Ha'azinu / Listen

Deuteronomy 32:1-52

    This parsha begins with Moshe giving the last set of instructions before he passes. At the end of Ha'azinu, Elohim instructs Moshe to ascend to the summit of Mount Nebo to gaze upon the promised land, 'For you shall see the land opposite you; but you shall not go there, into the land which I give to the children of Israel.' 
     Last weeks Torah portion concluded with 'Choose Life!', instructing the children of Israel to choose God's ways. Ha'azinu, set in song is the continuation of Moshe instructing the people to not forget, to remember the days of old, to tell them to their children, and Moshe warns them about becoming complacent and arrogant. 
     In Deuteronomy 32:1, Moshe calls upon two witnesses: 'Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And hear O Earth, the words of my mouth!'
      He continues with: 'Let My teaching drop as rain, My speech distill as the dew as raindrops on the tender herb, as for I proclaim the name of the LORD...'
     The sages have said that listening is related to something that is near and hearing relates to something that is distant. Thus, we would expect that the term listen should be applied to the earth which is closer to man and the term hear to the heavens which are distant. They explain however, that the order of the verse is correct for Moshe was closet to the heavens that to the earth. 
     To align ourselves with the teachings of YHWH, we align ourselves to the dew and the rain. Psalm 72:6 - 'May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, Like showers that water the earth.'  Isaiah 45:8-- 'Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.'  Hebrews 6:7 - 'For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God..'
     The concept of the two witness is a thread in Scripture: Revelation 11, we see two witnesses and in Mark 6:7 Yeshua sends His Apostles out in pairs. There are the two witnesses of the land, Kaleb and Joshua in Numbers 13 & 14. Two or more are to gather, in Matthew 18:20-22. Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:5 states that there must be more than one witness, and 2 Corinthians 13:1 reiterates this concept. 
     In Deuteronomy 32:4, a rock is mentioned. 'He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice;Righteous and upright is He.'
Another translation states it this way: 'The deeds of the [Mighty] Rock are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful God, without injustice He is righteous and upright.'
     The Rock: 
The Chief Cornerstone: Psalms 118:22, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, 1 Peter 2:7, Acts 4:11.
The Stone of Stumbling: Isaiah 8:14, Romans 9:33. 
The Rock of Water:  Numbers 20, 1 Corinthians 10:4 
Psalm 78:35 - 'And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer.'
Genesis 49:24 - 'But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).'
Deuteronomy 32:15 - 'But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked-- You are grown fat, thick, and sleek-- Then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation.'
2 Samuel 23:3 - 'The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me, 'He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God.'
Psalm 42:9 - 'I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
     Deuteronomy 32:48-52 is the conversation between God and Moshe in regards to the promised land.  In Deuteronomy 32:51 God explains to Moshe why he will not be allowed to enter in. 'Because you trespassed against Me (broke faith with Me) among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me (uphold My holiness) in the midst of the children of Israel.'
     Luke 12:48 - 'But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.'
     Have we trespassed against the LORD?  Have we broken the faith or the covenant? Have we lacked in His holiness? Have we disregarded His Name/way/walk? By God bringing us into His ways, and by us taking hold of the covenant, we have been given much. Our eyes have been opened to so much truth and concepts. We have been allowed to enter in. 
     During these 10 days of awe, may we search our souls and commit our lives to one that completely revolves around Elohim. 
 Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   


Nitzavim / You Are Standing Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

When We Stand...

    Deuteronomy 29:9-13 -  'Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.  All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives, also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water. That you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.'

     This parsha begins with the penetrating words: therefore, keep, and do them. After that declaration, God instructs the camp to stand before Elohim.  Not just the men, but everyone was to stand before Elohim.  The people were instructed to stand in the covenant.

     What does it mean to stand before God, to stand in His word?

Psalm 93:5 - 'Your statutes, LORD, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.'  

Psalm 119:89-91 - 'Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.'

Philippians 4:1-2 - 'Therefore, my dear brothers whom I long for, my joy and my victor's crown, this is how you must stand firm in the LORD, dear friends.'

