Deuteronomy 6

 

וְזֹאת הַמִּצְוָה הַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם לְלַמֵּד אֶתְכֶם לַעֲשֹׂות בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר   6:1

אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ

Deut. 6:1    “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the ordinances, that the Lord, your God, has commanded to teach you to observe in the land where you will be crossing over to possess it,

לְמַעַן תִּירָא אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹר אֶת־כָּל־חֻקֹּתָיו וּמִצְוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָ אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבֶן־בִּנְךָ   6:2

כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ וּלְמַעַן יַאֲרִכֻן יָמֶיךָ

Deut. 6:2    in order that you may revere the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments that I am commanding you, you and your children and your children's children, all the days of your life, and in order that your days may be prolonged.”

All the second-person pronouns in this verse are singular, while all the second-person pronouns in the preceding verse are plural.  This tells me that each of the Israelites was to be taught the Torah that he was to observe after he crossed over (v. 6:1).  But the congregation as a whole is to revere the Lord, Israel’s God, forever (v. 6:2).  See my discussion after the next verse.

וְשָׁמַעְתָּ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשֹׂות אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ וַאֲשֶׁר תִּרְבּוּן מְאֹד כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ   6:3

לָךְ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ

Deut. 6:3    “Therefore, you must hear, O Israel, and take heed to do what will be good for you, so that you may grow exceedingly, as the Lord, God of your fathers, has promised you a land gushing milk and honey.”

As in many other verses throughout the Torah and the bible, the second-person pronouns in this verse are mixed singular and plural.  All except one are singular.  The pronoun in the phrase “so that you may grow exceedingly” is plural.  This is difficult to explain or reconcile, unless the theory I have (that the singular refers to the body of Israel as a unity and the plural, to each of the members of the body) is wrong.  Here it seems that the implication is reversed. The singular would appear to address the individual while the plural would be pointed at the body.  The problem with this possibility is that the phrase O Israel (which has to be considered singular) follows the first singular second-person pronoun (in “you must hear”) and precedes the second one (in “and [you must] take heed,” which is consistent with my theory.  The only other explanation that seems to fit a pattern is that my theory is indeed consistent and the phrase in question, “so that you may grow mightily,” is somehow intended to indicate the individuals, the children of Israel.  It would appear that each of the people can grow exceedingly in this prophecy.  If I’m correct in this assumption, then the implication of this verse is that everyone – the entire community -- must take heed to do what is good for us.  I could accept the reality arising from this that if one of us does otherwise, the promise will not last or even will not be fulfilled.  Are we each indeed our brother’s keeper?  A very serious and ominous thought!  However, I refer you to my remarks dealing with Levi. 23:3 for a likely alternative view of this possible notion of strict group responsibility.                                       [Return to Deut. 7:4]

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד   6:4

Deut. 6:4    “Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God!  The Lord is one!”

This verse contains the watchwords of Judaism. It and those up to v. 6:9 comprise part of the message that is in every prayer book, mezuzah, and phylactery set that allow fulfillment of the commands in vss. 6:7, 6:8, and 6:9.  While those verses are taken literally by Jews, it seems strange to me that v. 6:6 is not.  I imagine that v. 6:6 should also be taken literally so that something akin to phylacteries would be placed on our chest on a daily basis.  But I find that observance can be a bit inconsistent with Torah verses.  It seems to me that few Jews fulfill the commandment in v. 6:7.  To do that we’d have to be talking about the Torah every minute of every day while awake, except perhaps when we are working.

וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ   6:5

Deut. 6:5    “So you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

In my humble opinion, this is the most important and most illuminating message in the Torah.  It and other significant verses related to it form the basis for my theories about God’s nature and what He asks of us.  Yet this requirement on our part may be the hardest act we can contemplate.  How can we love an Entity we cannot see or touch with all our heart, soul, and might?  Is it even possible?  Yes, I believe it is, but it has to be achieved spiritually.   I don’t believe it can be done in the physical realm.  To me it means that we must subjugate our ego to the service of the Lord.  We must become other than ourselves.

וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיֹּום עַל־לְבָבֶךָ   6:6

Deut. 6:6    “And these words, which I am commanding you today, must be on your heart,

וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ   6:7

Deut. 6:7    and you must teach them diligently to your children and speak about them in your sitting in your house and in your walking on the way and in your lying down and in your rising up.”                                                                                                          [Return to Deut. 29:14]

וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאֹות עַל־יָדֶךָ וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ   6:8

Deut. 6:8    “And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.”

I differentiate between the instruction in this verse with that in the next one.  In the next verse we are told explicitly to write these words on our door posts.  The language is straightforward and unambiguous, and can be taken literally.  The instruction in this verse, however, is more confusing.  How do you bind words on your hand that become frontlets between your eyes?  Moreover, according to v. 6:6, we would also have to put the words on our chest over our heart.  How would we do that?  For these reasons, I believe that these statements from v. 6:6 to v. 6:8 are meant to be taken figuratively, symbolically, not literally.  See Exod. 13:9 and 13:16.

וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל־מְזוּזֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ   6:9

Deut. 6:9    ”And you shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.”

וְהָיָה כִּי יְבִיאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לָתֶת לָךְ   6:10

עָרִים גְּדֹלֹת וְטֹבֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא־בָנִיתָ

Deut. 6:10  “Then it shall be, when the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land that He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you of great and good cities that you did not build,

וּבָתִּים מְלֵאִים כָּל־טוּב אֲשֶׁר לֹא־מִלֵּאתָ וּבֹרֹת חֲצוּבִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא־חָצַבְתָּ כְּרָמִים וְזֵיתִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא־   6:11

נָטָעְתָּ וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ

Deut. 6:11  and houses full of every good thing that you did not fill, and cisterns dug that you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant, that you shall eat and be satisfied.”

הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת־יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר הֹוצִיאֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים   6:12

Deut. 6:12  “Take heed to yourself lest you ignore the Lord Who brought you forth from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּירָא וְאֹתֹו תַעֲבֹד וּבִשְׁמֹו תִּשָּׁבֵעַ   6:13

Deut. 6:13  “You must revere the Lord, your God, and serve Him, and swear by His name.”

From v. 6:5 above until the next verse, v. 6:14, Moses consistently uses singular second-person pronouns throughout.  He is apparently continuing to talk to Israel.  So here it says that the community must revere God and serve Him and swear by His name.  In the next verse he states that it is not to go after false gods.

לֹא תֵלְכוּן אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים מֵאֱלֹהֵי הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹותֵיכֶם   6:14

Deut. 6:14  “You must not go after other gods from the gods of the peoples who surround you,

כִּי אֵל קַנָּא יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּקִרְבֶּךָ פֶּן־יֶחֱרֶה אַף־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּךְ וְהִשְׁמִידְךָ מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה   6:15

Deut. 6:15  for the Lord, your God, is a possessive God about your heart, lest the ‘anger’ of the Lord, your God, will be kindled toward you and He cause you to perish from the face of the earth.”

In v. 6:14 the second-person pronouns are plural, referring to the individuals of the community.  In v. 6:15 they are singular, referring to the community.  And in v. 6:16 they are plural again.  What does this mean?  To me, it means that each of us is prohibited from going after false gods (v. 6:14) and trying the Lord as in Massah (v. 6:16), and if we don’t, the community will experience the consequences (v. 6:15).  Now this sounds ominous, and my remarks related to Levi. 23:3 (see v. 6:3 above for the link) don’t help in this case.

לֹא תְנַסּוּ אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר נִסִּיתֶם בַּמַּסָּה   6:16

Deut. 6:16  You must not try the Lord, your God, as you did in Massah.

Remember Massah (Exod. 17:7)?  That was where Moses struck the rock and water came forth from it.  What does this simple admonition mean?  In the Massah episode, the people grumbled and complained unhappily about not having water.  They grew angry with Moses, and they grumbled against him.  So they were miserable, but they did not appeal directly to the Lord.  Instead they threatened Moses and had no confidence in the situation.  That, I presume is what is meant by trying the Lord:  At a time of need, lacking faith and confidence in the word and power of the Lord, complaining and threatening, blaming the seeming failure of a leader who had provided so much for them already, and questioning the Lord’s ability to provide more!  Mark the words of Moses carefully.  I believe they count for much, and we have much to learn from them.  And remember, the two “you” pronouns as well as the one “your” pronoun are plural, signifying (according to me) that each of us may not try the Lord.

