With this parashah we leave the First Discourse of Moses, the historical discourse, and come into the Second Discourse of this book, which is the Rehearsal of the Code. Essentially, Moses reviews (as is pretty much what D’varim is- a review of all that has happened since leaving Egypt) the laws that God has given to the Israelites. These laws deal with religious institution and worship (although God doesn’t have any religion), criminal law, domestic life and concludes with tithing, first fruits and accompanying prayers.
The very first thing that God tells the people in this Parashah is that they have a choice, the freedom to choose for themselves, individually and corporately, whether or not they will obey the laws given to them. Obedience will bring blessings, and disobedience will bring curses. Seems easy enough, doesn’t it?
BTW…God doesn’t do bad things to people, but He does allow bad things to happen to those who reject His kippah (covering) of protection. God’s curses are not evil intentions designed to hurt us; those curses are actually self-inflicted. They are the direct result of “walking away” from God, which means leaving the protection He offers us from the world.
The world is a cursed place, full of evil and godlessness. When we obey God, it is like walking under an umbrella during a thunderstorm: we are protected from that which is all around us. Sure, our feet get wet, maybe from the knees down our pants are soaked, but overall we are not drenched by the rains. However, when we reject God’s laws, we are stepping away from the umbrella and showing that (to coin a phrase) we don’t have enough sense to get out of the rain.
The blessings are active actions, things God does on purpose to help and protect us. The curses are passive actions, things that happen to us when God is not protecting us. And it isn’t His choice to not protect us- we are the ones who choose to reject His protection.
Some may say, “Oh, yeah? Well, we aren’t really free, we don’t really have a choice because if we want the protection we have to do as God says.” That’s right- you do have to obey God to be protected. But the world has rules, too. Their rules are ones where you must conform, you must “take the mark” to be able to fit in with everyone else, and the world is not compassionate or understanding. If you screw up in the world, you’re dead meat.
God, however, is not like the world. If we should stumble and fall, He will move to cover us when we reach out to Him. He will bring the umbrella to where we are, lift us up, and let us come back under His protection. He will clean off the mud and the dirt and we will be able to keep walking with Him. Even when we totally walk away, we are always welcomed back when we realize our mistake and ask for His forgiveness and for His protection.
That ain’t happening in the real world.
So, yes- we do have a choice. As Yeshua said, we are all slaves to something, either to God or to sin. We choose, we decide, and we need to remember that to choose God is to choose a way that will have us walking separately from the rest of the world, but under His kippah. If we choose the world, we will be uncovered in the storm. The problem is that once you get soaking wet, you don’t feel the rain anymore so you think you are OK. That’s how sin stays in our lives, and multiplies, until we get so soaked in disgusting things that the stench is no longer noticeable.
We do have a choice, we do have free will, and we do have the exact same options that the Israelites had some 3,500 years ago: we can choose blessings or curses, we can choose to obey or reject, we can choose life or death. And when we choose God, we choose His laws as He gave them- that means living within the rules of the Torah. The whole Torah, not just the parts we like.
The world will make you live with your choice, and God will always let you change your mind, either for the good or for the bad. His gift of blessings and salvation is irrevocable. That means it will not be taken back, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw it away.
The choice is yours, so choose well and remember this: whichever choice you make, the longer you stay with it, the easier it becomes to stay with it.
Those that have ears, let them hear.