This Shabbat we have a double-parashah. This happens during non-leap years so that the reading cycle will conform to the Gregorian calendar.
In these parashot (plural of parashah) Moshe finishes the third of his three discourses: the first is the review of their journey (1:6 to 4:40), the second deals with the religious foundations of the covenant and rehearsal of the Code (4:44 – Chapter 11), and this third discourse (Chapter 12 to here) as been all about obedience and punishment.
In these two relatively short chapters, we are given teachings that are so very, very valuable and important. In Chapter 29:28 Moses tells us that the secret things belong to the Lord, and that which has been revealed belongs to us AND our children. Prior to this Moshe reminds the people that the covenant is made between God and all the people- the ones there, the ones that were before, and the ones that are to come. In other words, God is eternal, and His covenants are eternal: although the people He made this covenant with (Israelites) are, individually, mortal, His covenant is with not just them, but their seed. Israel is, to God, an eternal son and so the covenant made with Israel, the nation, is as eternal as God.
The other important teaching, which comes on the heels of the fact that our relationship with God is eternal, is that this code, this covenant, is not too hard for us. We are told this in the very next Chapter, verses 30:11-14:
For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
After telling the people that God’s commandments are not too hard for them to do, he calls to heaven and earth to witness that day that Moshe is presenting life and death, and they should choose life. Here, again, a very important lesson for us, maybe the most important lesson in the entire bible: we are all, each and every one of us, responsible for the choices we make. God has given us Free Will to accept or reject Him, and it doesn’t matter who tells us what we should do, if we listen to anyone other than God we will be held accountable for that. The line the Nazi’s used in Nuremberg during the war crime trials was, “I was only following orders.” In the human courts that excuse didn’t hold water, and it certainly won’t hold water in the Court of the Almighty!
The last reading this Shabbat is God telling Moshe his time is up, and to anoint Joshua, but first God let’s Moshe in on a secret: He tells Moshe what is to happen in the future. God shows Moshe the history of the nations of Israel and Judah, and has Moshe write down a song that God, Himself, has created which will be taught to the leaders to teach to everyone, so that when all this tsouris comes to be, they will remember the song and know that it is because of their rejection of God and violation of His covenant that these calamities have come upon them.
So what shall we talk about today? Which lesson that brings life eternal to us, which knowledge and understanding of God’s plan can we discuss?
I think it is simple, just as Moshe told the people- what God wants from us is for us to choose life. He has told us what we must do, and that when we don’t do it we will not be blessed or protected from our enemies. But, when we do as He says, He will protect us, He will bless us beyond our imagination, and He will provide all we need, forever.
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? In truth, it IS a no-brainer, and we qualify- we have no brains! We choose death, we choose fleshly desires and rewards, all which are fleeting and momentary. I just don’t get it- I suppose that is the iniquity we all inherited from Adam and Eve. Desire to sin is in our very DNA, and the only hope we have is that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is an expert in recombinant DNA. God can rewire our brains to accept His laws and teachings, but it means we have to work at it. It is not something He will just do- it is a team effort. When people have brain surgery done, very often they are fully awake to help guide the neurosurgeon. I believe that this is also how God helps rewire our brain- we work together, with God doing the repair while we give Him feedback, which is through our actions and words.
We are nearing the end of the Torah, and in a few weeks we will turn it back to the beginning and start to read it all over again. I think it is wonderful that these last chapters deal with the future of the Children of Israel, which eventually affects the world, just before we start all over again learning about God’s intervention in the world. It is a vicious cycle that we create for ourselves- God blesses, we get used to His blessings and forget about Him and screw it all up, God punishes us to bring us back to Him, we do T’shuvah, God forgives and again blesses us, then we (again) become enured to God’s blessings, our iniquity wins out, we forget about God and sin, so God (again) punishes us, we (again) do T’shuvah, God (again) forgives us and blesses us, we screw it up…ad infinitum. This will not end until God completes His plan of salvation.
Albert Einstein is reputed to have given this definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think, based on this definition and the cycle of sin that mankind has demonstrated for millennia, there can be no doubt that we are insane!
It’s like the old joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.
We are the light bulb and God can change us, but only when we let Him.