שָׁמֹור תִּשְׁמְרוּן אֶת־מִצְוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וְעֵדֹתָיו וְחֻקָּיו אֲשֶׁר צִוָּךְ   6:17

Deut. 6:17  “You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord, your God, and His testimonies and His statutes that He has commanded you.”

וְעָשִׂיתָ הַיָּשָׁר וְהַטֹּוב בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָךְ וּבָאתָ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּע   6:18

יְהוָה לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ

Deut. 6:18  “And you must do what is right and what is good in the eyes of the Lord in order that it will be well for you, and you may go in and possess the good land that the Lord swore to your fathers,

לַהֲדֹף אֶת־כָּל־אֹיְבֶיךָ מִפָּנֶיךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה   6:19

Deut. 6:19  to thrust out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord had spoken.”

כִּי־יִשְׁאָלְךָ בִנְךָ מָחָר לֵאמֹר מָה הָעֵדֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם   6:20

Deut. 6:20  “When your son will ask you in time to come saying, ‘What of the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord, our God, has commanded you?’

There are more mixed second-person pronouns in this verse that might reveal hidden meaning.  The first your and you are singular; the final you is plural.  On the one hand, this may indicate that the son understands that the Lord did not command his father directly; instead the commands were generally directed to the whole people.  On the other hand, it might mean that the son is rebellious, not believing that the commands apply to him.  I prefer the former meaning, primarily because the son is quoted as saying “our God,” not “your God.”  Thus I believe that Moses is depicting a curious, interested, obedient son who is searching for meaning in the testimonies, statutes, and ordinances about which his father has been talking to him.

וְאָמַרְתָּ לְבִנְךָ עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרָיִם וַיֹּוצִיאֵנוּ יְהוָה מִמִּצְרַיִם בְּיָד חֲזָקָה   6:21

Deut. 6:21  then you must say to your son, ‘We were bondmen to Pharoah in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.’

וַיִּתֵּן יְהוָה אֹותֹת וּמֹפְתִים גְּדֹלִים וְרָעִים בְּמִצְרַיִם בְּפַרְעֹה וּבְכָל־בֵּיתֹו לְעֵינֵינוּ   6:22

Deut. 6:22  ‘And the Lord delivered great and calamitous signs and wonders on Egypt, on Pharoah, and on all his house for our eyes.’

וְאֹותָנוּ הֹוצִיא מִשָּׁם לְמַעַן הָבִיא אֹתָנוּ לָתֶת לָנוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ   6:23

Deut. 6:23  ‘And He brought us forth from there in order to bring us in to give us the land that He swore to our fathers.’

וַיְצַוֵּנוּ יְהוָה לַעֲשֹׂות אֶת־כָּל־הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה לְיִרְאָה אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ לְטֹוב לָנוּ כָּל־הַיָּמִים לְחַיֹּתֵנוּ   6:24

כְּהַיֹּום הַזֶּה

Deut. 6:24  ‘And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to revere the Lord, our God, for our good always, to preserve ourselves, like this day.’

וּצְדָקָה תִּהְיֶה־לָּנוּ כִּי־נִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשֹׂות אֶת־כָּל־הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּנוּ   6:25

Deut. 6:25  ‘And righteousness shall be ours as long as we will take heed to observe all this commandment before the Lord, our God, as He commanded us.’”

Torah Commandments in this Chapter

391. You shall love the Lord with] all your heart, soul, and might.    V. 6:5

392. The commandments shall be on your heart.    V. 6:6

393. You shall teach the commandments to your children.    V. 6:7

394. You shall speak of the commandments all day long.    V. 6:7

395. You shall bind the commandments for a sign on your hand.    V. 6:8

396. The commandments shall be as frontlets between your eyes.    V. 6:8

397. You shall write the commandments on the door posts of your house

        and on your gates.    V. 6:9

398. You shall serve the Lord.    V. 6:13

399  You shall swear by the Lord's name.    V. 6:13

400. You shall not test the Lord.    V. 6:16

401. You shall not grumble against the Lord.    V. 6:16

 

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