Moses pleads, once again, with God to allow him to cross over the Jordan and enter the land, but God is firm and tells Moses he may see the land but will not cross over. Then he says, essentially, put a sock in it: Joshua will take the people into the land, you will die on the mountain, und das is alles!
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Moses reminds the people about the wonders God has done, separates three cities on the east side of Jordan where the slayer can flee (Cities of Refuge) and tells the people that at Mt. Horeb (when God talked to them) they never saw God so they must never make any image of God. Then he reviews the 10 Commandments.
Throughout this First Discourse, Moses constantly reminds the people about how unique their experience is, having heard the voice of the living God and remained alive; he reminds them of how they asked him, Moses, to be their intercessor with God because they were afraid to hear God, directly. As we will see throughout this last book, Moses is constantly reminding the people to obey the instructions God has given them through Moses so that they will be able to remain in the land.
Near the end of this parashah, Moses gives the people two of the most sacred and wonderful prayers in all of Judaism: the Shema and the V’ahavtah.
There is an entire lifetime of spiritual knowledge just in the Shema and V’ahavta prayers, and as wonderful and edifying as a study of these prayers would be, I am not going to be dealing with them today.
I want to talk about the 10 Commandments, specifically the first two. Do you know what they are? You may think you do, but I have found them mistranslated and misaligned (or should I say, maligned?) depending on from which religion you learned them.
Let’s start with the most accurate of all the translations, which is the one in the Torah. In the Torah, at this parashah (and it is confirmed hermeneutically when we compare it with the first time we hear these commandments in Exodus 20) Moses tells the people exactly what God said:
I am the Lord, thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, even any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love me and keep my commandments.
I searched a number of different versions on the Internet and also looked at the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, my Chumash, and even my Tikkun, and did not find any three versions of this first commandment that matched. The Torah (from the Tikkun) has the statements about being the Lord and not making graven images as one continuous statement, yet in the Chumash, it is split into two separate commandments. A Catholic version I saw had the first commandment about being the Lord and the second about having no gods before him but did not state anything about not making or bowing before any type of image (no surprise there, considering the Catholic Church has graven and painted images that they bow before throughout their houses of worship.)
I saw a children’s rug that had the first two as (1) Love God more than anything and (2) let him be first in your life, while a non-denominational plaque had nothing about being the Lord thy God but the first two commandments were (1) not to have any other gods and (2) not to make any graven images.
From what I saw in these dozen or so different versions, the commandments always manage to come out to 10, but the majority of the time either they split the first one into two and have a single commandment at the end dealing with coveting, or they have the first commandment covering I am the Lord and no graven images and split coveting into two.
And, as we saw, some people think they can just restate and change the entire wording, thereby changing the meaning and impact of the commandments.
The important thing is, of course, that all of God’s commandments are there, and stated as he stated them. Considering the detailed manner in which each and every Torah is written to ensure that it is exactly the same as the one it was copied from, and how historical evidence has shown that ancient scrolls have matched almost word-for-word to the modern books in the Bible, we can be certain that what is in the Torah is as close as possible to what God actually told Moses to tell the people.
So, nu? What’s my point? My point is that we need to read and understand these commandments as God gave them, not as people want to write them down. The Torah has the first commandment as I gave you above, which absolutely identifies God as the only God, the one true God, and the only God that brought us out of slavery. And we are not to have any images of him or any form of worship (including praying to) any other gods or persons, as well. That includes not just statues or paintings of God, but the image of Yeshua (Jesus) on a cross or the representation of a saint. And this includes the worship of sports figures, celebrities, or possessions.
Too many people have been taught too many things that are wrong, or at least, not with the impetus or meaning that God intended us to have. And the only way to know what is correct and what is not is to know the Torah, which is the most accurate rendering of God’s instructions. All the other books of the Bible, from Joshua through Revelation, do not have God speaking directly but only have people quoting what God told Moses. Even Yeshua’s teachings are taken from the Torah and the rest of the Tanakh, which is what God told the prophets to say, but was (in almost every case) said in the prophets own words; everything after the Torah is divinely inspired writing but not a divinely dictated statement.
My ministry is a teaching ministry. I am not going to tell you what to believe, but I will tell you where to find the information that you need so you can make an informed decision. I will also give you what I believe to be the correct meaning of God’s word, although I always warn and admonish you to read it for yourself. I try to hear the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leading me to proper understanding, but I am a weak and sinful human being, so I do not trust myself to always be correct. That is why you need to not just hear, but test what I say. And, of course, that means to test what anyone tells you, whether they have a Doctorate in Theology or just read the Bible for the first time.
God can give different people a different understanding of the same passage, and each can be correct in its own way, so never accept anything from anyone at face value.
Let me finish with this: please remember that what you believe is your choice, and yours, alone, and you will be held accountable for it. So choose wisely.
Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share me out. I welcome comments and only ask that you be nice.
Tonight begins the day of rest so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, and until next time… L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!