Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #50: Ki Tavo (When you come) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 26:1-29:8
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah: 60: 1-22
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 11:1-15
Last week we talked about the disparity between what society in America teaches and promotes and what G-d expects of us as a people. “Tolerance” is shoved down our throats at every turn. If we do not openly embrace everyone and everything as secular humanism teaches, we are labeled to be “deplorable” people. Comments made by one of the presidential candidates validates this statement. Orthodox Jewish perspectives included in this teaching include excerpts from Rabbi Noson Weis’s article on How Tolerance Can Lead to Destruction. This is an excellent article for understanding the rabbinical perspective. However, we need to look at the whole of G-d’s Torah to understand the letter and the spirit of G-d’s laws. Therefore, I integrated some of the information from Rabbi Weis’ article with the Messianic Jewish explanation that necessarily includes B’rit Chadashah “New Testament” perspective/teachings. This perspective is essentially unknown and not read by rabbinic Jews, a problem addressed throughout the B’rit Chadashah by YHVH in the role of Yahshua and His talmidim. Teaching the combination of the letter and spirit of G-d’s laws are necessary in order that we may gain a broader understanding of G-d’s Torah.
We begin with the understanding that the set of curses in this parashah are proclaimed to the Israelites as they prepare to cross into the Land of Israel. Why does G-d take so much time to explain curses to His people when He already knows these curses will come to pass as a result of Israel’s [and our] disobedience? The answer is that curses are a necessary part of the covenantal process by definition; the covenants recorded in G-d’s Torah constitute legal agreements between G-d and the Israelites. I say Israelites because we know that anyone (Jew or Gentile) who considers himself or herself a true believer, must necessarily follow the commands, laws, mandates, and rulings of YHVH/Yahshua as written in the Old and “New” Testaments. This statement is validated by Yahshua Himself in the Seven-fold witness in Revelation, Romans chapter 3, and John chapter 14, to name a few. The Orthodox view holds that these curses and the blessings are just for the “Jews”. Once again, if we look at how Yahshua defines a “true Jew” in Romans Chapter2-3, we see the Orthodox perspective is correct in a way in which they may not be aware. The covenantal agreements override the natural consequences of behaviors built into the system of the natural world G-d established during the creation. The covenant substitutes the curses as the consequences of the violation of G-d’s Torah. G-d and the Israelites agree to adhere to the covenantal obligations and accept the covenantal consequences of violations in place of natural consequences. Consequently, when we come to a reconciled relationship with G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice, in essence we sign the covenantal contract with G-d to adhere to His Torah; both the written and the Living (Yahshua) that necessarily encompasses the letter and spirit of the Law. This is why Jewish history does not fit the theories and models developed by secular historians to explain the history of societies.
The curses are non-conditional and they describe cataclysmic events that will befall the Jewish people as a public entity. Although we will be held individually accountable one day when we stand before Him, G-d clearly expects us to look out for our fellow believers as a community. We learned last week that we are not to stand by and let our brother’s ox or donkey run loose, and that other property must be cared for until the owner comes to reclaim it. We are not to allow harm to come to our neighbor’s property if we are in a position to act on their behalf (Deut. 22:1-4). Furthermore, we are to take precautionary measures in our own homes to prevent accidents (Deut. 22:8). This should be common sense, but there are individuals who choose to think and act reactively instead of proactively, if at all. This concept applies to all facets of life. This is why Yahshua repeatedly stated the greatest command is to “love the L-rd thy G-d with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind” (Matt.22:37” and the second as “love thy neighbor as thyself” Thy neighbor is defined as a fellow believer. If we place others first, following the other commands, mandates, and rulings of G-d will follow. Self-nullification is the way to ascend to G-d and this process is manifest in looking out for the “other guy.” Indeed, the motivation for placing the welfare of others before our own should be out of love for G-d. This applies to all facets of our lives; friendships, family, marriage, and our work relationships. Note that the curses and the blessings are addressed to the Jewish public rather than to individuals. According to Nachmanides, they are firm prophecies that describe real future events; they were never intended to be regarded as contingent possibilities, although the people most likely interpreted them as such. Nachmanides observed that the curses listed in Parasha Bechukotai foreshadow the destruction of the First Temple and its aftermath, while the curses in the parashah this week describe events that occurred during the destruction of the Second Temple and its aftermath. With our knowledge of the current events and the B’rit Chadashah, we can see the curses in both parashot apply to the world’s peoples today. Take special note of the last curse in Chapter 27:26!
