Deuteronomy 30

 

וְהָיָה כִי־יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל־לְבָבֶךָ   30:1

בְּכָל־הַגֹּויִם אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה

Deut. 30:1  “And it shall come to pass, when all these things will have come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have set before you, and you shall have a change of heart in all the nations where the Lord, your God, had driven you,

וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְקֹלֹו כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיֹּום אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ   30:2

וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶׁךָ

Deut. 30:2  and you will turn again up to the Lord, your God, and listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul,

וְשָׁב יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת־שְׁבוּתְךָ וְרִחֲמֶךָ וְשָׁב וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל־הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה   30:3

Deut. 30:3  that the Lord, your God, will reverse your captivity and have compassion for you, and return and gather you from all the peoples where the Lord, your God, had scattered you.”

Something quite astonishing is being revealed here.  In these first three verses of this chapter, what do we learn?  In v. 30:1 Moses starts with “… when all these things will have come upon you, … the curse….”  Moses knew we would disobey the Lord’s commandments!  And of course God knows!  We were surely going to suffer the consequences of our poor choices.  But Moses also knew that one day we would turn back to the Lord and embrace Him.  In v. 30:2 we read “and you will … turn to the Lord … with all your heart and … soul, ….”  When do you suppose that will happen?  We get a hint about the timing in the next verse.

אִם־יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ   30:4

Deut. 30:4  “If your driven away shall be in the uttermost part of the heavens, from there the Lord, your God, shall gather you, and from there He shall fetch you.”

It sounds to me as if the time will be well after we’ve conquered space, and Jews, at least some of us, will be dwellers on as yet unknown worlds.  That probably won’t be for a while.

וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ   30:5

Deut. 30:5  “And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you will possess it.  And He will do you good and make you greater than your fathers.”

וּמָל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת־לְבָבְךָ וְאֶת־לְבַב זַרְעֶךָ לְאַהֲבָה אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ   30:6

לְמַעַן חַיֶּיךָ

Deut. 30:6  “And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your life.”

In Deut. 10:16 we were instructed to circumcise the foreskin of our hearts.  Because we haven’t done it as a people, and probably never will, the Lord will have to do it for us one day.

וְנָתַן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵת כָּל־הָאָלֹות הָאֵלֶּה עַל־אֹיְבֶיךָ וְעַל־שֹׂנְאֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר רְדָפוּךָ   30:7

Deut. 30:7  “Then the Lord, your God, will deliver all these curses on your enemies and on those hating you, who persecuted you.”

וְאַתָּה תָשׁוּב וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹול יְהוָה וְעָשִׂיתָ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיֹּום   30:8

Deut. 30:8  “And you will return and you will listen in to the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments that I am commanding you today.”

וְהֹותִירְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֶךָ בִּפְרִי בִטְנְךָ וּבִפְרִי בְהֶמְתְּךָ וּבִפְרִי אַדְמָתְךָ לְטֹובָה כִּי    30:9

יָשׁוּב יְהוָה לָשׂוּשׂ עָלֶיךָ לְטֹוב כַּאֲשֶׁר־שָׂשׂ עַל־אֲבֹתֶיךָ

Deut. 30:9  “And the Lord, your God, will make you abundant in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your land, for goodness, for the Lord will again return to rejoicing over you to do good as He rejoiced over your fathers

כִּי תִשְׁמַע בְּקֹול יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו הַכְּתוּבָה בְּסֵפֶר הַתֹּורָה הַזֶּה כִּי תָשׁוּב   30:10

אֶל־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶׁךָ

Deut. 30:10   when you will listen to the voice of the Lord, your God, to heed His commandments and His statutes written in this scroll of the Torah, when will you turn back to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.”

כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיֹּום לֹא־נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא   30:11

Deut. 30:11   “Certainly this commandment that I am commanding you today, it is not too hard for you, and it is not remote.”

לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה־לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה   30:12

Deut. 30:12   “It is not in heaven, to be said, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us so that he gets it for us and makes us hear it so we may do it?’”

The last word in this verse, translated as so we may do it, consists of a first-person imperfect verb with a non-inverting vav prefix.  The next verse has exactly the same word at the end.

וְלֹא־מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲבָר־לָנוּ אֶל־עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה   30:13

Deut. 30:13   “And it is not beyond the sea, to be said, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us so that he gets it for us and makes us hear it so we may do it?’”

כִּי־קָרֹוב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתֹו   30:14

Deut. 30:14   “Truly it is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it.”

To  my way of thinking, vss. 30:11 to 30:14 seem to convey a vital and startling message to us.  The Torah is not hard or far away from us (the latter meaning, in my opinion, that it is here for us to grasp).  In other words, we are capable of understanding and interpreting it.  But I believe it takes a fresh perspective to recognize this truth.

רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַיֹּום אֶת־הַחַיִּים וְאֶת־הַטֹּוב וְאֶת־הַמָּוֶת וְאֶת־הָרָע   30:15

Deut. 30:15   “See!  I set before you today life and good, and death and evil,

אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיֹּום לְאַהֲבָה אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו וְלִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו   30:16

וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וְחָיִיתָ וְרָבִיתָ וּבֵרַךְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּה בָא־שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ

Deut. 30:16   when I am commanding you to love the Lord, your God, to walk in His ways and to heed His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, that you will live and multiply, that the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land where you are going to possess it.”

