Friday, September 30, 2022

The Reversal of the Curse – or Not

 Those of us who are following the readings of the Torah portions which are now coming to their annual cycle’s end, are always faced with the amazing prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 30.  This whole chapter is very relevant in unveiling a mystery that has been hidden for three thousand years.  In this case, the meaning of one Hebrew word can help to disclose the identity of YHVH’s ancient (and who were to become hidden) people.  Such is, for example, verse 4: "If your outcasts (nadach) are at the ends of the earth, from there YHVH your Elohim will gather you, and from there He will bring you back” (Deuteronomy 30:4 emphasis added).  In Isaiah 11:12 the same word is used again:  “And He [YHVH] will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished (nadach) ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah” (emphases added).  Then verse 6 of Deuteronomy 30 is all about the promise that will be fulfilled in the New Covenant, as is recorded in Jeremiah 31:31. “Moreover YHVH your Elohim will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6).

The season before Yom Kippur is a time of introspection, but we also have to look at it as a time to remember these words of Moses that pertain to Israel as a whole.  Our history is of utmost importance in the overall witness of our covenant-keeping Elohim and regarding the return of His redeemer son, Yeshua.  We have been, and still are, His ensign throughout all generations, especially now in the latter days (see Jeremiah 31). 

I received today a link to a TBN interview with Jonathan Cahn about his new book, Harbinger II, subtitled “the Shaking of America to its Core”.  In some of his books Cahn speaks about the judgements upon ancient Israel and then makes an application to the United States and the Church.  It always amazes me that of all the mysteries that he speaks about, the one that he does not yet see is the “mystery of the blindness of Israel” (ref. Romans 11: 25-26), the uncovering of which could turn around the judgments of the Almighty upon a nation.  The last chance before employing the curse, that the prophets of old give is at the end of Malachi: "And he [Elijah] will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children/sons, and the hearts of the children/sons to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse" (4:6).  

What is hidden in Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 30 is brought to light at the end of the age, when this Elijah message reveals the faithfulness of YHVH to the covenants that He made with Israel’s forefathers.  The revealing of the Abrahamic faith in His people, especially the lost sheep of the house of Joseph, is paramount to the reversal of these end time curses.  The condition for overturning curses is laid out clearly in 2nd Chronicles 7:13-14, which also enumerates the curses that we are facing, "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people,  and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (emphases added).  YHVH has been revealing in these last days who are His people. He has conferred upon Jacob, and then Joseph and his two sons Ephraim and Menashe, as well as upon both Houses of Israel (Ephraim and Judah) the same name as the one by which He names the Messiah - “Israel” (ref. Isaiah 49:1-3). What has been hidden is now being revealed in the very Gospel of the Kingdom which is being restored to those to whom it belongs (Acts 1:6-8; 3:19-21). 

Immediately upon embracing by faith Elohim’s resurrection of His Son, (see Romans 3:23-25), newly-come believers should be told about the faith of their father Abraham, who believed that Elohim could bring forth life from a dead womb. The apostle makes a very strong case for the person who believes this fact: “… those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). Then again in Galatians he writes about those who are in Messiah, as having the faith of Abraham their father “And if you belong to Messiah, therefore you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (3:29 “therefore” is in the original Greek).

 As long as there is a denial of our identity as being the seed/sons of those covenanted forefathers, the curses will continue to be in effect and most likely get worse.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Parashat Va’yelech – Dvarim (Deuteronomy) Chapter 31


While Parashat Nitzavim (“standing” as compared to “and he went/walked”) focuses on the “crossing over” of the Hebrew people, Parashat “Va’yelech” starts with… the “going” of Moshe: “va’yelech Moshe,” that is “and Moses went, and continues with: “and spoke these words to all Israel” (31:1). These words of introduction, “Moses went”, regarding the statements that the elderly leader was about to make to his compatriots is quite curious. Was it a hint of his impending departure, and that he was ready to proclaim this fact to all Yisrael? Indeed, Moshe continues: “I am a hundred twenty years old today. I can no more go out and come in. Also YHVH has said to me, ‘You shall not go over this Jordan’” (31:2, italics added). Notice the elderly leader’s words, “I can no more go out and come in,” which in Hebrew is: “la’tzet ve-lavo” [literally “to go out” and “to come in”). The previous Parashot [plural for Parasha], Ki Tetze, “when you go out”, and Ki Tavo”, “when you come in”, seem to be related (respectively) to these words of Moshe about “going out to war” (Deut. 21:10), and “coming into the land” (26:1). Thus, paraphrased, Moshe is implying the following: “I am not able to lead you in war, and neither am I able to enter the land with you”,

But whereas Moshe will not be accompanying the people, he consoles them saying that “YHVH your Elohim will cross before you” – which is once more the familiar “over” (a.v.r – the root of “Hebrew”).*  “He will destroy these nations before you,” and in addition, Yehoshua will also “go – pass, cross - “over” - before you” (v. 3). Verses 6, 7, and 8, spoken to Yisrael and to Yehoshua summarize all of the above:  "’Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them [the people of the land]; for YHVH your Elohim is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.’  Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and of good courage, for you will be the one to go with this people to the land which YHVH has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it.  And YHVH is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed". Notice the repetition of “be strong and of good courage”, and of “YHVH is the One who goes with/before you”. YHVH is with His people, He is also with their leader, and at the same time is also going before/ahead of both.

The third expression which is repeated in the above passage: “He will not fail you nor forsake you” is, “lo yar’pecha, ve-lo ya’azovcha”. “Yar’peh” – translated “fail” - is rooted in r. p/f. h (resh, pey/fey, hey), meaning to “become weak, let go, be negligent, or remove”. In Tehilim (Psalms) 46:10 it says, “Be still and know that I am YHVH”. However, in Hebrew the rendering is “harpu”, literally “let go”, or “become weak”. Because YHVH will not “let go” of His people, they are the ones who must do the “letting go” and become “weak” before Him, and in so doing they will know that He is the Elohim who alone can give them strength. Shaul (Paul) echoes this when he says: “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weakness, that the power of Messiah may overshadow me” (2nd Corinthians 12:9 italics added). The next verb (of the above-mentioned expression, “lo yar’pecha ve-lo ya’az’vecha”) is Azav (ayin, zayin, bet/vet), and means, “leave, abandon or forsake”. It is also used elsewhere in our Parasha, although in a different connotation, as we shall see at once.

Thus verses 16 and 17 of Dvarim 31 record: “And YHVH said to Moses, ‘Behold, you shall sleep with your fathers. And this people shall rise up and go lusting after the gods of the strangers of the land into which they are going, into their midst. And they will forsake Me – ve’azavani - and break My covenant which I made with them. Then My anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them - ve’azavtim…’” (Italics added). Verse 5 reveals to us that there is a condition for being preserved by YHVH: “…do to them [the nations in Cna’an - Canaan) according to all the commandments which I have commanded you,” to not “go lusting after [their] gods,” thereby forsaking the true One. Nevertheless, in verse 16 we read that “This people shall rise up…” which is “ve’kam”. In last week’s Parashat Nitzavim (Det. 29:13) it said: “…that He may establish you today for a people to Himself…” which is literally “that He may raise you up… - hakim”. Hence, it is the very people, whom YHVH was raising up – establishing - who “shall rise up and go lusting after the gods of the strangers…” (italics added).