Apart from the issue of predestination versus free will, the curses present a profound philosophical dilemma. Public tragedies such as what happened on 9/11 are the consequences of public transgressions. However, our sense of justice seldom concurs with this idea because we tend to think of ourselves as individual islands of humanity, with no personal accountability any longer. This belief system follows secular humanism which maintains that there is no Divine authority and no longer any fundamental truth. With that belief system, there is no right or wrong and society is supposed to embrace whatever and individual wants to express. According to principles of elementary justice, only public transgressions can provide justification for public punishments. But how is it possible for a people to transgress as a community? Where is the center of a people’s consciousness? Can a true national conscience exist? American society provides a perfect illustration of this concept.
The American secular society sanctions abortions and gay/lesbian marriages as legal. While studies show that at least for now the vast majority of people consider these practices morally wrong, secular society has enshrined the right of those who choose to participate in these activities/lifestyle choices without suffering any adverse social consequences. It is irrelevant that the majority of individuals consider these practices immoral. Unfortunately, the vast majority is fast becoming a silent minority. Just as G-d held the first Israelites (true believers) accountable to His Torah as a people, it remains a social responsibility to uphold the laws/instructions of G-d. This is true regardless of the fast that society has taught that G-d’s Torah has been abrogated. This is the “ostrich head in the sand” position. Some of the world societies actually believe that if enough people embrace total tolerance, that it is not only permissible, but taught as a correct way to live; total tolerance. The legal system in the United States is being eroded by minorities who speak the loudest and are now evolving into the majority due to support of their agendas by our government that is in direct contradiction to G-d’s Torah. When this happens, just as it did in Jerusalem before the destruction of the Temple, society as a group sanctions these changes. According to the prevailing social norm, it is obviously okay to kill unborn babies, to change one’s gender, and to lead a gay or lesbian lifestyle to include marriage. In the same way, a Jewish society that tolerates the establishment of Baal worship as the official state religion, or an American society that blatantly removes everything associated with G-d, righteousness, and protection of humans according to G-d’s Torah, is justly regarded by G-d as a society of idol worshippers. Anyone who critically reads the Torah will realize that the elimination of idol worship is a serious responsibility of anyone who considers himself or herself a true believer. If people have the legal right to serve the “Baal” without suffering any detrimental social consequences, then it must be acceptable for everyone to do so. Now we begin to see the connection between social morality and social accountability. We are not accountable for the way individuals behave as long as their activities are not the social norm. It isn’t possible to force people to live morally. But G-d holds societies accountable for the methods of behavior they sanction as acceptable even if they are only practiced by minorities. If it is legal and acceptable there is no reason other than distaste why everyone isn’t indulging; society does not consider it wrong. By taking G-d out of our society, there is no longer any fundamental truth. Without truth, there is no wrong. This is what our postmodern social norm is today and we are only just beginning to reap what we have sown in the form of the curses as foretold.
The curses outlined in the Torah describe future eras characterized by intense individual suffering in addition to the mass destruction of Jewish communities. The curses end with a guarantee of Jewish survival and refer to the eventual redemption. G-d has formally committed Himself to the survival of the Jewish people (Israelites in the context of the definition of true believers described by YHVH/Yahshua) to the point that 144,000 will be sealed to witness to Judah during the Great Tribulation prior to the appearance of Messiah Yahshua. Nevertheless, every instance of mass destruction of Jewish history wiped out the existing social structure that the Jewish people had erected permanently. This should serve as a warning to those in our country of the United States who built the Freedom Tower that is higher than the previous twin towers that were destroyed. In the past, individual Jews survived and repeatedly reconstructed new Jewish societies, but Jewish institutions, the public expressions of Jewish society, were utterly destroyed. G-d’s commitment to Jewish survival cannot be extended to manmade structures. The point is that every event of divinely ordained mass destruction is brought about by the gradual crumbling and disintegration of the social ethic, an evolving process that gradually unfolds over several generations. On the level in which G-d connected with the Jewish people in the first Temple era, a social ethic that could not tolerate the practice of idolatry was indispensable to the relationship. Individuals are responsible for the commission of sins, but the entire Jewish people are held accountable for the prevailing social ethic. When the tolerance of idolatry reached such proportions that it was no longer acceptable to ostracize people for practicing idolatry, in terms of social norms Jewish society could justifiably be termed as society of idol worshipers, even if the actual practitioners were few in number. G-d connects with the Jewish people (and all true believers) as a nation (the future bride of Yahshua). When the social norm deteriorated, He could no longer maintain His connection with the Jewish people; the result was the destruction of the first two Temples and the surrounding social structure. So what are we to do as believers?
