Adapted from Ranebi’s message 5777

9 Av 5782

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Why is this world in such a mess?

We are beginning the 5th book of the Torah, Devarim, also known as Deuteronomy (Second Law) or as our sages call it, Mishnei Torah, a copy of the Torah. In my opinion, it is not a copy, rather it’s unique in the sense that Moses was speaking directly to his people while in the other four books, he was speaking on behalf of the Creator, a direct revelation from the Creator.  Moses knew that his days were coming to an end, and like a father who wants the best for his children, was trying to guide his people and put them on the right path. No matter what we do or tell our children, they have minds of their own and they will make their own choices and mistakes. We can only hope that they will remember the good things we taught then as loving parents.  Mishlei – מִשְׁלֵי – Proverbs tells us to educate our children in the fear and the ways of the Creator so that as adults, they would remember the good foundation that they were given in their early years and return to it.  He gave them free will and although it’s difficult to let them go, we as wise parents should not hold onto our children or suffocate them, causing them to rebel; rather we need show them that we trust them and help them make the best decisions that allow them to grow. If children would only learn from the mistakes of their parents, they would be much better off. Moshe Rabenu had a deep desire that this second generation would follow the principles given to their parents at Mt. Horeb (a synonym of Mt. Sinai), all of whom said that they would do and obey, and that they would not repeat their mistakes. However due to their disobedience, no one except Joshua and Caleb, made it into the Promised Land. This second generation would need to make that same pledge of obedience. In Matot we read about how important it is to keep our vows. As Rabbi Yeshua told us, our yes needs to be yes and our no, no. We know that in our families, we have all types of children, and we need to deal with each of them, although different, as equals. Moshe knew that the children of Israel would fail repeatedly but that they always had the opportunity to start again; that is the process called teshuva. 

Moshe also knew that he would not be able to accompany his people into the Promised Land which he would only see from a distance. Now a new leader would be chosen, one who had been with the people from the beginning and knew God’s revelation. Would this cause everyone to suddenly be of one accord?  This new leader had witnessed their rebellion in the past. Moshe needed to remind this new generation to not follow in the footsteps of their parents who had failed dismally and had died in the desert. The baton of leadership would be passed on to Joshua in whom Moses had invested a lot of time teaching the principles that we read in the Torah. He wanted the people to understand that there were consequences for not obeying those principles. Our young people are our future, and we also need to invest time in them to prepare them to take over the reins.

Moses was reminding the people to remember all the events that happened along the way that they should not to repeat. Moshe is reminding us that the Creator gave us principles for us to live an abundant life, but we need to be careful – if we disobey, when we stray from them, we would be on our own, outside His protection; we would be the cause of the ensuing consequences and can’t blame anyone else. We live in a society where we constantly point our finger at others, never at ourselves. The millennial generation of today is a most selfish generation because they have been taught a sense of entitlement without the understanding that the greatest gift our parents gave us is life itself. Of course, we need to help our children grow in a healthy way, but they need to be taught the value of working for what they have.

Moses was telling that generation that they were at the threshold of receiving the Land promised to their forefathers… “Look, I placed this land before you; you need to enter and to take it (Dev. 1:8, 21).”  The Creator did not hand it to them on a silver platter.  They would need to conquer it!  God has provided us with everything, but we needed to work for it. Most of today’s youth thinks that they are entitled to receive hand-outs. On the contrary, they have the right to study, to work hard and to do the best that they can, even better than their parents did because they have the foundation to build on.  

Why do you think this world is in such a mess?  

There is a competition among religions – who will offer us the best package that suits our wants, but they don’t deal with personal responsibility. Most religions are like a “marketplace of ideas” where people can pick and choose according to the perks that they offer. That’s not what the Torah teaches. The Torah teaches us that we are responsible for our actions and that our actions can cause problems to the rest of the community which is why it is so important to be honest with ourselves. When the Creator chooses us for a specific role and when we don’t want to do it, there are consequences not only for us personally but for those around us who are affected by our choices.  

Moses implored those who were in the position of meting out justice, that they must be impartial, fair and just to all to no matter their position, status or rank. This has been lost in our society today. Justice exists only for those with power and money while hypocrisy reigns. This is obvious when we listen to those at the United Nations who constantly accuse Israel while they ignore the most heinous of crimes committed against humanity by terrorist groups like Hezbollah, and countries like North Korea, China, Russia, Iran and so many others. (How many of us have heard about the genocide that is happening in Ethiopia today in 2022?). Those to go to pray at the Temple Mount bring weapons to attack the Israelis praying there and when Israel puts up detectors to defend themselves, the world protests. That’s today’s justice!

What can we say about Israel? Are we totally innocent? This is what Moshe was speaking to Israel about…we were created to be unique, given the total light of Torah to share. What are we doing with that?  Israel needed to be united but instead we are totally divided and filled Sinat Chinam, free hatred. The only time Israel ever becomes unified is when we are attacked by an outside enemy.  Why do I speak so much about Israel?  The Scriptures tell us that Jerusalem is the “navel” of the earth, at the heart of it all.  When the Palestinians tell us that Jerusalem is theirs, they are shaking their fist at the Creator. Both Christianity and Islam were born out of Biblical Judaism. We know the beginning but is Israel behaving as it should.  We constantly blame others for our problems, but it is time for the people of Israel to search our souls and to be honest with ourselves.  Are we the people, the country, that we need to be? Are we being ohr l’goyim – לגיים אור – a light to the world?  We need to place the Torah back where it belongs ­– at the heart of our nation… not the Torah that man has created, but the Creator’s Torah, which men have sadly changed. 

Man today has once again placed himself at the pinnacle, as he did at the tower of Babel.  We have the chutzpah to say that what the Torah states is wrong, is now right.  Our Messiah Yeshua told us that there is no worse blind than he who does not want to see and no worse deaf than he who does not want to hear.  I don’t speak to you about religion but about being a true human being, a mensch!  The Torah teaches us to seek justice – to help the poor, the orphan and the widow. Mishlei, Proverbs 31: 8-9 tells us to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. Being an Israelite, being chosen is not a position of privilege but of responsibility.  We are failing on all accounts.  Look at what has happened to Israel throughout history. We have never been defeated by foreign empires, when we remained united under the Creator. However, when we, as a nation are divided, and “sinat chinam, חינם שנאת” (free hatred) reigns, that is when we fall. 

The Creator has never turned away from us. His Promise is that He will always be with us.  His yes is yes, forever and His no is no forever. Despite the behavior of Israel, He will always remain faithful to us. Moses is reminding us, in this fifth book of the Torah, Devarim of our individual and collective responsibility to the rest of the world. Our existence is not for our own sake but for the sake of the larger community.  Our purpose is to bring the light to those who walk in darkness, not by giving them a religion but a relationship with the Creator and by facing our own failures and turning back to Him.

Shabbat Shalom

Ranebi רנב”י