Revelation 20:11-12 - 'Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.'

     One of the strongest verses that contains standing before God, is when Elijah proclaims: 'As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand.' 1 Kings 15:1

     This solemn and remarkable praise to Elohim is said by Elijah during the trials of his life. It is also said by his successor, Elisha. Both of them say it under similar circumstances, as if revealing the very secret of their lives, the reason for their strength, the reason they get through the taunting that is done to them. We find four instances in their lives of the use of the phrase. Elijah says it abruptly for the first time to Ahab, to proclaim the coming of that terrible drought; and he bases it on the declaration: 'As the LORD lives, before whom I stand.' And again, when he is sent to confront Ahab once more, the same words comes, 'As the LORD of Hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him this day.' And then again, Elisha, when he is brought before the three kings, who taunt him and threaten him. And lastly, when Naaman tries to change the whole substance of Elisha's miracle, and turn it into an event done for reward, the prophet says:  'As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.'

     When someone stands, they have to stand for something. When we stand before the LORD we stand for His word. When we stand for the LORD, we stand for His word. We stand for His covenants, His truth and His ways.  As Deuteronomy 30:19 declares:  'Choose Life!"

L'Chaim!     Baruch HaShem!    Rabbi Jay Howard   


Ki Tavo / When You Enter  
Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

     The substance of Ki Tavo would probably be Deuteronomy chapter 28, the blessings and the curses for obedience and disobedience. The chapter begins with: "Now it shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God."
     It is at that point that YHWH goes into the blessings that He will bestow upon His people, when they take notice and obey the first paragraph of this chapter. '...If we diligently obey the voice of the Lord our observe all His commandments...'
     Deuteronomy 28:9 states that God Himself will establish us as a Holy people, IF we keep His commandments and walk in His ways.  This verse in the Torah is repeated in the Brit Chadasha in Hebrews 10:10-12, Romans 8:30-39, 1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 1:4, and in Psalms 4:3. 
     In regards to the repetition of this commandment, how can we say that the Torah was done away with?  If the Torah was now void, why would it be repeated in the Brit Chadash? We are a set apart people, to walk in His ways, not in our own reality of our own ways.
     This absurd way of reasoning is the path to confusion and chaos. It is the path to the curses that continues in Deuteronomy 28:15-68.  These curses continue until chapter 29 where then God reminds His people of all the wonders that He performed. Deuteronomy 29:1 plainly says: 'These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb.' 
    God is constantly giving His people warnings, signs, wonders, grace and mercy. He is continually reminding His people, 'look, I did this for you, now you do this.'  All He desires is that we love Him, and obey His word. It is through love and obedience that we bring glory to Him.  Otherwise, we bring glory to another or even ourselves.
     Gratitude / noun / the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
     In the beginning part of chapter 26, the first of the produce is given back to God. This is gratitude for being removed out of a pagan heritage and culture, and being delivered into the inheritance. By bringing the 7 species that the land is noted for was a form of devotion and gratitude back to YHWH in the fruit of His promise. 
     To offer thanksgiving is a wonderful thing:
1 Chronicles 16:34 - 'Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, His mercy endures forever.'
Psalms 100:4 - 'Enter His gates with thanksgiving...'
1 Thessalonians 5:18 'In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you'.
Psalms 95:2 - 'Let us come before him with thanksgiving and sing joyful songs of praise.'
Colossians 3:15 - 'Let the peace of the Messiah also rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body, and be thankful.'
Revelations 11:17 - 'We give thanks to you, Lord God All-Powerful. You are the One who is and who was.'
 Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   

Ki Teitzei / When You Go Out
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
The Nest and the Tree...

