness and sensitivity?
We must remember that scripture is more than laws, although laws and commandments should never be compromised. We are called to love and have compassion when dealing with people who are lost in the world.
Many people think Torah is only a bunch of laws and commandments, however it is interesting that we do not see the first law in Torah until Exodus chapter 12. The book of Genesis is mainly about relationships between people, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the patriarchs and their children. We see how they did or did not respond in a good and righteous way all the time.
When we read of Adam and Eve for example, Adam only referred to Eve as isha, the generic term for a woman. Only when he gave her a proper name of Chava or Eve does he relate to her as an individual and only then did G-d supply them with clothing.
Justice is universal, impartial. Everyone is treated the same, no matter who they are, rich, poor, powerful or powerless. Love is different. G-d loved and still loves us. He knows us intimately and comes to us as a loving father. We can learn much by striving to do what is good and right.
Think of our world today. Our examples are not the best. How this world needs love and compassion. G-d’s desire is that we, His children are to be better than what we see around us. We are to be good and upright. Bless each of you this week.