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This Study Series is being released according to the Torah Reading Schedule.

This week- Section 02
Name- נח Noach (Noah) (Rest)
Parashah/Parsha- נח B’resheet 6.9-11.32
Torah Portion- Genesis 6.9-11.32

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from the JPS edition of The Torah, The Five Books of Moses, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, according to the Masoretic Text, First Section. Copyright 1967 by the Jewish Publication Society of America, Second Edition.

This week I want to discuss Deuteronomy 11.18-21.

18Therefore impress these My words your very heart: bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; 19and teach them to your children -reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; 20and inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates- 21to the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.

– – – – –

In my previous Essay, I discussed Deuteronomy 11.18a and the significance that I do not interpret the use of the first-person possessive pronoun (my) as Moses speaking on behalf of Jehovah.

While there are students of Scripture who interpret Moses as speaking for Jehovah, that interpretation removes the emphatic nature of Moses’ delivery.

This is Moses in his final moments of life. Jehovah knows it. Moses knows it. The Israelites know it.

Moses is speaking from himself, emphatically, appealing to the people to take him seriously, to take seriously the words that Moses was presenting, because Moses knew the severity of the consequences of failing, and did not want Israel to fail in their endeavor.

That is why Moses emphatically states:
– bind them [my words] as a sign on your hand, and
– let them [my words] serve as a symbol on your forehead; and
– teach them [my words] to your children, reciting them [my words]
    – when you stay at home, and
    – when you are away, [and]
    – when you lie down, and
    – when you get up; and
– inscribe them [my words] on the doorposts of your house and on your gates

Why was Moses so emphatic? Deuteronomy 11.21 gives the answer.

Moses was concerned for their future. Moses wanted Israel to listen attentively in order for them to find success, success in their spiritual life, daily life, and family life; that is why Moses said “to the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.”

The emphatic nature of Moses and his presentation becomes clear when we see that this passage echoes passages from Deuteronomy 6.

For instance, Deuteronomy 11.18b-20 (cf. Year 1 Essay 18) which echoes Deuteronomy 6.4-9.

Another instance, Deuteronomy 11.21 (cf. Year 1 Essay 19) which echoes Deuteronomy 6.10-12.

And Deuteronomy 11.21 (cf. Year 1 Essay 21) echoes Deuteronomy 6.16-19, especially Deuteronomy 6.18.

In other words, Deuteronomy 11.18-21 is not the first time Moses wanted Israel to pay attention to what Moses was saying.

Did Israel pay attention?

Based upon the book of Joshua, it seems so, for the most part. Israel found success.

But, history must unfold, and later generations who were not there to know Moses interpreted Moses differently, without the emphatic urgency to listen.

What’s to be done?

The reality is that Moses and the Torah were centuries ago. Many believe the Torah is outdated. Others think the Torah is adaptable. Others believe the Torah was replaced.

Which is it?

If the Torah is outdated, then it seems that Torah serves no actual purpose, other than a record of some ancient past, where many interpret the Torah as oppressive and without social justice.

If the Torah is adaptable, then what do the contents of Torah mean? Because if Torah is adaptable it insinuates that Torah itself is relevant yet somehow changeable. But if Torah is changeable, then is it Torah?

If Torah was replaced, then what took its place? If Torah was replaced, then one has to determine if the Torah actually permits replacement? And if Torah permits replacement was the replacement valid?

Personally, I find the Torah relevant. But Torah was given to a specific people, at a specific time, and Torah governed a specific area.

If I read the Torah properly, the Torah is not outdated, so it still governs, but only within a specific area, which means Torah is not a record of the ancient past.

If I read the Torah properly, the Torah, while ancient, was not encouraging oppression, because it was encouraging healthy social constructs.

Admittedly, parts of the Torah are difficult to read and understand how that might occur. So I’m not justifying any particular behavior; I’m simply expressing how difficult it is to read Torah and understand it.

If I read the Torah properly, the Torah is not fluidly adaptable, meaning that when the Torah makes a statement, whatever is interpreted from that statement, the interpretation has to remain consistent with the plain meaning of the statement, providing the plain meaning is capable of being understood.

If I read the Torah properly, the Torah cannot be easily morphed into any interpretation that someone wants and the Torah remain Torah and retain the essence of Torah.

If I read the Torah properly, the Torah does not govern those who do not reside within the borders of Israel, and that governance within the borders is Israel is specific, yet also limited, yet seems not to directly govern non-specified items or issues.

If I read the Torah properly, the Torah did not predict replacement, which is why I no longer believe the interpretation that many have where they interpret that Jesus replaced the Torah.

With those things in mind, for me, the Torah is valid, purposeful, full of wise instructions, but also has limited applicability, yet has relevance.

So are Moses’ words worth putting on one’s heart? worth binding as a sign on the hand? worth having them serve as a symbol on your forehead? worthy of teaching to your children? worth writing on your house and your gates?

I answer in the following way, since I interpret that Moses is making the presentation, then if doing those things helps someone to be mindful of the things Moses said, then that is acceptable.

Additionally, since I interpret that Moses is making the presentation, then if one needs those types of things to help them retain their focus and remain focused then it serves their needs.

Furthermore, since I interpret that Moses is making the presentation, then if one does not need those things to retain their focus and remain focused, then the difficulty is for the one who needs those reminders to not judge their neighbor who doesn’t need to have those manifestations of reminders in their life.

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