     In this Torah portion, there is the mitzvoh regarding the mother bird. If a person comes across a nest with eggs or young with the mother bird in the nest, he is first to chase her away before gathering the eggs.  By observing this commandment we will be rewarded with long life. There is another commandment in the Torah that is associated with this same reward. The Torah assures us that honoring one's parents is also promised with a long life.These two commandments share a common promise. Is this merely a coincidence? Is some relationship between these commandments?
     Typically, when a bird is approached she will fly away. But not when she is on her nest. The mother bird allows herself to be captured. This is because she is protecting her young. Her instinct, when confronted with danger, is to remain with her young. A human parent has the same instinct compassion for their children.  We, as children of our parents, receive this emotion of loving-kindness and protectiveness.  Therefore, we are obligated to respect and demonstrate our appreciation for this love through observing the commandment to respect and honor our parents. The mitzvoh about the mother bird is really about our understanding of our honoring to our parents and compassion. 
     In Deuteronomy 21:22-23 there is the commandment regarding the tree (stake). 'If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death, and his body is hung on a tree (stake) you must not leave his body overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.' 
     Often, this verse is used to denounce the deity of Yeshua as the Messiah. This is done by those who lean towards the thought that those of us that have become Torah observant are still clinging to the Christian practices as stated in an article 'Messianic Jews Are Not Jews'. The problem also rests in the fact that the largest Messianic organization still abides by many Christian theologies, therefore making it difficult to cross the boundaries. The argument from the anti-missionaries is; how can a savior be cursed? 
    The Messiah wasn't cursed - He took the sins and curses of all upon Himself, past, present and future. He wasn't the curse, nor was He cursed. He was purging the land, to reset it. This act now gives us the responsibility not enter into those sins and curses ever again. We are obligated to remove the lifestyle from our lives that kept us, and that keeps us from His glory and from truly understanding why He had to die. Why He died for us, willingly.
  1 Peter 2:24 states that He died on the cross for the sins (curses) in our lives. '...who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-by whose stripes you were healed.' 
   Exodus 34:7 states that our sins are generational curses. 'Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.'
   Deuteronomy 28:15-68 states that we strayed from the Torah and God's ways, therefore we were cursed.
    John 19:38, Matthew 27:57, Luke 23:50, Acts 13:29 tells that the body of Yeshua was removed before night fall and placed in the tomb. 'Now there was a Council member named Joseph, a good and righteous man...And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Yeshua, but secretly for fear of the Jews, sought Pilate that he might take away the body of Yeshua...When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.'
     In Galatians 3:13, Rabbi Shaul remezes/goes back to the passage in Deuteronomy 21.  'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree". 
     Redeeming us from the curse of the law of sin and death is not releasing us from the blessings of the Torah, when we live in obedience and in His instructions. It is bringing us back into the Torah so we can live a non-cursed life. For those who trust YHWH for the promises, the order for faith and obedience is set by the sequence in which the covenants were given. In other words, faith must precede obedience. But the kind of faith accepted by God is one that just flows into obedience through love. True obedience never comes before faith, nor is it an addition to faith. It is always the result of true biblical faith, not a man made faith. Remember that faith brings the birthright and obedience brings the blessings. 
     The Messiah hung on the stake to remove the curses imposed upon us by our disobedience. He took the sins of the world, not the Torah itself, which Rabbi Shaul calls holy and righteous in Romans 7:12, and the Psalmist calls the Torah of God perfect in Psalm 19.
    The Messiah was removed by Joseph of Arimathea before nightfall. In the Scriptures, desecration occurs when the holy is replaced by the profane or impure, the difference between the two being that the impure must be purified before it can be re-sanctified. This is where the death of the Messiah purged the sins of the land. 
   And in regards to the inheritance that is mentioned in the last part of Deuteronomy 21:23 - Psalm 33:12 reiterates this: 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.'     
 Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   

Shoftim / Justice     Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

Every word of God is for our benefit, our instruction and our redemption. The Torah is the foundation that we rise upon, that we build upon. The Brit Chadasha, or Renewed Covenent, reiterates the words of the Torah, never conflicting with it. We just have to realize that we are the ones that receive it wrongly when we are in chaos, or assume that it does conflict.

In Deuteronomy 17:18-20 God gives specific instructions to the kings that will one day rule. 'Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.'