In the two examples above (and in many similar ones throughout the Tanach, some of which we examined very recently), we see the usage of identical words or derivatives of the same root for the purpose of conveying contrasting messages. This method highlights or enhances an idea, and at times adds a touch of irony and a moral to the story or the description at hand.

YHVH is commanding Moshe to call on Yehoshua in order for both to “present” themselves in the Tent of Meeting (31:14); a command which is designated by the imperative “(ve-hit)yatzvu”, of the root that we encountered in Parashat “Nitzavim”.  In presenting himself, therefore, Yehoshua is to make a “firm stand” and a commitment.

Last week we encountered "the hidden things – "nistarot" - that "belong to YHVH", while "those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (29:29). This renders the Torah laws as not hidden or mysterious, in other words, "doable". In the present Parasha, the sins that Yisrael will be engaging in will incur "hiddenness"… of YHVH's face from them (31:17). Whereas before He is said to be taking care of that which is hidden, relieving His people of certain burdens, now it's their lack of obedience that will cause Him to hide His very face (rather than taking care of the "hidden matters").

Further connection to Parashat Nitzavim is evident in the concept of “witness” – testimony “ – “ed”, masculine, and “eda”, feminine. In the previous Parasha, heaven and earth were summoned as witnesses (30:19). Now the “Song” (which constitutes the following Parasha), the book of the Torah (which of course contains the "Song"), and heaven and earth (again) are singled out as witnesses. The “Song”, in particular, is to “testify as a witness” against the people, “when many evils and troubles have found them” (31:21). “Testifying” in this particular case is “an’ta” (of the root a.n.h – ayin, noon, hey), meaning to “respond or answer”, as according to verse 19 the “Song” will be “in the mouths of the Children of Israel.” Therefore, when they recite this Song, their own words shall “respond” to, or echo, their evil actions and become a testimony against them. This brings to mind Parashat Nitzavim’s: “the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it” (30:14 italics added), which is the other side of the same proverbial coin. Another usage of “ta’aneh”, “respond”, in relationship to “witness” is found in Sh’mot (Exodus) 20:16 and Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 5:20, where it says: “You shall not bear – “ta’aneh”- respond” - a false witness against your neighbor”. In view of this, we may ask: are the things that we say and do but mere responses, or answers bearing testimony to a ‘Primary Moving Cause’ (be it YHVH or the adversary)?

In 31:10-11 we read: “And Moses commanded them, saying, ‘at the end of seven years, at the set time of the year of release, in the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel has come to appear before YHVH your Elohim in the place which He shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.’” The word for “read” is “kara” (k.r.a, kof, resh, alef), meaning to "read, recite, call”. At the end of the Parasha, in verse 29, it says: “For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will happen to you in the latter end of the days…”  Moshe predicts that “evil” will “happen to you”, which is rendered here ve’karat, and shares the same root as the aforementioned “kara” (“read”). However, as a rule, the spelling for “happen” (albeit of the same sound as “read” or “recite”), is different and therefore has another root (as we have seen several times already in the past). Thus, the special rendering and spelling of “happen” in this particular case incorporates, as it were, the verb for “reading”. Hearing the Torah read while turning away from it and from its Giver will result in evil befalling or happening to those who know better yet choose to rebel against its Giver (and against their own better judgment).

“Over” is pronounced like “overt,” minus the “t” sound

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Truah of YHVH

 The first day of the seventh month is called, ”the Day of the Remembrance of the Loud Sound” (“truah”).  What this “sound” or “voice” is understood to be about, is the sound of the Shofar on Mount Sinai at the time of the giving of the Torah.  In the instructions given about this day, in Leviticus 23:24, the translations insert trumpet but that Hebrew word is not there, and neither is shofar.  The shout or the loud sound is in essence to remember YHVH’s voice.  But what specifically are we to remember?  The " voice " often called out to Israel to remember that YHVH brought them out of the land of bondage and slavery.  Now that we identify as the lost sheep of the House of Israel, we need to be reacquainted with the voice of YHVH the Elohim of our forefathers, just as every generation before us had to do. Here is YHVH’s TRUAH to us, in this generation:

And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and YHVH your Elohim brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore YHVH your Elohim commanded you to keep the Sabbath day”  (Deuteronomy 5:15).  "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” {Exodus 20:8).  (And the other commandments.)

“you shall remember well what YHVH your Elohim did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt:  the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which YHVH your Elohim brought you out” (Deuteronomy 7:18-19).  

"And you shall remember that YHVH your Elohim 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” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

"You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and YHVH your Elohim redeemed you” (Deuteronomy 15:15).  

Since at this time, the Spirit is turning the hearts of the seed of the forefathers back to their identity, we are to "remember the Torah of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments”  (Malachi 4:4).  

 If you are one of those who have had the revelation that you are of the lost sheep of the House of Israel, then you are to recall to mind the above quoted scriptures, as they are the proverbial sound of the TRUAH from the past which is still reverberating today.  You would not be here now if any of your forefathers had died along the generational trail, just as is written in Jeremiah 31:1-2:  “I will be the Elohim of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people. Thus says YHVH, ‘the people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness -- Israel, when I went to give him rest’".

In the same context, YHVH declares emphatically that He has not forgotten but remembered His prodigal son: “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says YHVH” (Jeremiah 31:20 emphasis added).  Then almost in the same breath, His voice is heard again as He establishes a “New Covenant with the House of Israel and Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). We are privileged to live in the reality of this covenant, as long as we “remember”, not just one day, but every day, to live by faith and obedience to the risen Messiah Yeshua and the power of His indwelling Spirit. Remembering the mighty right arm of the Father, Yeshua, who brought us out of the kingdom of darkness, slavery to sin and death, giving up His life so that we might have eternal life.

“Therefore remember that you once were like heathens in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands…  But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah” (Ephesians 2:11, 13 emphasis added).

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Nitzavim – D’varim (Deuteronomy) 29:10-Ch.30


Parashat Nitzavim may be subtitled “The Hebrew People - A Testimony of the Covenant and of the Promises”. Although Nitzavim is translated "You stand…" - it actually means "standing in position, standing firmly, or taking a stand", the root being (yod, tzadi, bet/vet), and the definition is “set, establish or take a stand.”[1] According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh, however, the root is tz.v.v (tzadi, vet, vet), and means “cover while moving.” [2] Embodied in this Parasha (as well as in the next, Parashat Va’yelech), is the definition of the nation as well as the ultimate promise of grace. Interestingly, about the “nations” which “rage” and “the peoples” who “contemplate a vain thing”, with their “kings and rulers” (mentioned in Psalm 2:1-2), it is said that they “take their stand together against YHVH and His Anointed…” (v.2). In Hebrew “take their stand” is, again, “yit’ya’tzvu”, which places the latter in a parallel but contradictory position to those who are now standing in solemn formation before entering the land promised to them by their Elohim. Thus, as these two “stances” are placed side by side, one is left with a choice of, where to stand and with whom


The familiar verb "avor" which means “to pass, go through, go over, enter”, and the noun and verb forms of "witness or testimony” ("ed"), show up more than once. The Hebrew people, YHVH’s witnesses, are characterized, as we know, by ‘crossing’ or ‘passing over, hence different aspects of this action are presented in the text.


