Devarim: God and the Law are One

“Because I love you, I am telling you there is work to do before our relationship can get back on track.” – Rabbi’s sermon today 

This week in synagogue we read the first portion of Deuteronomy.

The rabbi focused on the fact that tomorrow is Tisha B’Av. This is the day when we mourn the destruction of the holy Temples, many national tragedies, and more fundamentally the sins we did which caused these.

 The connection between this day of national mourning and today’s Torah reading (he did not mention this) is that throughout, the Jewish people are excoriated.

The prophet Isaiah talks about the empty sacrifices the Jews brought. God does not need our sacrifices. He needs our HEARTS.

From the supplemental reading:

 “’What need have I of all your sacrifices?’ Says the LORD. ‘I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, and suet of fatlings, and blood of bulls; and I have no delight in lambs and he-goats. That you come to appear before Me— Who asked that of you? Trample My courts no more. Bringing oblations is futile, incense is offensive to Me. New moon and Sabbath, proclaiming of solemnities, assemblies with iniquity, I cannot abide.” (Isaiah 1:11-13)

Too many people nowadays are imbalanced in their thinking.

They cannot conceive of a God that insists we improve even as He loves us.

My generation was shame culture. It was as if the rabbis thought the Holocaust was God’s punishment for assimilation. (Think I actually learned that once.) That somehow He was “teaching” us to be better…by sending us to the gas chambers.

The millennial generation (the children of Generation X) are the polar, polar opposite. I know I caused this with extreme helicopter parenting. But whatever, you can’t say ANYTHING to them without it being “hurtful.”

The rabbi’s sermon was about taking responsibility in an adult way.

It was about saying – instead of crying over a building, cry over what you did to make that building fall.

The rabbi used the term “blind spots.” He said we need to look for the “blind spots” where we are messing up, in ourselves, our relationships, and our communities.

It is so interesting to me, that if there were a plague like cancer (God forbid), or something physical like that – we’d be talking about it in synagogue nonstop.

But things like chillul HaShem (desecrating God’s name) which causes anti-Semitism; mass trauma/irreligiosity from child sexual abuse); spying/blackmailing politicians for Israel; welfare fraud to have large families & “fix what Hitler did” – silence.

There are actually many Jewish people who think it is a sin to talk about our sins publicly.

But they must be reading a different Torah than I am. That Torah says to shout the sins from the rooftops, and make the people stop before they do irrevocable harm.

Unfortunately there are people who quote the Bible out of context and they say “God has abandoned the Jewish people” or similar.

No…what it says is that AS LONG AS YOU SIN AND SHAME THE “MARRIAGE” BETWEEN GOD AND JEW, meaning AS LONG AS THE JEWISH PERSON ACTS LIKE A “HARLOT,” going out and SHAMING GOD, we have a problem.

Let’s read a few more passages about this.

Referring to the empty observances of the Jews who have become evil in their behaviors, God says

“Your new moons and fixed seasons Fill Me with loathing; They are become a “burden to Me, I cannot endure them.” (Isaiah 1:14)

God says – if you don’t start acting faithful to me, like a wife should, I won’t be able to look at you.

(I emphasize this because the man and wife analogy with God and the Jewish people is why occultists seek to remove gender and normalize non-gender and non-marriage in its place; it’s about satanism not tolerance.)

“And when you lift up your hands, I will turn My eyes away from you. Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained with crime—Wash yourselves clean; Put your evil doings Away from My sight. Cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:15-16)

…the empty words of “i love you” from a cheater….

God is not ABANDONING, God is PLEADING!

What is God pleading for?

Does He want us all to become Hasidic?

No!

It’s basic human decency stuff!

“Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17)

This is important to remember when we go back to the primary reading, which is Deuteronomy, which is essentially Moses teaching the Jews to obey the LAW.

The LAW.

The transition from Isaiah to Deuteronomy is not just textual but psychological.

Since the law is administered by man — and man is subject to corruption– it is tempting to say that “there should be no law.” But that is wrong.

Deuteronomy introduces the concept of the law, as the law, as told to us by a man who we are listening to.

We have trouble with the notion of men (humans) creating a system of justice, because we think these laws are arbitrary.

“The first four Books (of the Torah) were heard directly from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed is He, through the throat of Moses. Not so Deuteronomy. Israel heard the words of this Book….from the mouth of Moses himself.” (Vilna Gaon, in the Stone Bible, p. 938)

We do need the teachers/rabbis meaning a system of jurisprudence.

But we also need to know enough to question them.

Deuteronomy is the book of the Torah that transitions us from the Written Law to the Oral Law.

It is Moses teaching us IN HIS OWN WORDS, after God gave him the message.

This is why we call Moses “our teacher.”

 How does Moses choose to begin the end of the Torah?

Keep in mind, he spoke Deuteronomy in the last month of his life.

As a teacher, as a human being, Moses stands in the shoes of the people.

He thinks about what is going to happen when they enter the Land of Israel – how they will be incredibly tempted to sin, because they aren’t living with miracle after miracle to prove that God exists.

He knows that the idol-worship of the surrounding nations will be very hard to resists – women, wine, parties…

So he says – remember the mistakes we all made in the desert? We made mistakes over and over again, you and I alike.

As if to say – please don’t do it again.

Look how we paid the last time.

The purpose of having a body of law is not only to carry out God’s will in its purest form, but also to develop the ability to deal fairly with one another when we really don’t want to.

And this is how Moses introduces the need for judges.

“I am not able to bear you myself alone.” (Deut. 1:9)

Meaning, you have disputes and a need for answers, and one man alone cannot provide them.

Men need laws, and they need fair judges to adjudicate them.

“How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Get you, from each one of your tribes, wise men, and understanding, and full of knowledge, and I will make them heads over you.'” (Deuteronomy 1:12-13)

The existence of judges was actually suggested by Moses’ father in law Jethro, and Moses received the consent of the people before implementing this.

We do not like dictators.

“And ye answered me, and said: ‘The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.”
“So I took the heads of your tribes, wise men, and full of knowledge, and made them heads over you, captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties, and captains of tens, and officers, tribe by tribe.”
“And I charged your judges at that time, saying: ‘Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.”
“Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; ye shall hear the small and the great alike; ye shall not be afraid of the face of any man; for the judgment is God’s; and the cause that is too hard for you ye shall bring unto me, and I will hear it.'” (Deut. 1:14-17)

The problem with the law is not the law.

The problem with the law is the corruption of the men and women who administer it.

When man is doing what he is supposed to do, there is no functional distinction between conscience and right judgment in a court of the law.

May He bring the Moshiach (Messiah) speedily in our days.

May we know corruption no more.

Thanks for reading.
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By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.