Exod. 15 notes


וַיֹּאמֶר אִם־שָׁמֹועַ תִּשְׁמַע לְקֹול יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו תַּעֲשֶׂה וְהַאֲזַנְתָּ לְמִצְוֹתָיו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ כָּל־   15:26

חֻקָּיו כָּל־הַמַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂמְתִּי בְמִצְרַיִם לֹא־אָשִׂים עָלֶיךָ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה רֹפְאֶךָ

15:26   and He said, “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, and you will do what is right in His eyes, and will listen to His commandments and keep all His statutes, all the diseases that I set on Egypt I will not place on you.  For I am the Lord, your Healer.”

This is the statute and the ordinance referred to in v 15:25.  Please note that the second occurrence of the pronoun translated as it in the previous verse must refer to the people of Israel, which is named in v. 15:24. The bibles with which I am familiar all translate the pronoun as plural, making it them, something typically done by other translators.

A short but significant note: According to Chabad Jews, statutes (and ordinances) are certain types of commandments.  I will have some rather enlightening things to say about this in Deutoronomy.

Take notice that this is the first promise of this kind made by God to the children of Israel, but it won’t be the last.  This promise to care for the children of Israel will be repeated in many forms, in particular in Leviticus 26 and especially graphically in Deuteronomy 28, the chapter of so-called blessings and curses.

Take note also that all the second-person pronouns in this verse are singular.  I believe this means that the Lord is addressing the people as a whole.  Does this mean that the entire people, without exception, must keep this statute and ordinance for the promise to be fulfilled? To this point in time, this has never happened -- some of us, if not most, have faltered continually and often.  However, it would also be easy to understand this promise as being made to every individual in the community, addressing each of them in the singular, making this a personal promise to each descendant of Israel.  I don’t believe this (more to say about this below and later).  Nevertheless, this verse may have inspired those who suffer illnesses to conclude or suspect that they have not kept this statute and ordinance faithfully enough, thus inspiring them to try harder to be more observant.  In my humble opinion, there is a tendency in all of us to question our worth whenever we suffer any misfortune.  And this tendency, and perhaps this verse, have inspired what I call creeping orthodoxy, the ever increasing stringency of Torah observance, a process that I believe started with the destruction of the first temple in 586 BCE. To me this practice smacks strongly of fear of the Lord rather than reverence for Him.

Let’s go one step further.  Suppose, as I will suggest in the discussion on Levi. 23:3, that a positive command given to a group as a whole (identified by a singular second-person pronoun) means that there can be exceptions to its observance.  If that is correct, then not every single one of us must “diligently hearken” for this promise to be fulfilled.  But how many must adhere to the commandments for fulfillment of the promise?  Obviously, more of us than there are, but not all of us!  To me that is highly encouraging.  We have a chance to see and experience the fruition of this promise.  Hallelujah!  Now we have to really understand the commandments and adhere to them.

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