We must turn to the social for an answer. The only way to alter social ethic is by protest. For even when people do not listen, when a good person expresses an opinion it makes an impact, the degree of which we cannot know until we stand before G-d. If enough believers raise their voices and apply their pens to paper in protest and object to something that is against G-d’s Torah, eventually the media will cover the protest; the subject of the protest becomes a matter of public debate; they often succeed in altering the social ethic and changing the world. This may be a totally idealistic proposal for we know the media is biased toward a specific political agenda and G-d’s Torah tells us the outcome of our world as we know it. Therefore some would take a fatalistic attitude and remain silent. However, there are actions we as believers may take that may make a difference in the olam haba (world to come) and possibly in the lives of some in this world. Our lifestyle lived for G-d is a form of active protest. We stand in the face of those who put jobs, family, money, or anything before their service to G-d. Donations to Torah -based organizations such as Right to Life is a form of protest against abortion. We can vote against proposed legislation that us against G-d’s Torah. Although G-d has ordained our path as a nation and as a universe, like the prophets of old, we should never cease to be a voice in the wilderness proclaiming G-d’s Torah through our actions and our speech. If we must suffer curses alongside an antinomian society, at least we can make the attempt to let our lights so shine before men that some may turn away from the social norm to be grafted in to the one true stick consisting of all true believers in the hand of YHVH/Yahshua. “Be strong, be bold, don’t be afraid or frightened of them, for Adonai your G-d is going with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deut. 31:6).
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22.
This week’s haftarah is the sixth of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.”
Isaiah recounts descriptions of what will unfold during the Redemption. Beginning with the resurrection of the dead and the ingathering of the exiles, the Jewish people (all true believers) will rejoice. Isaiah speaks of gifts that will be brought to G-d from all the nations of the world. The Jewish nation will no longer be despised and derided, there will no longer be violence or mourning, and G-d will shine His everlasting Light upon His people. This “Light” is of course Yahshua HaMashiach (Rev. 22:5). The bride (all true believers) will be married to her Groom (Yahshua) (Rev. 19:8), and they will live in the Father’s house forever (Psalm 23:6). Amein.
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 11:1-15
Paul tells the Messianic community in Rome that G-d has saved out 7,000 people who refused to submit to worship of Baal. This statement reflects back to the reign of Ahab and Jezebel that was one of the most depraved periods of the First Temple era. This couple introduced the worship of the idol Baal into the Kingdom of Israel, and established it as the official state religion. We see similar things evolving in our society today. So apparently widespread did this Baal religion become that G-d told the prophet Elijah: But I will leave over in Israel seven thousand people, all the knees that did not kneel to the Baal and every mouth that did not kiss it.” (1 Kings 19:18). This is 7,000 out of several million! This takes us back to the discussion on social justice and the curses. There were only 7,000 people who stood up against the idea of idol worship and refused to tolerate it and give it social sanction. They were forced to go into hiding because of their voluble protest against the social acceptability of the practice. Everyone else silently tolerated it to their own destruction, the destruction of the first Temple, and the removal of the Shekinah from among the people.
Paul reminds us that there is a remnant in the present era chosen by grace for those who are observant out of love to G-d’s commands, laws, statutes, and rulings. The ones chosen have obtained it [grace] but the rest have been made stone like as the Tanakh says, ‘G-d has given them a spirit of dullness- eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, right down to the present day.’ Reflecting back to our parashah we are told the same thing: “ Nevertheless, , to this day Adonai has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear! (Deut. 29:3). These statements in the Old and New Testaments validate the truth of G-d’s Torah and the reliability of His Word to the most empirically minded. Unfortunately, many fall into the aforementioned population and simply cannot see or hear G-d because they are too self-absorbed with their perceived intellect. It is important for us to know that YHVH alone prepares the human heart to receive Him. He may choose to use us in some way, but we must be open to submission to His orders. Matthew 13:15 describes the status of people who are not ready to receive YHVH/Yahshua. People who barely hear and look but do not perceive the truths of YHVH/Yahshua, will subscribe to a misplaced fear that adversities and testing meant for our ultimate good are really some sort of punishment. It all seems a matter of timing as those who grow in their Torah study can attest. Individuals with an honest desire to ascend to G-d are led by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to learn something new every time they read Scripture. They may read the same parashot year after year but learn something new with every reading. It is as if looking at a crystal from different angles in the light. This is because the timing must be right; the Ruach HaKodesh has perfect timing and knows when we are spiritually ready to learn another truth from G-d’s Torah. Our hearts must be prepared before we can understand (see and hear clearly) that which G-d has for us. As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, may we make a special effort to prepare ourselves to receive what G-d wants to teach us, that we may obtain full forgiveness from our fellow man and ultimately G-d while there is yet time.
Rabbi Tamah Davis