The Hebrew word in this sentence for copy is mishneh. God was telling, God was instructing the kings to write a copy of the Torah, to keep it with them, to read it and to observe it. This was so that their hearts would not become puffed up and that stray wouldn't stray to the left or to the right.

In Deuteronomy 17:14, Elohim begins these instructions with: 'When you come to the land which the LORD God is giving you...

Processing that for us we see that we indeed go into the land, if not physically then spiritually, when we receive the Torah and the instructions.

And are we to walk in the order of Melektzadik, to walk as priests and kings? 'The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, you are a priest forever according to the order of Melektzadik.' Psalms 110:4. Yeshua is the High Priest - Hebrews 5 & 7, and we are patterned after this order and after Yeshua - Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10, and 1 Peter 2:9.

Yeshua taught that it is necessary for us to abide in Him and to let His Word abide in us in order for us to bear fruit in this life and to have complete joy in Him, John 15:1-11.

God is telling us as followers of the High Priest, in the order of Melektzadik, to write the scroll for ourselves and carry it with us always, so we now write it on our hearts - Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15, Hebrews 10:16.

We do not stray to the right or the left - Deuteronomy 5:32, 'So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.' And Proverbs 4:27, Joshua 1:7, and Joshua 23:6.

And we are to fear/awe/yirah the LORD and observe His commandments, Deuteronomy 8:6, Deuteronomy 10:13 and Ecclesiastics 12:13.

Are we humble? Ecclesiastics 12:9-14.

And what Kingdom are we in? We are in His Kingdom and it is at hand, Luke 17:21, Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15.

Our days will be prolonged, Deuteronomy 12: 28.

Now, rethinking those instructions in Deuteronomy 17:18-20, we can see how it relates to our lives today. In re-reading this verse, bring it into your life: 'Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.'

We are in the Kingdom, we are to have the Torah written on our hearts, we are with the High Priest, we fear/awe Elohim, we observe and do, we remain humble, we don't turn to the right or the left, and our days are prolonged.

We can truly see how every word of Elohim relates to us.

May you write a mishneh of the Torah on your heart...

Baruch HaShem!   Rabbi Jay Howard


Re'eh / See   Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Let Us See...

'So we don't forget', was the last sentence from last weeks email from parsha Eikev. We are to keep His ways in our everyday life and we are to see.
     'See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.' Deuteronomy 11:26-28.
     Elohim always gives us a choice. Imagine 2 sets of plates, 2 doors, 2 elevators, 2 roads, 2 cars, 2 of anything. One set represents the blessings of God, the other represents the emptiness of living a life without God, which would render the curses. 
    The blessings ~
    He blesses us with rain: 'Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.' Isaiah 45:8.  'That He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.' Deuteronomy 11:14.
   Rain is His word: 'For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater. So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.' Isaiah 55:10.
     'Give ear, O heavens, and let Me speak; and let the earth hear the words of My mouth. Let My teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb.'Deuteronomy 32:2.
     'May He come down like rain upon the mowed grass. Like showers that water the earth.' Psalm 72:6.
     When we chose life, which are His statutes and commandments, we receive His rain which represents His words as blessings. Within His Words are the keys to life, the keys to a redemptive lifestyle, the keys to His shalom, and the keys to His joy, simchat. This is where the blessings come from. 
     The curses ~
     Malachi 2:2 'If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My Name," says the LORD of hosts, 'then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart.'
     Here we see that 'listen' is a key component to the LORD and His Ways. The reference to Name represents a walk, therefore if we do not honor His Name, then we are void of any honor to the true walk of God. Then He sends the curse - which will be the lack of rain, which is the lack of receiving His Word and revelation into our own lives. Therefore we remain stuck. We remain in a system of our own demise or our own reality. 
     The result is, that over time our heart will grow hard. We become apathetic in a system that worships false gods.  'You will give them hardness of heart, Your curse will be on them.' Lamentations 3:65.
    'How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.' Proverbs 28:14.
     We are to listen, we are to see, we are to do. We need to be disciplining and training ourselves to see the consequential results of the choices that we make. The Torah teaches us that the very first act of understanding the Word is to listen: Shema Yisrael!
    More often than not, people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. There is a predisposed attitude that one might have which will slant any conversation. So, they repeat only what they think they saw and only what they wanted to hear. In doing so they wind up with an exaggerated form of what was truly said or seen.  Thus is the spin that happens when we really do not listen to what Elohim is truly saying and we do not truly see the blessings or the curses. 
     Blessings and curses, which can and will be the consequences of our actions, can lay dormant, sometimes for years. It is a wise person living in God's ways that will recognize either. Proverbs 13:14 - 'The one who despises the Word will be in debt to it. But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death.'  
     May we always strive to listen and see!

     Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard  


Eikev / Result of   Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25                                                                                                                                                                                   The Rewards...

     Eikev begins with 'Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers.' Deuteronomy 7:12.
     This is the blessing His people receive for their obedience to Him and His word.  
     'Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments...' Verse 9.
     Deuteronomy 8 is very clear that we are to remember the LORD. 
     Deuteronomy 8:2 'And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.'
     How could someone forget the LORD? How could someone not remember the LORD? The verse before this actually tells us how: 'Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers.'
     Elohim is stating that when we fail to observe the commandments and statutes of God, we forget who He really is. This is what happened after the rise of Constantine, the agenda of Marcion, and the apathy of our forefathers. We forget, therefore we make a new...
     Religion overtook God's ways, people became complacent and we 'forgot' who the LORD was. When we forget who God is, we become vessels of our own ways, our own laws and statutes, our own belief system. 
     Why is it still the belief of some people that the Torah was done away with? That Rabbi Sha'ul changed God's 4th commandment? That Yeshua was born on XMas day and that He will sit with us someday on Easter and enjoy our honey baked ham? Because people forgot.
     Verse 8:11 - 'Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today'... then you say in your heart, my power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'  Verse 8:17.
    When we teshuva/return and begin again to remember the LORD and His ways we are rewarded with His love. The rewards are abundant of mercy and grace to a people that He has set apart. It is then that we are able to walk in such a powerful influence from Elohim and that we can change our path and become the people He desires. We can become the influence of His mercy and light to those around us. We are rewarded with an access to have the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit through the Torah that weakens and removes the darkness that once engulfed us. 
    If we keep His ways, we are strong; 'Therefore you shall keep every commandment which I command you today, that you may be strong,' Deuteronomy 11:8.  When we keep His commandments we receive rain; 'And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season...'Deuteronomy 8:13.  We are able to overcome the nations that we were once apart of, which is the system of Egypt: 'For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves.' Deuteronomy 11:22-23.
     In this Torah portion, there is the second half of the Shema. Deuteronomy 11:18-21; 'Therefore you shall keep these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth...'
     So we don't forget.

     Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard  



The Shema...

    Within this Torah portion, we can make three columns of  Scripture. 
     In Deuteronomy 4:1 - Hear now, O Israel listen to the statutes and judgments which I teach you to observe that you may live. Deuteronomy 4:40 - You shall therefore keep the statutes and decrees that I command you this day that it may go well with you and your children after you. 
      In Deuteronomy 5:1 - That you may learn them and be careful to observe them. Deuteronomy 5:22 - We will hear and do. Within chapter 5 are the 10 Words. In 5:12 God tells us to observe the Sabbath Day as opposed to remember. 
     In Deuteronomy 6:1- 7:77 - These are the statutes and judgments...and... Therefore you shall keep them.
    Beginnings and ends - the bookends of each phrase.  In the first one God is telling His people their destiny. The second part is about covenant and respect and how to fulfill their mission. The last one is about monotheism and one focus - one God. 
    Within this parsha, in the middle part is the Shema which is the foundation of the Hebraic mindset. 
    The first sentence is: 'Shema Yisrael, YHWH Eloheinu YHWH Echad.  YHWH is often translated as Adonai. The original is written YHWH and would translate as Hear/Listen Israel YHWH GOD YHWH ONE.'  This verse is directly followed with, 'Baruch shem kavod malchuto l'olam va-ed.  Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.'  
     It is noteworthy that the second line of this part (Barukh shem kavod...) is actually not part of this passage from the Torah.  It's a congregational response from the days of the Temple, whenever the High Priest would say the Divine Name, the people would respond with this line.
     The message is clear and non-debatable. We are to love God with all our heart. We are to write His words on our hearts. We are to teach them diligently to our children. We are to be the Shema, live the Shema, breathe it and die for it. 