But why are the “passers over” standing “in position” or “formation”? “That you may enter ("avor") the covenant with YHVH your Elohim, and enter ("avor") into His oath [alah – an oath that if broken incurs a curse; in 30:7 it is used as “curse”] which YHVH your Elohim is making with you today, in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your Elohim, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of YHVH our Elohim and with those who are not with us here today" (29:12-15). With all the crossing over of the Hebrews, the passing/crossing over into the covenant is of prime importance. Notice also the far-reaching aspect of the covenant, to those “not with us today”, thus pointing to the continuity of the people of Yisrael and to generational unity within the boundaries of the covenant. Moreover, in 29:10-11 the text stresses the all-inclusiveness of the covenant by addressing “all of you”, as well as by enumerating the entire social structure of the nation: “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”.


Covenant” – “brit” – is of the root b.r.t (bet, resh, tav), meaning “cut". “Making a covenant” – “karot”- is another verb for “cut” (or fell a tree, for example). Consequently, in making the covenant there is a double cutting as it were, which points emphatically to separation from one’s former situation, both naturally and spiritually (and is signified by the cutting entailed in the physical circumcision). By the same token, by transgression one may experience a “cutting (again, k.r.t, e.g. Lev. 7:20) … away” from the boundaries prescribed by the covenant.  


This covenant, being two-sided, is therefore like a two-edged sword. Abba laid down the conditions, but knowing the infidelity which is characteristic of His children’s hearts, He also built into the covenant the promise of grace. In other words, ultimately it will be Him only who will make possible its fulfillment, as is seen so vividly in 30:3-10. In verse 6 He promises that at a later time He will “circumcise the heart” of His people. “Circumcise” is designated by the root m.u.l (mem, vav, lamed), meaning… “to cut”, once again.   In between this promise of grace and the warnings of transgressing His commandments (29:16-28), we read in 29:29: “The things hidden are to YHVH our Elohim, and the things revealed are to us and to our sons -- that we may do all the words of this Torah” (literal translation, italics added). Disobedience cannot be excused by claiming that the Torah is mystical and concealed, and as if this is not enough it says in 30:11-14: "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us that, we may hear it and do it?'  Nor 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, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it”. The word for “mysterious” here is different from the one employed in 29:29 for “hidden”. The present term (v. 14) for “hidden” is “niflet”, rooted in p.l.a (pey, lamed, alef. See Shoftim - Judges 13:18, 19 and Tehilim - Psalm 139:6, in both this word is translated “wonderful”). However, having said all of the above, in the next Parasha (chapter 31) there is a warning that could result in situations where YHVH will hide His face from His people (31:17).


Repentance and turning to YHVH accompanies restoration which is expressed in the 30:3-10 passage, where all the verbs are in the ‘active causative form’, denoting that He is both the initiator and the ‘enactor’. Not only does He take it upon Himself to enable the fulfillment of the covenant, and at a later date sends Yeshua to carry all of our afflictions and sufferings, but in 31:13 it also says that "YHVH your Elohim [is He] who will cross (over) ahead of you" (31:3 italics added). YHVH is truly the Elohim of the Hebrews! He goes ahead of them by "crossing over" Himself! At the same time, together with the “crossing” or “passing over” we have here one of those Hebraic dichotomies indicated by “standing firmly”. The blend of both is the desired condition and status designated for the People of Yisrael. And indeed, we see Yeshua crossing  - “over”* – ahead of us, entering within the veil giving us a hope which is sure and steadfast – “yatziv” (ref. Heb. 6:19, 20, Hebrew translation of the Greek, being also of the root Thus, with a “yatziv” (sure) hope, we are enabled to be steadfast and stand firmly while crossing over.


In the meantime, this drama of the covenant nation, its unfaithfulness, and the grace granted it is to unfold in front of the entire universe and creation. The testimony – witness - “ed” – is being established by calling upon heaven and earth (ref. 30:19). The Song of Moses (referred to in Parashat Va’yelech 31:21 and presented in chapter 32) is the written record that serves as a witness, as does the Torah too, which is to be kept in the ark in the Holy of Holies (31:26).


The desolate land (29:23-28) will also bear witness to the unfaithfulness of the people, both before their own sons' eyes and in front of the foreigners (v. 22), as will their banishment from it (i.e., the land). All this is with a view toward the end that, the Hebrew people themselves will become a witness and a testimony nation. "You are my witness, declares YHVH" (Is. 43:10), to the fact that He is the Elohim of Yisrael, the Elohim of creation, and the Elohim of the universe.


As we have already seen, the covenant pertains to this present-day generation (see 29:14-15), just as much as it did to those who lived back then. Therefore, we too are to "stand firm in position", standing our ground today, to be a covenant people and a witness to the Elohim of the covenant, the Elohim of Yisrael, the Elohim of the Hebrews - the Elohim of grace.


 [1] The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown Hendrickson. Publishers, Peabody, Mass. 1979.

 [2] Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, Rabbi Matityahu Clark, Feldheim       

Publishers, Jerusalem, New York.

·       “Over” is pronounced like “overt,” minus the “t” sound.


Friday, September 16, 2022

The Sign and World Events

 In a recent meeting, the question as to what was the sign of Yeshua’s coming was raised.  In response, it was pointed out that Yeshua specified what that sign would be in Mathew 24:14:  "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness/sign to all the nations, and then the end shall come”.  Nevertheless, is the “sign” of His coming 'only' the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to the entire world, or does the "sign" also consist of world events that are taking place while this glorious message is being declared in all nations?  Perhaps they both go hand in hand and are inextricable one from the other because, reading on, from verse 15 through 29, we see Yeshua addressing the “elect” or the called-out ones, regarding those days and cautioning this remnant not to be deceived (v. 24).

Yeshua warned that this end-time tribulation will be catastrophic in nature, so much so that none in the past or in the future will compare to it (v.21).  It is the wrath of the Lamb - the Son of Elohim, that will execute this distressing period.  He will be watching over every aspect.  This week’s Parasha, with its enumeration of the curses, gives an accurate indication of what may be on the horizon.  The cup of iniquity has to be full before Yeshua takes it and pours it out, just as the tares and the wheat must also come to full maturity before the Lord of the Harvest takes out the former to be burnt. 

Years ago, I came across an observation regarding the cause of the tribulation, and that is the gathering of the remnant that responds to the Gospel of the Kingdom.   As it is stated in the Matthew text, the elect is destined to go through this turmoil.   Elohim's chosen ones house His Kingdom within them, the nature of which is Yeshua's Light.  They are not the ones executing the curses upon the nations, on the contrary, they are learning what it means to be a living sacrifice under those circumstances.  Even though subject to the horrific conditions all around them, they are comforted by a living hope. They are learning first-hand what the apostle wrote in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Messiah, and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).  In the coming days the reality of Yeshua's presence will be so intimate and tangible, it will be like seeing Him face to face.

This period is Yeshua’s greatest hour. The times of the Gentiles\nations are nearing their end, and what was prophesied of Him before He was born into this world is about to be fulfilled, that is to set up the everlasting Kingdom in the House of Jacob (ref. Luke 1:33), and to restore His Father’s ancient people, the tribes of His inheritance.  He will take them out of the nations and bring them back to their promised land. He will fulfill all that has been spoken about them in the writings of prophets of old.  Israel will be what they were called to be - a firstborn nation that the rest of the nations will respect and honor, not because of who they are in themselves, but because of the glory that is upon them. This Shabbat's Haftara reading describes it well:

  "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHVH has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; But YHVH will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you.  And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3).

