Parashat Vaetchanan

“You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”  Luke 10: 27.

At the beginning of the sidra today, Moshe reminds ‘Am Yis’rael’ that he pleaded with G-d to allow him to cross the Yarden into the promised land. He then goes on to give a series of commands (mitzvot) for them that G-d had given him. He does this as a warning and an encouragement. He re-affirms the 10 commandments (the 10 words).

Forty years have passed since that first Shavu’ot, mountain top experience. The disobedient fathers have died in the wilderness, and the sons have grown up. Moshe expounds the 10 words that G-d once spoke to the fathers at Sinai. Moshe’s words have great urgency. His plea to enter the land has been denied and he now speaks to sons, who listen to Moshe’s final pleas for Yisrael to remember the Sinai experience, rekindle a passionate love for G-d and abide in covenantal relationship.

“You came near, you stood beneath the mountain, now the mountain was burning with fire, up to the (very) heart of the heavens, (in) darkness, cloud and fog. And (the L-rd) spoke to you from the midst of the fire; a voice of words you heard, a form you did not see, only a voice.” He announced to you his covenant in which he commanded you to observe the 10 words… Devarim 4: 11-13.

According to Rashi, G-d thundered all 10 words at the same moment! On the other hand, the shaking of the mountain, thunder and lightning, shofar blasts growing louder, the great cloud, the darkness, the fire, the smoke, and finally the voice of the L-rd booming out, left the older generation in terror so they told Moshe to speak to HaShem on their behalf. (Sh’mot 20; 16). Later rabbinic exegesis claims that G-d spoke only the first two commands: I Am, and Thou shalt have no other gods.

The Jewish division of the 10 words differs from that of the Christian division on this point. For Jews the first two commands are exclusively I – thou, statements personally spoken by G-d. The other 8 commands, transmitted by Moshe, (so not audibly heard by the terrified congregation of Sinai) refer to G-d indirectly, in the third person. In contrast to this, Christians interpret the first ‘I Am’ statement as a declaration of G-d’s name and redemptive activity but not as a command. For Christians, the first command is the one prohibiting the covenant people from having other gods. The second commandment – not to make idols – forbids any visual representations of foreign gods or of created things, or of G-d Himself. There are no images in a Jewish home or Synagogue.

D’varim 13:5  “You are to follow Adonai your G-d, fear him, obey his mitzvot, listen to what he says, serve him and cling to him.” Here we see covenant love that includes and goes beyond obedience to mitzvot. Those who cleaved to G-d survived. Those who didn’t died. An entire generation failed to listen to G-d and perished in the wilderness. Cleaving to G-d is the ultimate goal. Cleaving attaches a passionate love to G-d. Love for HaShem should be our greatest passion.

“Hear O Yis’rael, HaShem is our G-d. HaShem is one (echad).  And you shall love the L-rd your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your heart, with all your resources. And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart.” In Mark 12:28-31, Yeshua himself said this was the greatest of all the mitzvot and the 2nd was to love your neighbour as yourself.

Earlier in D’varim 4, we see we are to fear G-d.  The Hebrew means ‘to be in awe’ ‘to revere’ or ‘to honour’.  The more we will be in ‘awe’ of him. But here in the Sh’ma, we are called to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our resourses – in other words, to the uttermost of our ability.

According to Maimonides, man’s love for G-d begins with getting to know Him. The Messianic Writings teach us how to love G-d simply and beautifully. “We love, because He first loved us… 1 Yochanan 4:19. How did G-d show His love? By sending his son Yeshua to die an atoning death for us. Everyone who allows the Messiah to come into their lives will be changed completely from within.

Yeshua challenged His Talmidim to perfect their love for one another. (Mattityahu 5: 43 – 48). He commanded covenant love (Yochanan 15: 12 – 17). Yeshua commanded us to love G-d.  He commanded us to love G-d so deeply that we would yearn to cleave to Him. He assured us that those who abide in Him would bear fruit for the Father.

Yeshua also command us to love one another, as vassals are commanded to love their vassal king. So Yeshua’s talmidim are commanded to love one another.

Redemption through New Covenant love:

We are commanded to serve Him with transcendent sacrificial love. Elevated from vassals to friends, we can know His will and expect answers to priestly intercession. Most importantly, we can cleave to Him in the name of Yeshua – the living Word that lives within us.

Rabbi Boaz