|Parashat Re'eh – Look!|
|Annual Reading Cycle|
by Dr. David Friedman, Jerusalem
Today’s portion of scripture is entitled “Re’eh” (Look!). It is Deuteronomy 11.26-16.17, making it a rather large parasha, a big section of the Bible. But what struck me as I read through it was that God was crystal clear with His intentions. He told the nation what choices they had, and what the consequences would be for each choice. On top of that, He also had the people physically illustrate all of this: choices and consequences, using their senses of hearing, touch and sight all at the same time: “…you are to put the blessing on Mount G’rizim and the curse on Mount ‘Eival” (11.29, CJB). This was a theatrical type of acting out of the crucial choice put before them.The entire nation, all twelve tribes, would listen again to the choices and consequences awaiting them. They definitely would understand what lay before them, from the leaders to the children. They had a series of choices to make: to obey God and be incredibly blessed in their homeland. Or, to go their own way, and reap the problems, hardships, tragedies and curses that would go along with such. God was making their path clear for everyone to understand. Simple. Direct. Helpful.
Moses teaches this to all the people, and he does so with these words: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse” (11.26, CJB). Literally, we are told that God is “giving to them” either blessings or curses. The Hebrew makes it clear that the choice is up to the people. God was giving them a choice, just as He does to all of mankind today. He doesn’t change (cf. Malachi 3.6a), and neither do the choices to obey Him, ignore Him or to oppose Him; these choices have always existed, in every generation, in every location.
The basic issue upon which all would be decided, upon whether Israel would be blessed or problem-ridden, is given in these following verses: “…the blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot (instructions) of ADONAI your God that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you don’t listen to the mitzvot of ADONAI your God, but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow other gods that you have not known” (Deut. 11.27-28). Larger sections of the book of Deuteronomy take up this same subject and detail for the people exactly what God means (in particular, chapters 26-28). There would be no question as to what the future held. There were simple choices to make on a tribal, regional, then national, scale. Again, we can see God’s vehement hatred of idolatry in this text, mentioned as the inevitable “draw” away from blessing.
Verse 32 lays out the path to blessing: “And you are to take care to follow all the laws and rulings I am setting before you today” (11.32, CJB). Again look at how simply stated is the path to blessing. Moses then details what God means by “laws and rulings”, exactly, in the remaining verses and chapters of our parasha. God is exact and clear; Moses is very direct in his speech and full of exhortation. Yet again, it is clear to us that idolatry appears foremost in the text as the source of blockage to blessings: You must destroy all the places where the nations you are dispossessing served their gods, whether on high mountains, on hills, or under some leafy tree. Break down their altars, smash their standing-stones to pieces, burn up their sacred poles completely and cut down the carved images of their gods. Exterminate their name from that place (12.2-3, CJB). God hates idolatry.
Chapter 12.8 appears as a general principle that the people needed to practice: You will not do things the way we do them here today, where everyone does whatever in his own opinion seems right (12.8, CJB). Loving obedience to God’s instructions and loyalty to His covenants was the only path to avoid “doing whatever one felt like doing”. The book of Judges explains to us the consequences of this type of society, and it was indeed a “curse”.
Nothing written in today’s parasha is complicated in message or content. Yet it was pivotal for the life and history of the nation. Allow me to say that we have the same choices before us today, both as individuals and as nations. Will we decide to follow God’s ways, or “our own opinion” of how to live? The consequences of these choices are critical to determining the direction of our lives. Pray for your family, your neighbors and for your nation, for a hunger to follow the One True God, His Messiah, and His ways.