Mountains of Blessing
This portion begins with ‘Behold’, or possibly, ‘See this, look at this’. G-d had put before the Israelites the blessings and the curses, a choice, decisions to be made. In Hebrew the concept of ‘seeing’ is tied to understanding, as it is in English too, I see it (understand it). What was the concept the people were to see or understand? Quite a simple one really, if you follow G-d then you shall be blessed; if you don’t then you will inherit a curse (a withdrawing of blessing in fact).
But surely, you may think, that’s no contest, we all want the blessings, don’t we? How bizarre to even suggest that we would choose to be cursed! But a choice it was and is. G-d knows the human heart, it is fickle and ego driven, selfish and stubborn. How often do we hear the cry nowadays, ‘no one can tell me what to do’? The choice is to do what you want to do, what seems right, or to follow G-d and be told what to do. Everything we hold to be right in our days says, do what you want, that’s freedom, why give up being ‘free’? Even for the blessings…? So the choice becomes muddied by selfish interests and personal inclinations.
But it is often muddied by something else too. Read Devarim 12:1-6. Note that a place has been stipulated where to meet with G-d and how to approach Him, and more importantly that we are not to copy or syncretise the beliefs or systems around us. We were always meant to ‘utterly destroy’ the remains of anything pagan or worldly or that which would pull us away from genuine faith and a godly, righteous lifestyle. We were meant to approach G-d with the sacrifices He stipulates, not our own versions as we see fit. Only by that route could we come into fellowship with Him. It has always been so. Even when it comes to the sin sacrifice there is only one way. ‘No one comes to the Father except through Me’ said Yeshua Mashichanu, why? Because that is the way G-d set out. There is no other way. You just can’t invent it for yourself.
It looks so easy, we say. Is it? Just consider for a moment that the mountains in chapter 11, Gerizim and Ebal were meant to signify the blessings and curses, yet they were actually very close together. Attempt to get to the mountain of blessing in the fog and you could easily end up on the wrong one. Sometimes the choice between right and wrong just doesn’t seem that easy or obvious, and the distinctions seem quite close at times too. The difference between the ways of truth and deception, right and wrong seem dangerously close at times. Who can tell? Look at the history of Israel, of the many competing forms of Judaism. All claim to standing on the mountain of blessing!
Our history is littered with sub-groups of Judaism standing on the wrong mountain. It seems like it should be blessing, but it isn’t. Read Dev 13:2-6. False Prophets may even do miracles to prove their blessing and on what mountain they stand. But it proves nothing. You need to check harder than that. And so, the choice is not really that easy after all. We all want to do what is right, but knowing what that is is hard. And ‘all’ we had to do was to ‘choose’ to obey!
The key here is to move to where G-d is not to get Him to move to where you are. The Torah is very G-d centred as we also should be. The world screams at us, please yourselves, put yourself first/be yourself, develop your own level of spirituality, do what works for you. We have got so used to adapting our faith to the world around us we have forgotten that G-d demands the opposite! Our lives revolve around Him, not Him around us. We can only know for sure that we are on the right mountain if we are doing what G-d wants us to do in His way. That is why we need Torah on our hearts and minds. To follow after Mashiach 100% is not just a nice idea to nod at, but a fundamental truth to be lived out.
To conclude, we all want to have the blessings. For the wandering empty human heart there is only one response to G-d. Read Is 55:1-5.This is a call to all who thirst to get the real living water from the source. The empty human heart without G-d cries out for living water to quench the hollow echo of modern life and deception. In fact the pursuit of material gain at the cost of spiritual peace and rest has become a hallmark of today’s world. We have a restless society not a restful one. Only G-d can satisfy that deep cry, to know and be safe, to be able to enter His presence with security and confidence. Stand on the mountain you want and need to stand on. Know that through Yeshua Mashichanu you will be able to see it clearly and be secure in the truth.
Rabbi Binyamin: Parashat Re’eh