The above points out very clearly that during a time of deep darkness, the light of the Kingdom will be “rising”. As a result, it will be at war with the kingdom of darkness. Yeshua will not hold back any of the curses resulting from iniquity and rebellion, even reintroducing some of the ten plagues of Egypt (see Deut. 28:60; Rev. 16).  

Our Heavenly Father is giving us time to get our act together and be prepared for the turbulent days ahead ("Jacob's Trouble", Jeremiah 30:7). This requires a deepening of our understanding of what it means to be immersed in the body of Messiah. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized/immersed into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). The world, on the other hand, offers us a variety of “mixed drinks”. It is time to get up from the table of the demons and recline at the table with Yeshua, even like the disciple, who leaned on His chest.  

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Ki Tavo – D’varim (Deuteronomy) 26 – 29:9


 When you have comeki tavo – into the land…” informs us that “living in Israel is the assumption behind the Torah itself,” to quote Nehemiah Gordon.[1] And whereas last week’s Parasha raised the issue of the firstborn son, this week the Parasha deals extensively with firstfruit (both of which belong to YHVH, ref. Ex. 13:2; 22:29; 23:19, Num. 18:13). Here in 26:2 and 26:10, just as in Shmot (Exodus) 23:19, the term used is not “bikkurim” but rather “resheet”, which literally means “beginning”. (In Parashat Emor, Vayikra-Leviticus 21:1-24:23 we dealt extensively with this term, as it applies to the Beginning/First of the Omer, 23:10).  It is the very term which is attached to the Messiah who is IN the beginning and who IS the beginning (John 1:1-2). Rendering to YHVH the first fruit/beginning that belongs to Him can be done only in the land of Yisrael. The triune bond of the Heavenly Father, His people, and the land is expressed here in a most poignant way. “And it shall be, when you have come into the land which YHVH your Elohim is giving to you as an inheritance, and you have possessed it, and live in it; then you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground which you shall bring in from your land which YHVH your Elohim is giving to you, and shall put it in a basket, and shall go to the place which YHVH your Elohim shall choose to cause His name to dwell there” (Deut. 26:1,2 italics added). Once the Israelite person is well established in the land that YHVH has caused him to inherit, and once that land yields its produce that same Israelite is to render back to YHVH the first/fruit/beginning of the produce while doing so only in the place and in the manner prescribed by Him.

“And the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and place it before the altar of YHVH your Elohim. And you shall speak and say before YHVH your Elohim…” (26: 4). Now the Israelite is bidden to recount before YHVH some of the history of his people (v. 5ff), which of course highlights YHVH’s indispensable role, generating thanksgiving in the said Israelite worshipper, as well as a greater sense of oneness with his ancestors and with the future generations. And so (as we have noticed in many other instances), place, time, and people all come together under the sovereign rule of YHVH.

However, the declaration: “… And you shall place it before YHVH your Elohim, and bow yourself before YHVH your Elohim” (26:2), along with the presentation of the fruit in the basket, does not end this particular activity. In verse 11 we read: “… and rejoice in all the good which YHVH your Elohim has given to you, and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the alien who is in your midst”, immediately leading to: “When you have made an end of tithing all the tithes of your increase the third year, the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow, that they may eat inside your gates, and be filled…” (v.12). Thus, issuing from recalling the historic continuum, are joy and a sense of gratitude that leads to concern for and empathy with the less fortunate.

In Parashot R’eh and Shoftim (2 and 3 weeks ago, respectively, and before that in Parashat Mishpatim Ex. 21-24) we encountered the root (bet, ayin, resh), used in reference to YHVH’s burning anger, and also in regards to removing any and all impurities from Yisrael’s camp, hence meaning, to “burn, purge or consume” (in Mishpatim we examined this root closely, finding several more meanings not mentioned here). Last week’s Parashat Ki Te’tzeh also cited several times this term in regards to sexual impurity (22:13-24), with one more reference to kidnapping (24:7).  Here this term is used once more, but surprisingly in a very different context: “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year -- the year of tithing -- and have given to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before YHVH your Elohim: 'I have removed the holy tithe from my house… I have not eaten any of it when in mourning...‘” (Deuteronomy 26:12-13, 14 italics added).  In Hebrew both “I removed” and “I have [not] eaten” are rendered as “bi’ar’ti”. This further emphasizes the potential for YHVH’s burning anger to be kindled if one were not to fulfill the above-mentioned requirement of rendering that which is set apart (kadosh) for those to whom it is due (i.e. the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow).  

Let's reiterate, the individual Israelite, who is responsible before his Elohim for handing over the initial yield of his land, for thanking Elohim and rejoicing before Him, is at the same time also to encompass the needy ones within his gates, since doing so is as good as “lending to YHVH” Himself (ref. Prov.19:17).

The afore-mentioned address made to the Israelites (in chapter 26) is in the second person singular, which constitutes, as noted before, a means to underscore the individual responsibility to be borne by each person (as well as the oneness of the people – one and all). The confession, however, that the Israelite worshiper is to make is in first person plural, denoting the collective national identity in relationship to YHVH (vs. 5-9). In verse 10 there is an immediate change, again to the first person, as the focus shifts back to the individual’s responsibility and relationship with his Elohim. Verses 17-19 sum up the ‘transaction’ which will take place: “You have today declared YHVH to be your Elohim, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes and His commands, and His judgments, and to pay attention to His voice. And YHVH has declared you today to be His people, a special treasure as He has spoken to you, and to keep all His commands. And He will make you high above all nations that He has made, in praise, and in name, and in glory; and that you may be a holy people to YHVH your Elohim, as He has spoken” (italics added). The verb “declared” in both instances is “he’emir,” of the root a.m.r (alef, mem, resh), meaning to “say, utter, declare, speak”. However, because “he’emir” is an unusual conjugation, rather than the regular “amar”, some translate it “elevate”, stemming from the root word “a’mir”, which is “top or summit” (for example, “uppermost branch” in Isaiah 17:6). The wilderness journey had seen many incidents of rebellion, as Moshe states in Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 9:24: “You have been rebels against YHVH from the day that I knew you”. There, as in many of the other references to the Israelites’ rebelliousness, the word used is “mam’rim” of the root m.r.h. This sad fact, is stated in alliteration form in Tehilim (Psalms) 107:11: “They defied Elohim’s words” – “himru ee’mrey El”, and another alliteration is found in Tehilim 106:20, "they exchangedva'ya'miru – their glory for the glory of an ox". Both of these (himru and he'emiru) find their ‘remedy’ (tikkun) in the present term - “he’emiru” - that is in the definitive action of the Israelites “saying and declaring” YHVH’s “elevated” words, deeds and goodness toward them. Additionally, we can't fail to see that in the second part of this "transaction", YHVH promises to make His "special treasure" – the segula – "high above all nations".

