This week's portion begins the book of Deuteronomy, which in Hebrew is called Devarim which means words. It is an account of the words spoken by Moses to the people of Israel. In this portion, Moses tells the people,"HaShem spoke to me" and he recounts these words as he understood them. The use of the words devar and devarim instead of the more common word,amer implies that these words are in the form of a rebuke or a caution lest the people succumb to the ways of the Canaanites. Moses reminded them of their many sins and of their rebellion since leaving Egypt. If the people could sin when they were daily experiencing the miracles of provision and the Presence of the Shekinah of G-d, surely once they settled in the Land of Promise, they would be easily tempted to do more of the same.
You know, we are so much like the Israelites. We see the Hand of G-d working in our lives day by day, yet we rebel and we sin. We are given an inheritance by G-d and we are commissioned to bring light to dark places, yet we shrink back and we go our own ways instead of following G-d with our whole heart and our entire beings. For this, G-d brings a rebuke; as He did to Israel, so He does to us. Sometimes, that rebuke is in a harsh sermon from your pastor; sometimes He instructs me to be strong with you. But, through it all, He allows you to choose. As He did to Israel, He is doing with you.
Moses recounts for Israel their journey. He reminds them of the appointment of judges; and of sending the spies. Next week, we will talk much about the spies. He reminds them of the conflict they had with Esau at Seir, which is Petra. He reminds them of the Moabites who would remain their enemies forever. Yet, it was through a Moabite woman that G-d gave birth to Jesse who was the father of David, the ancestor of the Messiah! G-d can use even our enemies for our good. Maybe that is why He commands us to bless those who are against us.
Then, Moses recounts the victories that G-d had given them against Sihon and Og. Finally, he recounts the inheritance of Rueben, Gad and half of Manasseh, which would be on the Eastern side of the River Jordan. Moses remembered and recounted every step of the journey in the Wilderness of forty years. And even as he told this story, I am sure that he told it with tears in his eyes. he was remembering a journey that had taken the lives of 599,998 men who had left Egypt with him. He was, I am sure, remembering the good times as well as the conflicts that he had dealt with along the way. Yet, as the children of Israel drew near to their inheritance, it would be without Moses an in this, surely he was terribly sad. Yet, he was faithful to remind the Israelites of their past so that they would not repeat it. He would have no part in their future, but he did not abandon his people.
Your pastor is probably such a person; I hope he or she is. Pastors give their lives for those whom the L-rd has placed in their care. Too often we take advantage of them, talk and about them, or just refuse to listen to them. As Israel treated Moses, so we too often treat our leaders! Perhaps this is a good time to reflect upon your relationship with your pastor and to uplift him or her. Perhaps this is a call to you to head the word of the L-rd that G-d places in their mouth for your good. Perhaps you are to heed carefully those whom G-d places in your life to teach you and to minister to you; your pastor, an evangelist, or maybe just some Jewish guy who sends you an email every week.