Va’etchanan – “And I Pleaded”

This week’s Parasha is V’Etchanan – it means “and I pleaded”.  It covers Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11.

This Torah portion covers two main themes – a reiteration of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20, as well as the Shema.  There is also a commandment of putting on Tefillin and affixing the Mezuzah to our doorpost.

In Deuteronomy 3, Moses had been pleading with the Lord to allow him to go into the Promised Land.  You may remember last month in Parasha Chukat, Moses and Aaron were instructed to speak to the rock and water would come forth.  “Must we bring forth water…?” (Taking credit for it themselves instead of crediting Adonai), God did not allow them to enter.

By this time, Aaron had already died atop Mt. Hor.  Moses once again asked God, “May I please go with my people into the Promised Land?”  God told Moses, “Do not speak to Me anymore about this matter”.  God then instructed Moses to go to the top of Mt. Pisgah and look west, north, south, and east.  He will see the Land with his own eyes, but will not enter.

Our hearts go out to Moses as he pleads with the Lord to let him enter the Land – something which has been his goal for 40 years.  What a painful lesson this was for him!  Hopefully, we can learn the lesson through example rather than pain.  You see, though God graciously forgives us when we repent of our sins, it does not mean we will not have to face very real consequences in the “here and now”.

God tells Moses to go and talk to the people and let them know that Joshua will be their leader and that they must encourage him.  Moses is making clear to this new generation that will enter the Promised Land that Joshua is God’s chosen leader.  In Chapter 4, Moses gives the Israelis a review of their journey through the wilderness.  They have come up the eastern shore of the Jordan River and are near Mount Nebo.  As Moses gives his final instructions, only two people are there who had made the entire journey with him – Joshua and Caleb.  Virtually all of their peers had died and were buried in the wilderness.  Now, the new generation is ready to enter the Promised Land.  As Moses recounts their trials and tribulations, he pleads with them to obey Adonai, who loves them.  They are to listen to the Law and follow it.  More importantly, they are not to add to the Law, nor take away from it.

This is a reminder that it is our natural, sinful tendency to add to the word, to make things for more complicated – just as the Pharisees did.  Of course, the other side of us says “I’m not comfortable with this portion of Scripture, so I think I will delete it or reinterpret its meaning”.  Obedience is our way of saying we love Him, too.

In Chapter 5, Moses instructs the people again about the Ten Commandments.  Notice that the first three commandments are vertical in nature.  One is “You shall have no other gods before Me” – there is only one God.  Two:  “You shall not make for yourself an idol” – we are to worship only Adonai.  If other things dominate our attention, our focus is not on the Lord.  Three: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”.  It is disturbing to see people identify themselves as Christians, but who are so willing to take the Lord’s name in vain.  When someone yells out “Jesus Christ” when they are upset, this is using the Lord’s name in vain, as well as claiming to be His follower but practicing dishonesty in business.  Four: “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy as the Lord God has commanded you” – to set apart the Sabbath Day to honor and worship God.  Five: “Honor your father and mother” – to respect one’s parents – “so that your days may be long and it may go well with you in the land your God has given you.”  Six: “You shall not murder.”  Seven:  “You shall not commit adultery.”  In Matthew Chapter 5, Yeshua told us that we are liable for these sins even if outwardly we appear innocent, but have harbored hatred or lust in our hearts.  We must guard our eyes and the intentions of our heart.  Eight:  “You shall not steal” — Notice it does not say, “You shall not steal big things.” Have you ever taken things home from work that weren’t yours, thinking you were entitled to them?  Nine: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” – – have you said things about friends that weren’t true, or spread rumors because you did not like someone?  Brothers and Sisters, Proverbs 19:5 comes to mind: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape”.

And the Tenth commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or anything that is your neighbor’s” — we have a tendency to want to “keep up with the Joneses”.  God gives us what we need, and then some, and we should be thankful for what He does not give us – namely, what we deserve – condemnation.

In Chapter 6, Adonai instructs Moses to tell the people to keep His commandments, statues and rules, and to remind them of His greatest commandment – the Shema.  Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad – Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

But the word Echad in Hebrew can mean a unity, a composite or a diversity, which allows for a unity that is more than one – a reflection of the triune God.  The Shema goes on to say, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” and we are to teach our children that.  We recite it almost every Shabbat.  In Mark 12:28, Yeshua was asked by one of the scribes, “Which commandment is the most important of them all? He answered, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  The two most important are “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might, and with all your strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.   Obey these two commandments and you will find that you are following all ten.

In our lesson today, we see the love Adonai had for His people Israel.  He loved them enough to set boundaries and instructions in obedience.

Yeshua was the only perfect example.  We are to strive to become more like Yeshua.  In Romans 7:15 – Paul says “I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the Law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who does it, but the sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me that is in my sinful nature, for I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out.”  This is a reminder that as wise as Paul was in walking with the Lord in a great way, he was still a sinner as we are.

The Israelis weren’t perfect during the time of crossing the Jordan, just as we aren’t perfect.  That is why we have always needed Adonai’s grace.  Our Mighty God has provided the way so that WE may be accepted in our Lord Yeshua.  He is the only way to the Father.  He Himself said as much.  There is no other way.  Do you trust Him to bring you to the Promised Land?  Are you obediently in His Word and applying His commands to your Life?

Brothers and sisters, my prayer for you is that you are actively seeking Him everywhere you are and in everything you do.