The rest of the Parasha is mostly devoted to the blessings and the curses (chapter 28). Even the undertaking in the future, of writing the Torah on “large stones” after crossing the Yarden and reading it to the people, is intended to illustrate vividly the extant dichotomy of “blessings” and “curses”, as this event was to take place between the “Mountain of Blessing” and the “Mountain of Curse”.  And, as if to make sure that the people will understand the simple equation of ‘obedience equals blessings - rebellion equals curses’, it says: “And you shall write on the stones all the words of the law very plainly” (27:8). “Very plainly” is “ba’er heytev”, and while we have already examined once the verb “ba’er” (and its connection to “be’er,” “well” – in Deut. Ch. 1), here we encounter the additional “heytev”, of the root “tov” - well, good, pleasant”. “Ba’er hey’tev”, then, is plainly “do a good job of explaining and making the meaning clear and simple”.

Moving now to the blessings versus the curses, we take a look at 28:1 (regarding the blessings) and at verse 15 (the opening verse of the passage enumerating the curses) and read the following commentary: “Particularly remarkable is the difference between the emphatic double phrase of obedience used in the positive passage: ‘If thou shalt diligently hearken (shamo’a tishma)’ and the bare: ‘if thou shalt not hearken’ in the negative one. … Rashi, following Talmudic exegesis interprets the idiomatic doubling of the verb in a conditional sense: ‘And it shall be,’ im shamoa, ‘if thou shalt hearken’, tishma, ‘then thou shalt continue to hearken’. Though grammatically this is not the implication of the verb doubling, it nevertheless expresses a deep psychological truth that once man has started on the right path, his progress becomes easier, gathering momentum with each fresh good deed. Maimonides also observed: ‘The more man is drawn after the paths of wisdom and justice, the more he longs for them and desires them’”. [2]

The blessings and the curses are set side by side in chapter 28 and are parallel in content. But whereas it takes 14 verses to spell out the blessings, it takes almost four times that to go through all the curses. It appears that both blessings and curses are all-encompassing. Being blessed, one is blessed everywhere one goes or happens to be, and likewise when one is cursed. The blessings and the curses are therefore all-pervasive. The more the blessings sound pleasant and appealing, the more horrendous and appalling are the curses, and using some of the same words in both underscores this fact all the more. The word fruit, for example, is used this way. In 28:4 and 11 we read: “The fruit of your body shall be blessed, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, the offspring of your oxen, and the young ones of your flock (italics added)”. “And YHVH shall prosper you in goods, and in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land which YHVH swore to your fathers to give it to you” (italics added). In the next section we read about a fierce nation, which “shall eat the fruit of your livestock, and the fruit of your land, until you are destroyed” (v. 51, italics added. In the English translation “increase” and “produce” replace “fruit”). But what renders “fruit” and its usage much more macabre and sinister is verse 53: “And you shall eat the fruit of your body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom YHVH your Elohim has given to you… “ (italics added).

Let us review several other similar examples (where the same term or root is used in widely differing contexts, highlighting the severity of the message). In 28:11 it says: “And YHVH will grant you plenty of goods…” (emphasis added), which is “ve’hotircha” from the root y.t.r -“that which surpasses” and is, therefore, a “surplus”. But y.t.r (yod, tav, resh) is also the root for “that which remains”. And so, in 28:54 the root y.t.r is employed once more, though with a very different message: “The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest – “yeter” - of his children whom he leaves behind – “yotir” - so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat…” (emphasis added). These words, aside from highlighting the horrid situation, especially as juxtaposed against the blessings of y.t.r., also echo the same morbidity which characterized the passage we just read above (having had to do with “fruitfulness”). “Avod” - “work, labor, worship, serve” is another term that is used in this manner.

Verse 14 concludes the list of blessings by saying: "So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them” (italics added). In contrast, it is written in verses 47-48 “Because you did not serve/worship YHVH your Elohim with joyfulness and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, you shall serve your enemies whom YHVH shall send on you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in lack of all things. And he shall put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you” (italics added). Verse 64 takes us even further: “And YHVH shall scatter you among all people, from one end of the earth even to the other, and you shall serve [of the root a.v.d again] other gods there, wood and stone, which you have not known, nor your fathers” (italics added).

Becoming “a proverb and a byword – ma’shal u’shneena - among all the peoples” (28:37) is another outcome of not heeding YHVH’s voice, as opposed to “all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of YHVH, and they shall fear you” (v. 10). In Parashat Chayey Sarah (Gen. 23-25:18, in reference to 24:2), we examined the noun “ma’shal” extensively. We found that one of the verbs for “to rule” – mashol – shares its root ( with words such as “proverb, parable, and example”. Thus, a ruler who represents his higher authority, as he is meant to do in YHVH’s kingdom, becomes a fit example of the latter. Here Yisrael is warned against misrepresenting YHVH and becoming an object lesson exemplifying what happens to those who betray trust. In Yoel (Joel) 2:17 the prophet laments: “And do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule (“lim’shol”) over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their Elohim?'"

The second term used in the above “proverb and byword” - “sh’neena” - stems from the root sh.n.n. (shin, noon, noon) and means to “sharpen, whet”, and by implication “repeat”. Thus, if Yisrael should set a negative example, that fact will be told repeatedly, over and over, and in every place. However, if they obey the word, “vesheenantam… “teach repeatedly” YHVH’s Word to their children (Deut. 6:7), not only will they not become a “sh’neena” - “a byword”- among the nations, but rather they will be at the “head” of all the nations (ref. 28:13).

The last phase of the fulfillment of the curses is a scattering among the nations. This entails unbearable conditions: “And among these nations you shall find no ease, nor shall the sole of your foot have rest – ma’no’ach…” (28:65). In Parashat No’ach we read: “The dove was sent to see if the water had abated and, found no resting place – again ma’no’ach - for the sole of her foot….” (Gen. 8:8-9). But the suffering, anguish, and dread only continue: “And your life shall hang in doubt before you, and you shall fear day and night, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, Oh that it were evening! And in the evening you shall say, Oh that it were morning! For the fear of your heart with which you fear, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see” (28:66-67 emphasis added). "Hang" in this excerpt is spelled with additional alef – thus, tlu'yim – has become tlu'eem, landing an additional meaning of "trouble" – t'la'ah - to the 'hanging position' of one's life.  A book that was authored by a Holocaust survivor about his experiences, was named, Oh That It Were Evening. “Evening” as we noted several times already is “erev” of the root e.r.v (ayin, resh, bet/vet), with its numerous derivations such as mix, pleasant, raven, and guarantee (at the end of the day “erev” is a guarantee of the coming morning). In the present case, the Guarantor of the ‘coming day’ is directly involved in the circumstances of those to whom He has pledged His guarantee. Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) chapter 30, for example, contains tremendous (and guaranteed) promises to Yisrael. In verse 21 we read the following: “Their leader [“moshel” which we just encountered above] shall be one of them and their ruler shall come forth from their midst [remember Parashat Shoftim and the leader who was to be raised from “among their brethren”?]. And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?”. “Dare to risk (his life)” is of the same familiar root, e.r.v - “a’ra’v”. The answer to this question is quite clear then, as no one else but Elohim’s Son could risk His life, as indeed He has, by “sacrificing” (which is identical to the “approach” above) Himself!

