Weekly Thoughts – Nitzavim-Vayelech

This week’s reading, which is a double portion, Nitzavim-Vayelech, Deut. 29:9(10)–31:30, includes numerous idealized situations that, though seldom realized, should be strived for as a goal to be obtained. As we look at these various situations, we need to bear in mind that these goals are not just what Israel needed, and still needs, to realize but that all of us as followers of Yeshua also need to realize them.

The first situation is described in the opening verses of the parasha,

You are standing today, all of you, before ADONAI your God—the heads of your tribes, your elders, your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, and the outsider within your camp (from your woodchopper to your water carrier). Each of you is to cross over into the covenant of ADONAI your God that He is cutting with you today, and into His oath. 

Deuteronomy 29:9-11(10-12)

Note that all of Israel was standing there before HaShem—men, women, children, and the outsider or sojourner that attached themselves to Israel. Everyone was standing together as one to cross over into the covenant of ADONAI. No one was left out, no one was left behind, and no one was elevated above another – all stood united before HaShem. Rav Shaul suggests the same concept to the body of Messiah when he urged the Ephesians to:

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were called—with complete humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Ruach in the bond of shalom. There is one body and one Ruach, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one immersion; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6

Sadly, neither Israel then or now, any more than the body of Messiah then or now, has yet to walk out this unity. There have been and still remain divisions over doctrines and interpretations that separate us, sometimes even separating family members from one another. However, the fact that there are separations and divisions does not detract from the fact that we should still strive for unity with one another. 

A second idealized situation is that according to Moses, the Torah is both practical and doable.

“For this mitzvah that I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far off. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to the heavens and get it for us, and have us hear it so we may do it?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross over for us to the other side of the sea and get it for us, and have us hear it so we may do it?’ No, the word is very near to you—in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.”

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Granted, with all the fences and protections that have been placed around the Torah, the keeping of the mitzvot have become burdensome at times. But this is not what was planned nor what Moses envisioned. Notice the beginning and ending of this passage, “this mitzvah … is not too difficult for you … is very near to you—in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” So, either Moses was like the farmer who dangled a carrot in front of the donkey to get him to work while knowing that the donkey would never reach the carrot. Unlike the carrot, the commandments, statutes and mitzvot are in fact within our reach; we can observe and do them. Rav Shaul must have agreed with this assessment as he equated the simplicity of accepting the claims of Yeshua with acceptance of the Torah. He wrote to the believers in Rome,

But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faiththat we are proclaiming: For if you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 

Romans 10:8-9

A third situation is related to the “doability” of the Torah as well as the word of faith spoken of by Paul. Moses said to Israel, “See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil” (Deuteronomy 30:15). In other words, there is always a choice, and ideally, like Israel, we should choose to follow the commandments of HaShem. Practically this is often not the case. We have each been given a choice whether it follow the guidelines of the Creator or to walk according to our own choosing. Whenever Israel was disciplined, the cause could be traced back to their disobedience of the commands of HaShem. Their discipline, as well as ours, was and is always a result of choice. Interestingly, HaShem knows the choices we will make, but he has never removed our ability to choose.

“For when I bring them to the land flowing with milk and honey that I swore to their fathers, and they eat and are satisfied and grow fat—then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and they will spurn Me and break My covenant. Now when many evils and troubles have come on them, this song will confront them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten from the mouth of their descendants. For I know the intention they are devising this day, even before I bring them into the land that I swore.”

Deuteronomy 31:20-21

There is a fourth situation is dependent upon our actions and choices but at the same time empowered by HaShem—the promise of redemption.

“…return to ADONAI your God and listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you today—you and your children—with all your heart and with all your soul, then ADONAI your God will bring you back from captivity and have compassion on you, and He will return and gather you from all the peoples where ADONAI your God has scattered you.”

Deuteronomy 30:2-3

Even with the foreknowledge of Israel’s choosing, or of our own choosing, to disobey and walk in their/our own way, the promise of redemption and restoration was/is there. Peter reminds us all of this assurance with these words, “Rather, He [HaShem] is being patient toward you—not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Peter echoed HaShem’s words though the prophet Ezekiel 

“Do I delight at all in the death of the wicked?” It is a declaration of Adonai. “Rather, should he not return from his ways, and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)

Ezekiel 18:23

Ideally, HaShem desires, and it is in our best interests, us to live in unity with one another, recognizing that Torah obedience is not an unattainable activity but is quite doable, if we choose to do so. Sadly, we must acknowledge that there will be times when we will choose to act contrary to the will of HaShem. But though we stray, he is waiting to welcome and receive us back into his presence, restoring the relationship that we chose to break. He is waiting for us to make the right choice.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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