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And you shall live in terror?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 7, 2006


“And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster. And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over; that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of thy fathers, hath promised thee.” (Devarim/Deu 27:2-3)

I’d like to connect this Parsha to what I wrote on Parasha Shoftim about Israel’s responsibility and obligation to Live by Torah’s Ethical Imperative in respect to the Stranger.

When Moshe is about to die, and he instructs the People one last time about what they are to do when they have entered the Land that G-d has given them: First they are to offer thanks to G-d for the Land, for the Covenant and for personal privileges and accountability, but before they do that they are to make sure that the Covenant and the Laws of that Covenant are visible to all who come to dwell there – and then the consequences of adhering or not adhering to the Laws of that Covenant is to be read out loud – as a consecration of the Land. It is as if G-d wants to make sure that His Torah is thoroughly imprinted, not just in the People, but in the very Land. Violating Torah means Violating the Land, because Torah is imprinted on the Land.

While each Jew is certainly personally responsible for obeying Torah, and are asked to affirm this in Devarim/Deu 26:2-10, this Parasha clearly speaks about the ENTIRE people as a Collective – and not just the People, but the stranger as well – Devarim/Deu 26:11. If they fail to observe the statutes of Torah, horrible things will happen to them.

This is where Judaism gets its idea of Reward and Punishment from. The first time Torah speaks of Reward for obedience is in Shemot/Exo 20:12 – “Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the L-RD thy G-d giveth thee.” The implication of a Punishment if disobeyed is also there. Violating Torah means Violating the Land.

People don’t want to hear about the consequences of disobeying Torah – they would much rather hear about the Blessings enumerated in the chapter following the Curses – yet the Curses (Deu 27:15-26; Deu 28:16-19) come before the Blessings (Deu 28:3-6) thus somehow spelling out that we should be aware more of the negative consequences of our actions, rather than what we can gain from acting right.

In Deu 28:66, G-d admonishes in a manner that connects to the present situation in Israel:

The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival.” (Deu 28:66)

Over and over Israel is warned that forgetting the Stranger, the Widow and the Orphan will put her in the dog-house with G-d. Over and over, also in this Parasha, is she admonished that wrong-doing has its price. So why does she insist on wronging the Stranger? Why does the Modern State of Israel keep forgetting the Holy Charge given to her in ancient times? Deu 1:16 (2), Deu 10:18-19 (2), Deu 14:29, Deu 24:17, Deu 24:19-21 (3), Deu 26:11-13 (3), Deu 27:19, Deu 31:11-12 (2) – to treat the Stranger equal to the Home-born?

This makes me think that the consequences of not caring for those, also those not Jewish, that need it or to wrong ANY human being, is the terror wrought on Israel today. Deu 27:19 is tied to Deu 16:20 by the word JUSTICE – the promise of life and prosperity for the pursuit of Justice is echoed in Deut 28:66, in a manner that almost makes my skin crawl. How can she not see this, and what will it take for her to wake?

Shalom Shabbat!

Dov

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