Finally (in 28:68), “And YHVH shall bring you into Egypt again with ships, by the way of which I said to you, ‘you shall never see it again’” (see Exodus 14:13).  The mention of ships is rather curious here, as it would not have been the normal passageway from Yisrael to Egypt. This imagery may be pointing to the sea that the Children of Yisrael crossed miraculously on foot when coming out of their land of bondage. Returning to that same place would be very different from the supernatural and miraculous means they had once experienced; this time it would be more like “crossing the sea of distress” (ref. Zech. 10:11) on proverbial ‘slave boats’. There, in Egypt, the place where the Israelites had experienced deliverance from slavery, they will once again be in bondage. Should this happen, they will sell themselves as slaves, the word being “hit’makar’tem” from the root (mem, kaf/chaf, resh), which is a very unusual form of “to sell”, meaning “becoming sold by selling oneself”. However, while willing to sell themselves to slavery, “there shall be no buyer” (v. 68)!

 Verses 1-9 of chapter 29, which form the epilogue of our Parasha, serve to remind the Israelites, once again, of the miracles that they had experienced in this Egypt, which just a moment ago was presented before them as a potential place of untold future sufferings. They are called to remember in the future the extent of YHVH’s past goodness toward them and His great mercy, love, and power; a remembrance which will be essential for their conduct and wellbeing, hence the exhortation: “Pay attention to the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may act wisely in all that you do”! (29:9)

 [1] Karaite Korner

[2] New Studies in Devarim, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman, Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora, Hemed books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.


Friday, September 9, 2022

Hands Off, Hands On

 Some of you may remember a song from yesteryear with lyrics that went something like this: “He touched me, and oh the joy that filled my soul".  Yes, "something" did "happen" (as these lyrics continue to say) that day, but it was more than a touch…  This was at a season when I was experiencing a new beginning, a new birth, a new set of friends, and a change in direction.  And then a little while went by and those flood waters of joy began to dry up or seemed to stagnate into pools of mud, all because life's circumstances simply did not go away.  Soon the new was not so new and the old didn't just give way completely to the newly found faith reality.  Day after day there were mountains to climb and then valleys to traverse, maybe a wilderness or two, and then a sudden “touch” and the rain came, after which the cycle started all over again. 

“Put your hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee” was another one of those invigorating songs; the music was peppy and uplifting and so were the words. However, in 'real life' there were moments when I really needed Him, but when I reached out to take His hand, it wasn’t there (so I thought).  Disappointment flooded me, as I anticipated just putting my hand in His hand at any time when I needed to do so.  Until one day it dawned on me that, the touch I was longing for was not just a little now-and-again nudge.

When reminiscing on the precious moments when my wife gave birth to our son and a couple of years later to our daughter, I recalled how I had had the privilege of catching them in the palms of my hands before handing them gently to the outstretched arms of their mother.  This indelible impression in my heart and mind has led me to realize that Abba caught me in the palms of His hands when I was born and that His hands were always there lovingly and faithfully guiding the work that they were forming. My Father’s hands do not merely touch or cuddle when I have a need. These hands have never left me. They held me while I nursed, they held me while I learned to walk, and they were constantly busy surrounding me, holding me in His love, and so many times like the clay on the putter's wheel, gently pressing, shaping, molding, cutting.  Or, conversely, like a baker's hands, they were kneading me like dough in order for the leaven of His love to be thoroughly mixed into my life.  In both cases, the hands of the Maker place the products in an oven, while they are also present in the heat so that His handiwork would come out exactly as He desires: "…for it is Elohim who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

Now, looking back, 50 years after having been born from above, as time progressed He has been able to make me more pliable and submissive to His tender loving care, even though I, the works of His hands, still have a way to go before I become conformed to His image.  I know that all my efforts in the past (as well as future ones) can never accomplish the task.  It can only happen when by faith I embrace the “cross”, which is the dying of Yeshua.  Our Creator never intended for us, that is, for our flesh, to accomplish the (impossible) task.  For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which Elohim prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  These “good works” are His, not ours; we are not creators and we do not know the blueprints of what we shall become.  "Beloved, now we are children of Elohim; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).  Seeing and trusting Him is our portion of the 'work' that changes and conforms us to His image.  Remember, the clay on the potter’s wheel? When we hold still (rest), with our eyes on him, His hands are able to shape us according to the heavenly pattern, but if we move in a direction that is of our choosing inevitably a flaw will occur, and if that happens, He will correct and put the needed pressure on that particular area in order to get us back into His designated shape. 

“As you have therefore received Messiah Yeshua the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7).  

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Ki Te’tzeh – D’varim (Deuteronomy) 21:10 – 25:19

 Parashat Ki* Te’tzeh (“when you go out…”), consists of lists of commandments, some of which we have encountered earlier on in the Torah, others are repeated in a modified form, while quite a few are mentioned here for the first time. Whereas the previous Parasha (Shoftim) focused on national matters, here the focus is on the individuals within the nation. It should be noted that even though at first glance the various injunctions seem to be placed randomly, a closer study reveals them to be organized in clusters wherein there is a common theme or some other link that ties together each respective group. One such example, where the rulings almost form a storyline, is right at the beginning of the Parasha (21:10-23). The first one is a case of a man desiring and marrying a foreign woman taken captive in war, but losing interest in her at a later stage. The next ruling focuses on the rights of the firstborn son of (again) an unloved wife, whose husband has another, favored, wife. From the firstborn son, we are taken to a command regarding a rebellious son, whom some of the sages believe to be the offspring of the foreign wife mentioned above. This son’s behavior makes him a ‘candidate’ for stoning, while the following statute deals with a criminal who is sentenced to hanging.  At the very end of the Parasha (in 25:13-16), to mention another example, we read about unjust weights and measures which are detestable in YHVH’s sight (v. 16). The concomitant ruling is a reference to the Amalekites, who are to be completely wiped out because of their ill-treatment of Yisrael during the Exodus, which also places them under the category of: “Anyone doing these things is hateful to YHVH your Elohim, everyone acting evilly” (v. 16 again), even though “these things” is actually in reference to using unjust weights. Parashat Ki Te’tzeh illustrates the extent of YHVH’s involvement in every aspect of the Israelites’ life - the individuals as well as the community. In turn, Yisrael is to live life in a manner that is worthy of Him. 

Returning to the paragraph about the "unloved woman" (literally, "hated"), it is made clear that it is incumbent upon her husband to "bestow firstborn status" on her firstborn son if she happens to have given birth to him (21:15-16). In Hebrew the action of bestowing this status is contained in a single word - "ba'ker" – (bet, kaf/chaf, resh) – while "firstborn" is "b'chor", from which "firstfruit" – bikkurim is derived. Interestingly, in Modern Hebrew, this verb ("ba'ker" - "to make a firstborn") is one of the synonyms for "to prefer". 

The stubborn and rebellious son described in 21:18, 20, according to his own parents’ admittance “will not listen to his father's voice or his mother's voice; even though they discipline him, he will not listen to them”. “Stubborn and rebellious” is “sorer u’moreh”; “sorer” is of the root s.r.h (samech, resh, hey) and means “turn aside, defect, or withdraw”. “Moreh” is of the root m.r.h (mem, resh, hey) meaning, “contentious, defiant, or rebellious”. The type of attitude displayed here issues from the heart and so in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 5:23 we read: “To this people there is a revolting/defiant and a rebellious – sorer u’moreh – heart”. This son is further described as “a glutton and a drunkard”.  The latter noun is “soveh”, the root being s.v.a. (samech, bet/vet, alef), recalling, “sovah” (sin/shin, vet, ayin) which is not only close in sound but also in meaning (albeit employing a different spelling). In Parashat Va’yera (see Gen. 21:28-33) we examined this root and found that “satisfaction”, or to “have had enough” (especially in reference to food) is “sovah”, relating to the number "seven" – “sheva”.  By calling the week "shavua" the language points to the fullness and completeness of what Elohim has achieved in creation.  "In Your presence, there is fullness ("sova") of joy; I will be satisfied ("es'be'ah") with Your likeness when I awake" (Ps. 16:11; 17:15). Thus, if one is not ‘satisfied’ - “sa’veh’ah” - and chooses to overindulge, he becomes a “soveh”. By making use of similar sounds Hebrew typically points to life’s fine demarcation lines. The rebellious son was to be executed by stoning (ref. 21:21), which is the verb “ragom”, one of several Hebrew terms used to denote this action. 

Another stoning was to occur in the event of a young woman who upon marriage was found not to be a virgin (ref. 22:20-21), as well as when “a girl that is a virgin, betrothed to a man, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her” (vs. 23-24). In these cases, the stoning is “sakol” (s.k.l, samech, kof, lamed), which means not only to “hurl rocks”, but also to “gather rocks” such as in Yishayahu (Isaiah) 5:2: “My Beloved has a vineyard in a fruitful horn. And He dug it, and cleared it of stones” (italics added). This illustrates again the close proximity between apparent contradictions, of which we shall see more examples later on. 

Following the prodigal son in 21:20, the text goes on to speak of “a man [who] has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree” (v. 22), appending to it: “he who is hanged is accursed of Elohim” (v. 23). The rabbinic explanation for a sin that incurs hanging is idol worship and/or blaspheming. This is exactly what Yeshua was charged with, that is, he was accused of blaspheming the Name of the Almighty (ref. Mat.  26:65; Mark 14:62-64). This is also how He “redeemed us from the curse of [pronounced in] the Law [for breaking] its laws [or redeeming us from the “laws of sin and death”], having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). 

The next set of injunctions, in chapter 22, focuses on concern for the property of one’s fellow man and his welfare, as well as sensitivity toward YHVH’s creation. “You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep driven away, and hide yourself from them. You shall surely turn them back to your brother” (v. 1). “You shall hide” here is “hit’a’lamta”, of the root a.l.m (ayin, lamed, mem), and means “hidden or concealed”, and in this context also “disregard, neglect” or “pretend not to see”. It is from this root that we obtain “olam” or “ad olam” which in Biblical Hebrew speaks mostly of “eternity” (future but also past), being indeed concealed and uncharted from man’s vantage point (Deut. 23:3; Gen. 17:7; Ex. 12:24). One of the Biblical terms for a young man is “elem” (and “alma” for a young woman), issuing from the same root (e.g., 1Sam. 17:56; Gen. 24:43); this being the case because their character is still unfolding and their future unknown. 

At the other end of this cluster of injunctions we read: “If a bird's nest happens to be before you in the way in any tree, or on the ground, with young ones, or eggs; and the mother is sitting on the young, or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. But in every case, you shall let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, so that it may be well with you, and you may prolong your days” (22:6,7 italics added). This somewhat obscure command holds a great promise, like that of the 5th Commandment of the Decalogue, which says: “Honor your father and your mother, as YHVH your Elohim has commanded you, so that your days may be prolonged” (Ex. 20:12, Deut. 5:16). The fact that this promise is common to both these injunctions has puzzled the sages all the way back to Talmudic days. Some of them concur that YHVH’s ways are higher than ours, and therefore various precepts are “passed finding out”, while others maintain that one should not even try and discover whether the Divine commands have reasons or not. On the other hand, Professor Yitzchak Heinemann contends that “it is incumbent on us to detect the finger of God in the wonders of nature and the events of our life, though they will still remain unsolved mysteries, so we must endeavor, as far as possible, to appreciate the wisdom and justice of His commands”. [1] The identical reward for honoring parents and for shooing the mother bird before taking her young, may serve as a clue to a principle which applies to every word spoken in the Torah: “kala k’cha’mura”, meaning that each precept (and/or word), whether insubstantial or weighty, is to be treated equally. Thus, all the way from the weightiest precept to the least esteemed, through those that are ‘in between’, obedience is equally required, with the result (of so doing) and the rewards being at times identical. Our Parasha, to cite another such example, also exhorts us to “have a perfect and just ephah [a measurement]; so that they prolong your days in the land” (25:15 italics added). Applying this principle to YHVH’s commandments, each one is to be ‘weighed’ by the same scale, not denigrating one and estimating another. 

"Letting go" of the mother bird is denoted by the verb "sh'lach" – shin, lamed, kaf/chaf, which is also "to send away". This verb is found in several other instances in this Parasha, all of them having to do with wives – the captured woman from the beginning of the Parasha, once having lost favor with her captor-husband, is to be "let go" of (21:14), as is the wife whose husband has found something unclean about her, and who, therefore "sends her away", as does her second husband who likewise dismisses her (24:1,3,4). How may we compare the "mother bird" to these women? Is there some connection here between the mother bird and these wives????  

Right in between the lost ox and sheep and the nesting bird, is the oft-quoted verse: "A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to YHVH your Elohim” (22:5). This injunction is especially used in order to “prove” the Bible’s disapproval of women wearing what is thought to be strictly male clothing.  However, this is not what the Hebrew text is expressing. The literal meaning of “lo yi-hi-ye kli gever al isha” is “there shall not be a tool/implement of a man upon a woman”. This implies that she is not to carry or wield a tool or any implement which is characteristic of man’s responsibilities. In this case, therefore, Scripture is not concerned with apparel or fashion but with certain types of activities that are to distinguish between men and women! As for the men, in their case they are indeed commanded, plain and simple, not to wear women’s garments. The noun "kli" is found in another place in our Parasha. " "When you come into your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container" (23:24). The "container" (or "vessel") here is "kli". Notice also that here the "eater" partakes of the grapes until he is, literally, satisfied. It is this "satisfaction" – sovah – that did not suffice in the case of the son we read about above, turning him into a "so'veh", someone who crossed the boundary lines and turned into a glutton and a drunkard. 

Still, in chapter 22:14, and 17, we encounter a woman who has been charged or accused by her husband. These accusations are "alilot" – a.l.l (ayin, lamed, lamed. In Mitzrayim YHVH is said to have "hit'a'lel" with the Egyptians – that is, He performed deeds that made a mockery of the enemy (Ex. 10:2). "Olal" is also a toddler, and here, in 24:21, "le'olel" is "to glean afterward; it [the leftover grapes] shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow". Although such a varied scale of meanings, all share a common root that points to a movement, or development toward attaining a certain goal, be it a positive one, or a negative one (such as in the case of the accused woman). 

