Friday, August 29, 2008

Parasha Ponderings (Re'eh - "See")

This week's parasha (see my Hebrew Dictionary on the sidebar) is Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17, and is called Re'eh ("See" in English). It begins with a frequently quoted passage,

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot [commandments] of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you don't listen to the mitzvot of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow gods that you have not known. (CJB)

Seems like an easy choice, right? I mean, who is going to say, "Well, God, I think I'd rather have the curse." But here's the thing: We do it all the time. I do it, you do it, we all do it. We all do things, at times, that end up bringing not-so-good consequences into our lives. That's the bad news.

The good news is that God is very forgiving - VERY, VERY forgiving. Just read the Torah and the Prophets through one time, and you'll see how many times He forgave His people time and again for some pretty bad stuff (bowing down to idols, child sacrifice to other gods, etc.). It's funny to me when I hear preachers read from the Scriptures, and contrast themselves with the children of Israel. Basically saying, "Look at how bad THEY were, but look at how good I am!" Come again? I'm pretty sure it says, "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

Ok, so God promises amazing blessings for those who follow His Word. But, the thing is, not everyone who lives according to God's teachings drives a Mercedes or has a Coach purse. Actually, and I have seen this myself when I traveled to China and Israel, some of the people that live their lives totally for God, end up having the most trouble and are, by this world's standards, quite impoverished. How is that fair???

I love this story about the Chofetz Chaim, a Polish rabbi from the 19th century:

There was once a man traveling through Europe in the 1800’s. He came to the town where the Chofetz Chaim had lived. The traveler stopped in to meet the great Talmid Chacham. When he arrived at the house, he saw that the Chofetz Chaim lived in a tiny home. He knocked on the door and when he looked inside he saw a nearly empty one-bedroom apartment. The traveler asked the Chofetz Chaim, “aren’t you the great Chofetz Chaim? How can you live like this? Where are all of your possessions?” The Chofetz Chaim turned to the traveler and posed the same question. “Where are all of your possessions? All you have with you is a suitcase.” The traveler answered, “Well, I am just passing through,” to which the Chofetz Chaim responded, “I too am just passing through.”

I think this story is a beautiful way to explain this enigma. As my father always says, "We live in an upside down world." That is to say, the people in this life that are called "poor" are many times very "rich." However, there is good news. And that, I believe is summed up in an awesome way by the words of Yeshua in the following parable (Matthew 25:31-46):

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

(Copyright New International Version)

Therefore, we have two choices: blessing (obedience) or curse (disobedience). The blessing may or may not come in this life, but rest assured that God will reward the righteous in the end.

(Picture from Flickr)

1 comment:

FLCATXOK said...

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about this portion.