   There are some key words in this parsha; listen, hear, observe, do, remember. These are the pivotal words of the God we serve.    



Divine Conversation...

        Devarim or Deuteronomy. The title is taken from the opening sentence Eleh ha-devarim - 'These are the words...' This book is also called sefer devarim - 'The book of...'

     The events in Devarim point towards a life in the land for Israel, where they would live in peace and with echad/one in YHWH, and where His Torah and commandments are a divine gift as stated in Deuteronomy 4.  

     Words have great influences in our lives. Words are the power of death and life and are every day choices that we make. They are arrows wounding or words of edification. Words are carefully thought out or they are slung as messy speech. Words are kept or words are thoughtlessly abandoned.  

     But God's words are holy and righteous and pure. His conversations are Divine and should be treated as such. The words He speaks to us through the book of Deuteronomy are clear and concise of His will, character and desire for His people. Our words are not divine or holy. Our words can be tied in with emotions, agendas, anger, love, jealousy, bitterness, joy, calmness, anxiety, fear, worry, peace and more. But His is a Divine Conversation.

     'For the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edge sword.' Hebrews 4:12. 

     What exactly is the context of this scripture? We know that the word of God is living and abiding forever, 1 Peter 1:23. The word of God as the double edge sword would therefore have double functions.  It can penetrate, physician-like, to heal, to purify, to illuminate the depths and darkness of our soul, or it may pierce to furnish the irresistible evidence of our consequences.    

     The words of God accomplish His purpose - Isaiah 55:11 'So shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.'

     The words of God are pure - Psalm 12:6 'The words of the LORD are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.'

     The words of God are not to be added to - Proverbs 30:6 'Do not add to His words or He will reprove you and you will be proven a liar...'

     The words of God are for our instruction - 2 Timothy 3:16  All Scripture is God breathed...

      The words of God give us hope - Romans 15:4 'For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.'

     The word of God is a path to purity -  Psalm 119:9 'How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.'

     The word of God is forever - Isaiah 40:8 'The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.'

     The word of God is to live on - Matthew 4:4 'Yeshua answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

     All these are characteristics of the God we serve, the God that made us, the God of the Torah, of Yeshua, of creation, of life and death. If each single word is divine and divinely inspired and full of hope and pureness and flawless - why do we ignore His words?

     Joshua 1:8 revives us in the hope and the constructiveness of His Divine word - 'Keep this Book of the Torah always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.'

     What about our words back to God? Are they rightly spoken? Are they fit for the King of Kings? Are they full of pride? Or self debasement? Are they arrogant, or entitled? Do our words begin with me, myself and I? Or do they begin with Blessed are You O LORD our God...

     Divine Conversations must be met in the character of God. We can not be in divine conversation with Him if we ignore or cast down or blaspheme His Word, His Torah. How can we choose to listen to Him, yet not listen to Him? When we pick and choose the words of God that we want to hear or converse with it is at that point that we have made a choice to be like a god. It is then that we seem to give ourselves permission to agree or disagree with Elohim. We begin to debate with Him in regards to His Words. 'I agree with this...I don't see it that way...I'll receive that...I won't receive that...' This is a dangerous place to be. 

     We are sanctified by the truth - John 17:17 'Sanctify them by the truth: Your Word is truth.' And if Yeshua is the word, John 1:1, then He is the truth and if He is the Word then the word is truth. 

     Psalm 119:160 - 'The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever.'     

     Baruch HaShem!

    Rabbi Jay Howard