In 23:7-8 we read: “You shall not despise an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not despise an Egyptian, for you were an alien in his land, sons of the third generation that are born to them may enter into the assembly of YHVH”. This directive is in contradistinction to the one relating to the Ammonites and Moabites, who were not to enter the assembly of YHVH even after ten generations, that is, never. Da’at Mikra ponders: “Why is it that the Torah deals this way with the Edomites, not demanding from them what was demanded of the Moabites and Ammonites, which was to greet Israel with bread and water when they had passed by these peoples’ territories? Because Ya’acov tricked Esav and had wrested from him the birthright and the blessings; while for having chased Ya’acov, Esav and his progeny have already been punished by having been held off from the assembly of Israel for two generations. The Egyptians are also forgiven for their treatment of Israel, as [their reason for doing so was because] they were afraid lest Israel would join their enemies.” [2] 

There are several commands regarding the purity of Israel’s camp and assembly, with the army camp especially being underscored in this Parasha (23:14). Another one is: “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute” (23:17). The word used here for the female cult “prostitute” is “k’desha”, while “male prostitute” is “kadesh” (also found in Job 36:14). But even before this example, in 22:9, we encounter the prohibition to mix seeds, so that the end result will not be “defiled”. Here too, for “become defiled” the Hebrew has “tikdash”, of the root kadosh. This is one more example of contradictory terms being closely linked in the Hebrew language and mindset since the word for “holy” is “kadosh” (and in the feminine gender – “kdosha”). In verse 18 we read: “You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of YHVH your Elohim for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to YHVH your Elohim”. This type of “wage” is “et’nan”, an unusual form of “natan” (noon, tav, hey) which is to “give” or to “offer”.  Regret for betraying Yeshua led Yehuda of Krayot - Judas Iscariot – to give back to the priests the 30 pieces of silver he had been handed for committing this act. “The chief priests said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury since it is the price of blood’. And taking counsel, they bought of them the potter's field, for burial for the strangers” (Mat. 27:6). The priests acted this way based on the above-mentioned ruling, to which they appended “price of blood”. Is it a coincidence that “wages of a dog”, which is included in this category, is followed by issues pertaining to usury (23: 19, 20), using “neshech” for “usury or interest”, the literal meaning of which is “to bite”? 

Above, mention was made of "mixed seeds" (22:9), which in Hebrew is denoted by a very specific term: "kil'a'yim" – of the root k.l.a – kaf, lamed, alef. The ending "ayim" lets us know that there is multiplicity involved, but the root meaning is "restrain, enforce, prevent, imprison", which is indicative of it being an unnatural action not looked upon with favor. 

Before examining the next cluster, let us pause and inspect a certain term that appears in 23:20: “…that YHVH your Elohim may bless you in all that you set your hand to in the land where you go to possess it” (emphasis added). “Set your hand to” is literally the “sending of your hands” – “mish’lach yadeh’cha”. In the past, we saw that one’s work or occupation was called “m’la’cha” (of the root l.a’ - “to send” and hence “messengers, angels, mal’a’chim, sent out ones”), which by its very definition conveys the idea that one’s work or task is more of a goal or an accomplishment outside the confinement of one’s own vicinity. It is something rendered or performed as a mission (for the greater community) and therefore was not to be considered incidental or self-serving. (Compare this to the action of "mixing seeds" – restraining or forcing.) 

Two weeks ago, in Parashat R’eh, we discussed the noun “makom” – “place” - and the verb “kum” – “to rise or go up”, which share the same root. In our Parasha we encounter other derivatives of this root (kof, vav, mem). In 23:25 we read: “When you come into your neighbor's standing grain, then you may pluck heads with your hand; but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor's standing grain”. The “standing grain” is the ripe sheaves ready for harvesting called “kama” (also in Exodus 22:6), stemming from the root to “rise up”. “Plucking heads” is “m’lilot,” the verb being “malol” (m.l.l. mem, lamed, lamed) and means “to scrape or to break into crumbs”.  And so, we read in Luke 6:1: “And it happened on the second chief Sabbath, He passed along through the sown fields. And His disciples plucked the heads and were eating, rubbing with the hands”. 

The next chapter (24) takes us to a broken relationship between husband and wife. “When a man has taken a wife and married her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found a thing of uncleanness in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house” (v. 1 italics added). “A bill of divorce” is “sefer k’ritut”, literally “a book of cutting off”.  This bill, therefore, becomes an instrument of severing the relationship, much like a hatchet. “A thing of uncleanness” is “ervat davar”, literally “the nakedness/exposure [erva] of something” (the same term appears also in 23:14 as “unclean thing”). In a marriage relationship whatever has been covered up is naturally exposed and revealed just prior to the time of severance.  The root of “erva”, literally nakedness, a.r.h (ayin, resh, hey), also lends itself to the verb to “pour out”. It is used in this way in Yishayahu (Isaiah) 53:12, in the description of the Messiah: “And with the strong He shall divide the spoil; because He poured out [he’era] His soul to death” (italics added). Likewise, Philippians 2:7 says about Him that, “He emptied Himself and took the form of a bondservant”. Thus, in pouring out or emptying Himself, and in being exposed (desecrated) Yeshua covered up our nakedness. 

At the very beginning of our Parasha, we encountered a different type of man-woman relationship than the one just discussed. It involved a man who in the course of the war has taken captive a woman whom he has found desirable. If after having taken her as a wife, he no longer desires her he is admonished not to sell her for money, nor “to treat her brutally” (21:14). Similarly, in chapter 24:7 we are told that, “if a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die”.  In both cases, the terms “treat brutally” and “mistreat” are translations of “hit’amer”, of the root (a.m.r) ayin, mem, resh which is to “collect, glean, reap advantage”. The Torah is very strict in regards to using humans as merchandise or commodities for one’s advantage and monetary gain, hence the capital punishment inflicted on the above kidnapper. By contrast, in the following verse, we are admonished (24:19): “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the YHVH your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hands” (italics added). The “sheaf” mentioned is “omer”, of the same root that we have just encountered for “treating brutally”. Thus, rather than “reap advantage” from someone else’s life, you are to sustain the needy by letting him ‘take advantage’ of your forgetfulness. 

Verse 20 follows on the heels of 19 (of chapter 24) and is similar to the former: “When you beat your olive tree, you shall not search the bough behind you. It shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow”. The word for “bough” is “pu’ara”, of the root “p’er” (p.e.r, pey, alef, resh), which is also “beauty or glory”. Yishayahu (Isaiah) 60:21 is very appropriate in this connection, reading as it does: “And your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the earth forever, a branch of My planting, a work of My hands, to beautify [lehitpa’er] Myself” (italics added). And although the boughs have been broken, the Olive Tree of Yisrael, when fully redeemed is destined to be glorious unto YHVH (ref. Is. 44:23), especially if the people of Yisrael, with the Torah, inscribed on their hearts, will follow the above injunction of generosity and kindness to the alien, orphan, and widow. 

When dried up and dead - as Yisrael’s stick/tree had become - the collective outcry went forth: “Our bones are dried, and our hope is perished; we are cut off to ourselves” (Ez. 37:11). Yet redemption was to enable resurrection. This principle is captured in the precept delineated in 25:5-10, where if a man dies leaving no offspring, his widow is to marry his brother, and together they are to have a child who will be considered the firstborn of the dead brother, in order to raise up “… the dead brother's name, and his name shall not be wiped out of Israel” (v. 6). We have already studied (above and in other places) the word “kum” (also “makom”, place) - “to stand up, rise”. Here its usage, as the “raising up” of a name for the dead brother, connotes “resurrection” and in Modern Hebrew “t’kuma” (of the same root).



* The conjunction “ki” is used very frequently in Dvarim. Many sections open up with “if” or “when”, in both cases being a translation of “ki,” which at times is also translated as “for.”

[1] New Studies in Devarim, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

[2] Devarim with Daat Mikrah Commentary, Pub. Mossad Harav Kook, Jm. 2001.