Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #45: Va’etchanan (I pleaded) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 3:23-7:11
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:1-26
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 12:28-34
This is one of the most important chapters of the book of Deuteronomy. This is because this parashah contains the verses in Chapter 6:4-11 which Jewish believers teach their children to say first thing every morning, just before going to bed, and if possible, just before passing from this world as the next step to the world to come. This passage holds the entire Torah/instructions to mankind from G-d on how to relate to Him and to our fellow humans. Before this passage however, there is another command that is violated by our Orthodox Jewish brethren, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform Jews; Christians, and other faith systems who profess allegiance to the G-d of Israel. That passage is Deuteronomy 4:2 which reads: “In order to obey the mitzvot (commands) of Adonai your G-d which I am giving you, do not add to what I am saying, and do not subtract from it.” Some examples on the Christian side is changing Shabbat and teaching church replacement theology that incorrectly changes Israel’s status in world history and teaches that the Church is the “new” Israel. Another example is the replacement of correct Hebrew terminology for Passover/Pesach to Easter as is found in the King James Version of the Bible. On the Jewish side is the addition of the traditions of men such as not being able to write, pick up or put down things even as small as a Kleenex on Shabbat, and the virtual selling of chametz on Pesach. Reform Jews violate G-d’s dietary laws and many of the non-Messianic Jewish sects don’t read the other half of G-d’s Torah and miss Yahshua’s (G-d saves) teachings and example of how G-d’s laws are to be applied with compassion. Furthermore, He teaches us that the thought counts whether we physically commit a sin or simply contemplate it. People who choose to add or subtract from the entirety of G-d’s Torah would do well to read what G-d says about people who do such things: “Do not put Adonai your G-d to the test, as you tested him at Massah (testing). Observe diligently the mitzvot of Adonai your G-d, and his instructions and laws which he has given you. You are to do what is good and right in the sight of Adonai, so that things will go well with you… (Deut. 6:16-18). Deuteronomy 4:3 reads” You saw with your own eyes what Adonai did at Ba’al-P’or, that Adonai destroyed from among you all the men who followed Ba’al-P’or; but you who stuck with Adonai your G-d are still alive today, every one of you.”
Taking this subject to the “New” Testament we read in Revelation 22:18-19: “I warn everyone hearing the words of the prophecy in this book that if anyone adds to them, G-d will add to him the plagues written in this book. And if anyone takes anything away from the words in the book of this prophecy, G-d will take away his share in the Tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this book.” Last week we spoke of the fact that YHVH/Yahshua is One and the Same and he does not change. This example of consistent admonishments concerning the Word of G-d in the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah support the truth of G-d as Who was, Who is, and Who will be….
Next we will address the first command of G-d that is often overlooked “I am Adonai your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, where you lived as slaves” (Deut. 5:6). It makes perfect sense for G-d to have made this the first command as it is crucial to establish to whom we are to be loyal and follow. If we do not know who G-d is, how can we not have any other gods before Him or misuse His name? How can we see Shabbat apart as G-d commanded if we don’t know who G-d is? Yet, this first command is seldom taught or explored for the importance it holds. G-d identified himself, who He is and what He did for Israel (and for all future believers). He has the right to tell us what to do and we have the obligation to obey Him.
Moving to Deuteronomy 6:4-11 we see that the Sh’ma lies at the heart of the true believer’s confession of faith. This applied to the Israelites first as biological Israel and their fellow travelers who chose to follow the G-d of Israel. In the greater scope of the issue, these verses and the entirety of G-d’s Torah, apply to everyone who considers themselves true believers, whether they come from Gentile or Jewish genetic ancestry. The six words of this daily prayer (Dt. 6:4) bear witness to Adonai’s supremacy. The Hebrew letters for the “Echad” are an Ayin and a Dalet. When scribes enlarge the Ayin and Dalet at the beginning and end of this pledge, the prominent position of G-d in our lives stands out in the script. So, believers tell the world that there is only One G-d, not an image, not a particular saint, or anything else. G-d alone is the sole object of our allegiance, devotion, and love.
Yahshua quoted v’ahavta (loving our neighbor as yourself) as the greatest commandment of all in Matthew 22:36-38 and Dt, 6:5), affirming that that the foundation of obedience arises from a whole-hearted love and devotion to G-d. This love is relational such as the love of a mother for her children or a man’s’ love for his wife. It emanates from our entire being (Dt. 4:29; 6:6). This love is commanded which may seem odd at first to a society that often considers relationships as disposable as a paper cup. But the fact is that spontaneous love may seem natural, but it is immature. Perfect love is like a river that seems to move quickly and wildly at times on the surface but has a constant steady flow deep beneath the surface. Perfect love requires commitment. Perfect love flows from devotion and gratitude to obedience.
Next we move to Dt. 7:1 and forward. G-d forbids intermarriage with idolaters. True believers are set apart and must not build relationships with those who choose to remain rebellious to G-d’s Torah. This scripture says nothing about any prohibition against marrying someone of a different race. America has indeed treated many people unfairly throughout its history based on a belief that G-d forbade interracial marriage and that people of a certain skin color should rule supreme over anyone else issue with. The issue has always been one of not becoming involved with someone who worships another god and is not interested in following the G-d of Israel. Dt. 7 G-d tells the Israelites to destroy the nations handed over to them; not to give their daughters in marriage and not to allow their sons to marry their women. This prohibition was made to protect G-d’s people from the seduction to worship other gods. G-d goes on to explain why Israel was chosen so that they and we do not become prideful as G-d’s people. We were not chosen because we were the most numerous, but because we were and are the fewest in number. True believers are a minority, having been persecuted throughout history with more to come. We were chosen to set an example for the rest of the world of how to relate to each other and to the G-d of Israel, even as a minority population. We are to stand up for G-d’s Torah as Yahshua taught and exemplified even as our character or physical bodies are attacked, still choosing the G-d of Israel over all other gods of this world. Our G-d is “the faithful G-d, who keeps his covenant and extends grace to those who love him and observe his mitzvot, to a thousand generations. But he repays those who hate him to their face and destroys them. He will not be slow to deal with someone who hates him; he will repay them to his face. Therefore, you are to keep the mitzvot, laws and rulings which I am giving you today, and obey them” (Dt. 7:9-11).
Parashah V’etchanan is always read on the Shabbat after the 9th of Av- a
Shabbat known as Shabbat Nachamu, the “Shabbat of Comfort.” The
comfort of this parashah embraces far more than the beginning verses of the
Haftorah: “Comfort, comfort My people, “says your G-d. Speak to the
heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been
fulfilled, that her iniquity has been conciliated, for she has received from the
hand of G-d double for all her sins.”
This message of comfort is a prophecy concerning the eventual Redemption and assures Israel that the destruction and exile are merely temporary phenomena in the context of an eternal covenant.
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 12:28-34
In these verses we are reminded of the consistency of Torah and Yahshua’s
interpretation and teaching of G-d’s written Torah, not the traditions of men. Yahshua describes the most important mitzvah as the Sh’ma and the second as “You are to love your neighbor as yourself.” The Torah teacher rightly discerns that following these two commands means more than all the legalistic offering of sacrifices and burnt offerings. Again, the spirit of the law or Torah observance must come before the letter of the law but not exclusive to the letter of the law. Indeed, if one follows these two commands, they will lovingly offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to YHVH Elohim.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart