|This week’s Parsha/Portion begins with the words, “Re’eh Anochi Noten Lif’neichem Hayom Bracha Uk’la’lah.” Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m very grateful for our English versions and all the History behind how they came to be. However, I am also very particular about translations because I believe it can be easy to lose the Heart behind God’s Word. You see, many translations translate this verse along the lines of “See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.” There is nothing wrong with this interpretation, but if we translate this word differently it gives us a greater understanding of what is being conveyed here. The word used in this verse that is translated as “set” is the Hebrew word “noten.” The word “Noten” can mean, “to give, bestow, put, or set.” Personally, I believe the word “noten” should be translated as “give” rather than “set.” Why do I believe the word “noten” should be translated as “give?” Because the Torah is God’s “gift” to His people! He doesn’t “set” a choice in front of us, He “gives” us a choice. It’s the choice of “freewill.” He is gifting us with the ability to choose blessing and to choose Him! This gift of freewill choice that God has given to mankind reminds me the first word and name of this portion “Re’eh—See.” In Genesis 3 we find this same root word used when the serpent causes the first woman to doubt God’s command concerning eating from the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In Genesis 3:4-6 we read, “Then the serpent said to the woman…‘God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…” Notice how many times these verses talk about “eyes and seeing.” As the serpent was speaking, the woman’s freewill was about to be challenged. As she listened to the smooth words sliding off the tongue of the serpent, it says “VaTere Ha’Isha—And the woman saw…” The word “Tere” and the word “Re’eh” share the same Hebrew root word meaning “to see.”|
|God is teaching us through these two verses that, even though it was the woman’s sight which caused her to disregard God’s laws, humanities sight can be rectified once again when we remember the choices that He (God) has set before us. Just like in the garden there was a choice. Two trees = two choices. Now again, God is saying in Deuteronomy 11, “See, I give in front of you today a blessing and a curse.” The next verses continue by saying, “The blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God…and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God…” The commandments are God’s instructions to us. And God’s instruction manual for mankind can be summed up in one word: Torah. The word Torah is connected to two Hebrew words. The first word is “Yarah” which means “to shoot” or “to hit the mark.” Following Torah means that one will always be “on target.” The second word connected to Torah is the word “Horeh” or “Hora’ah” these two words are related to the words “Parent or Tutor.” The Torah is our teacher, our parent and our guide teaching us how “to hit the mark/target” that leads to blessing and life. The Torah is like a spiritual mother whose job it is to lead us to our Heavenly Father. In Proverbs 3 it says (speaking about the Torah), “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her…” Notice how it says, “She is a tree of life?” The words “tree of life” are translated into Hebrew as “Etz Chaim.”|
Which takes us back to Genesis 3. God is speaking concerning the tree of life and refers to it as “Etz HaChaim—The Tree of Life.” The Torah is a tree of life that is leading us back to the tree of life. You see; the Torah was given to rectify and bring correction to our sinful ways, specifically the “lusts of the eyes.” Our eyes are consistently and constantly leading us into temptations, traps and trials. This is why the Torah explicitly states in Numbers 15 that the children of Israel should wear “tzitzit—tassels” on their garments. As it is written “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments…and to put a blue thread in the tassels…And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which…your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.” These tassels were to be a reminder of the commandments of God. They symbolized the set-apartness of the Israelites versus the surrounding nations. Not only did these tassels/fringes remind the Israelites that they were to be holy to God, they were also a status symbol in the ancient world as well. The blue thread, which we read about in the above verse, is a very specific color of blue. The blue referenced in Numbers 15 is the color “Techelet.” This color is a very deep dark royal blue that would have been expensive and hard to obtain in this time period. (To see more about Techelet) This color would have been a color reserved for the royal and priestly classes of the day. Yet, God tells the children of Israel to wear this color in their fringes, not only to remember God’s commands, but also to remember the status of their role and calling in the world. Each Israelite, when he looked at his fringes, would see the royal blue in his tassels and be reminded of his position as a “Mamlechet Kohanim—Kingdom of Priests” and as a royal child of the King. As it says in Chapter 14 of this portion “Banim Atem L’Hashem Elokeichem—You are the children of the Lord your God…” It then goes on to call the Israelites an “Am Kadosh—Holy Nation” and an “Am Segulah—Special Treasure.” God chose this nation to represent Him to humanity. Therefore, He told them to wear the colors of royalty, so whenever they saw it, they would be reminded of the high calling they have within the world.
