Hear, Listen to, and Respond!

My Parshah Journal Paul Ikonen
22 July 2010

Portion: Va-‘Ethannan Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 If the last Parshah focused on the state of the condition of Israel’s heart toward God, this week’s focuses on God’s heart for Israel. Where the Israelite was weary, hesitant and lacking in their love for HaShem, HaShem was bound, determined and relentless. We start off at the end of chapter three and listen to the pleading (Va-‘Ethannen) of Moses to be allowed to go with Israel into the Promised Land. We receive passionate description of how Moses views God: Great! Mighty! Powerful! Unmatched! But God declines his offer, a view of God’s persistent integrity in His judgments. Chapter four begins with Moses reminding the people of the sacredness of God’s Torah, how it is never to be added to or taken away from. The Torah will lead you to and protect the possession of their inheritance, in fact because of the Torah, the mission of God’s people will be a success, we read“(the nations) upon hearing of all these laws will say, ‘Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.’ For what great nation has a god so close at hand as is the LORD our God whenever we call upon Him? Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching that I set before you this day?

The people will be observed as having not only a set of rules that properly govern and protect their people but also access to their God whenever they call on Him. This is a God that takes great delight in His children! God also wants to be known and loved by the succeeding generation, the people are admonished to hand down the tradition to their children and their children’s children. God praises the people for their wisdom when they received the Words from the LORD the first time, when they realized that if they heard from God directly they would be consumed and so sent Moses to receive from God on their behalf. A warning is given to the people, probably because of the memory of the receiving of the Ten Words, to remember not to make graven images of God, for it was out of a burning bush that the voice of God spoke and not from a form in which His image could be perceived. The warning involved a curse, that if the image was made than the people would perish from the land and they will be scattered among the nations. But, because of God’s undying love, if anyone searches for the LORD while scattered, and if you return and obey, God will not fail you or let you perish, He will not forget His covenant but will restore you. Continuing in chapter four we read of the amazing story that is God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt, how the story goes beyond any other in relation to a God and His people; it is a love story that will forever exist because God promised it. God requires of His people that they observe His commands not because He is cruel, it is because He know that the path of His Torah leads to a good place and He wants only the best for His children. Chapter five is a retelling of the Ten Words, the Second Word, which we often remember simply as “You shall not make any graven image”, is expounded on in that

God describes Himself as an “impassioned” God, we usually say jealous. He says that if we disregard God’s wish in this that the guilt of the perpetrator will be on their children up until the fourth generation of those who reject Him. Immediately though, God inserts that where guilt is upon three or four generations, He shows kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Him. And than we come to Chapter Six, how beautiful a chapter! It is hear that we hear straight from the heart of God, a plea for Israel to keep to the Words that God has given for their health and prosperity. We hear the Shema, the call for Israel’s identity, for their commitment to God, to their commitment to extend this love to every aspect of their lives! They are called to put their identity into action by impressing them on their children, reciting them throughout the day, binding them as a sign on their bodies, inscribing them on their doorposts. It is to this devotion that God provides them with the Land He promised their forefathers. The portion ends with the first half of chapter seven, in it Moses instructs the people on how to interact with the peoples they are dispossessing in order to obtain their land. How they are to destroy the sacred objects of the false gods, how they are not to intermarry lest the practices of the false religions creep into the nation. All this to preserve the people as a nation separated unto God, a consecrated people.

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