This is the “life and good” mentioned in the previous verse.

וְאִם־יִפְנֶה לְבָבְךָ וְלֹא תִשְׁמָע וְנִדַּחְתָּ וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ לֵאלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַעֲבַדְתָּם   30:17

Deut. 30:17   “But if your heart will turn away and you will not hear and be drawn away and bow down to other gods and serve them,

הִגַּדְתִּי לָכֶם הַיֹּום כִּי אָבֹד תֹּאבֵדוּן לֹא־תַאֲרִיכֻן יָמִים עַל־הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה עֹבֵר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן   30:18

לָבֹא שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ

Deut. 30:18   I declare to you today, that you will surely perish, you will not prolong days on the land where you are crossing the Jordan to go to possess it.”

This is the “death and evil.”

הַעִידֹתִי בָכֶם הַיֹּום אֶת־הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַחַיִּים וְהַמָּוֶת נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה וּבָחַרְתָּ   30:19

בַּחַיִּים לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶךָ

Deut. 30:19   “I call the heavens and the earth to witness to you today:  Life and death have I set before you, the blessing and the curse.  So you must choose life so that you may live, you and your seed,

לְאַהֲבָה אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלֹו וּלְדָבְקָה־בֹו כִּי הוּא חַיֶּיךָ וְאֹרֶךְ יָמֶיךָ לָשֶׁבֶת עַל־הָאֲדָמָה   30:20

אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לָתֵת לָהֶם

Deut. 30:20   to love the Lord your God, to listen to His voice, and to cling to Him, for that is your life and the length of your days to dwell on the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”                                          [Return to Jere. 21:8]

There are many significant and revealing verses in the Torah, and I’ve identified some of them that I believe should be important and meaningful for us.  But I believe that the verses of this chapter are among the most significant in the bible.  Reread what Moses is saying here.  In vss. 30:1 to 30:6, he reveals to us that he knows our future.  Now whenever this chapter was written, whether in Moses’ time or after the rebuilding of the temple, none knew that the future depicted here was going to occur.  If it was written after the first temple was destroyed and then rebuilt, as some people believe, even in that time, none knew about anyone being in the uttermost parts of heaven.  There is no way that could have been predicted by anyone alive then unless they received that information from the Lord or had an imagination more vivid than anyone on earth up until about 170 years ago.  Then in vss. 30:11 to 30:14, Moses tells us how simple the commandments of the Lord are.  In Moses’ time they were not complicated.  They probably couldn’t have been.  Consider that when Moses established judges to judge the people, no where does it say that he had to train them (see Exod. 18:21).  He merely chose able, reverent, truthful, and non-corruptible men.  I imagine there was little training that they needed to recognize what was according to the commandment and what was not, at least in the relatively simple cases. They were already familiar with the statutes of the Lord.  They’d all heard what Moses had told them.  Between then and now the Torah, which was apparently intended to be a simple instruction for living, was transformed into a complicated ritualistic and burdensome body of intricate laws with inconsistencies and conflicts that no one could avoid violating for a lifetime.  Finally, vss. 30:16 to 30:20 elegantly reprise the vital content of Chapters 28 and 29.  How much more plain could Moses have made it?  In v. 30:16, he clearly places before us a straightforward choice:  Life or death – good or evil.  And in v.30:1 he reveals that we will choose death and evil, not good and life.  But he holds out the promise, the prophecy, that we will eventually turn back to the Lord and love Him with all of our being – a bright prophecy which is still to happen, I believe, in some distant future.

But perhaps most important is the realization that in Chapter 28 Moses describes and presents a choice for bringing about the future that I believe God intends for us in a much more timely fashion, and with far less suffering to the Jewish people.  But we almost immediately rejected the blessings of vss. 28:3 to 28:14 and instead chose the curses of vss. 28:16 to 28:68, as we will learn as we read further in the bible.  What a pity!  Truly we have been living with these curses for most of the last 2,500 years.

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear!  I am not saying that we are being punished for our poor choice, that God has abandoned us or “hates“ us.  I believe that we are still His chosen people, fulfilling our destiny in either of two ways.  What I am saying is that we have experienced, and continue to experience, consequences of that choice, a choice we are faced with over and over again in every generation.  It is not only our ancestors who made the poor choice, for we have been told that the children suffer the sins of the fathers to only the third generation.  We are each in every generation given the choice of life or death for ourselves.  With unwavering faith in God, I suspect we would make the right choice.  Our difficulty must therefore be a lack of faith in God and His love for us.  Instead of revering Him as we should and serving Him joyfully, we fear Him.  Because for most of the last 2,500 years we have assumed that God has abandoned us, that He is punishing us, and He does not hear us.   But fear and love cannot coexist.  We are to Love the Lord, not fear Him.  We are to embrace Him with all of our being.

 This is the imperative of life on this earth.

 

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