The “tzitzit—tassels” are a physical reminder of the truth found in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5. He writes, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” We know what happens when we follow after the lusts of our own eyes…it leads to exile from God’s presence. Faith is the antidote and cure for our sight. As Romans 8 tells us “We hope for what we do not see…” And what is our hope? That “the creation itself will also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God…[and] the redemption of our body.” We’re waiting for a glorious time that is beyond imagination! Our minds eye can’t even visualize what we are looking forward to! It is awesomely overwhelming, whatever this redemption picture will look like!
In Isaiah 11 we read of a time when the Messiah will arrive to bring in the fullness of this long-awaited redemption. It is interesting to read this passage because there is something to observe about the Messiah’s character traits. It says, “His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears…” Notice that even the Messiah does “not judge by the sight of His eyes.” Therefore, if even the Messiah does not go by what He sees, how much more should we not follow our own vision but the future vision that God has set before us.
Now, if we look back at our verse from this portion there is one last idea I want to expound upon. So again, here is the verse. “See, I give in front of you today a blessing and a curse.” God is offering His people the choice between blessings and curses. A blessing if one follows the Torah’s instructions of life, curses if one disregards the Torah of truth. Yet, the question we must now ask ourselves is “How can God curse?” Rabbi Chaim of Aleppo makes a note about the wording of this verse. He writes, notice how it says, “‘Before you’ and not ‘on you,’ for no evil descends from heaven, rather it is placed before you. The choice is yours.” God doesn’t put curses on people. People choose the curses and then blame God. As it says in the Midrash, “No evil thing descends from above…” You see the curses are actually blessings in disguise. The blessings are for the obvious good while the curses are for the hidden good. How can we view the curses as hidden blessings? Because the curses are supposed to set us back on a right course, following in God’s ways. The curses can be likened to our sense of pain. If we didn’t feel pain then we wouldn’t take care of our bodies and protect them from harm. And if we didn’t protect our bodies from hurt and harm then we would easily die. So too, the curses are “painful” blessings that are supposed bring us back into relationship with our Heavenly Father. From this we see that the curses are truly camouflaged blessings!
Yet, they are still curses. They still bring pain and hardship. Even though they are a blessing in that they are supposed to turn us back to our Creator, they are still curses in that we still rightly suffer from our disobedient actions. So if God doesn’t curse us, rather, we choose the curses, where do these curses come from? Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov writes about this concept of evil and curses in the world. He makes an analogy comparing God’s spiritual bounty to the sun shining over a clouded atrium with stained glass windows.
|He writes, “When the sun shines through those windows, one can see distinct beams of color – red, blue, purple and so forth – filtering through the atrium. Would it then be appropriate to say that the sun’s beams are red or blue? Obviously not; the sun can be said to be either colorless or encompassing all colors. It is only the window through which it shines that lends a particular hue to the sunbeam…it is the same way with spiritual bounty. Nothing evil emanates from Hashem. The bounty, like sunlight, is ‘colorless.’ Only when it shines through specific vessels does it take on a particular character, becoming good or evil…we are the stained glass windows.” What does all this mean? It means that God is always shining His light into the world. As Yeshua Himself said of God in Matthew 5, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good…” So if God is shining His light into the world, we must ask ourselves, “How does His light shine through us?” “What is the hue of His light shining in our life?” and “Does His light shine forth in blessing and growth or does it cause us to wilt and wither away as cursed?” God has given us the choice, it is our decision how we will accept and reflect His light into the world.|
I believe James, brother of Yeshua, also understood this concept of God’s continuous light being a blessing or curse in our lives. He writes in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” We have the tendency of being varied or shadowed which is why the light of God that shines within us is varied and shadowed. He’s always sending perfect and good gifts as the Father of lights and we must receive them. Not as a stained glass window would = adding our own hue to God’s perfect gift. Rather as clear panes of glass that keep the bugs out but let the pure light of God shine into the world! As the song goes “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” He is the source of all goodness, peace and life in the world…because it emanates from Him. Let us become emanators of God’s pure light and let us “Arise, shine; for [our] light has come! And the glory of the Lord [will] rise upon [us].” For there is a time coming when, “The sun shall no longer be [our] light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to [us]; But the Lord will be to [us] an everlasting light, and [our] God [our] glory.” May it come soon! Amen and Amen!
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,