The next Torah portion is called “R’eh” and it means “to see.” It goes from Deut 11.26 to 16.17. We learned in Deu 6.4 that “Shema” means “to hear.” This teaches us that there is a difference between the way we learn with our ears (Shema) and the way we learn with our eyes (R’eh). R’eh is related to the word “Ro’eh” meaning “shepherd” because a shepherd “sees” the flock.
Deut 11.26 says, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” The usage of “today” tells us we should make decisions today when it comes to the spiritual things. We have a concept in this Torah portion called “The teaching of the two ways” or in other words, “Choices.” Blessings and curses will be outlined later in this book.
In Deut 11.27 the word “blessing” in Hebrew is preceded by the Aleph and the Tav, the first and last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It means “Head of the covenant” and this word is symbolic of the Messiah and is found 2,622 times in the Torah alone. The word “curse” does not have it, but it begins with a Vav and a Hey in verse 28, which are the last two letters in God’s name. The concept of “Choices” goes back to the Garden of Eden (Gen 2.9, 16-17). The possibility of evil is essential in creation (Isa 45.5-7).
In Deut 11.29 Yehovah tells them that when they enter the land, the blessings will be placed on Mount Gerizim and the cirses on Mount Ebal. These mountains are on either side of Shechem, which means “shoulder.” These mountains are like “choices” on our shoulder. The blessings are on one side and the curses are on the other side of Shechem. This teaches that there is a big gulf existing between where life is a blessing and the one where life is a curse. These two cannot stand in the same place. In the spiritual realm “movement” means carrying out the will of God or not. This is why we are going to talk about choices away from the Lord or towards the Lord (Jer 7.24).
The choice is on our shoulders. We will be tugged at all the time. Ever see the cartoons where a character has to make a decision and there is an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder? That is the picture here. In Deut 11.30 the question is asked about the two mountains, “Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh?” The word “Moreh” means “teacher” and he was encouraging them. They were close to taking possession of the land but they were going to have to make choices.
Deut 12.1-32 presents choice number one,, they will need to decide if they were going to serve the Lord or other gods. Will they choose to serve the gods of these nations, or Yehovah? They were to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. They were to burn their Asherim and cut down their graven images. Israel was not to do whatever they wanted to, and neither can we. We cannot do “whatever is right in our own eyes (v 8).”
They also could not “choose” just anywhere to bring their offerings anymore (v 13) because there is a specific place now. The Torah is speaking here of the place of sacrifice (the Altar) and a central sanctuary will be built in Jerusalem called the Beit ha Mikdash (House of Kedusha) and the Lord will place his name there. At the time, they had the Mishkan. But, how would they know the place God had chosen? This is how they did it. We want to quote from the book, “The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology II” By Aryeh Kaplan, p. 63, “The Torah itself prescribes this as the method through which Jerusalem should be chosen. In one place it states that the chosen place will be “from all of your tribes” (Deut 12.5). Elsewhere, however, the Torah states that it will be in “one of your tribes” (Deut 12.13). The Torah is speaking of the place of sacrifice (the Altar) and initially, when the land was first divided, it would be in the portion of just one of the tribes, Benjamin. Then, however, it would be exchanged for the fields of Jericho, so that ultimately it would belong to all the tribes. Thus, when Jerusalem was eventually chosen and consecrated, it became the common property of all the tribes of Israel. As one place common to all, it had a strong effect in uniting the tribes.” When Solomon gave his Temple dedication prayer, he said that “this” is the place God has chosen to place his name (1 Kings 8.22-53). Every world kingdom that has come against Jerusalem has lost eventually.
Are we going to follow the Lord by what we “hear” (shema) and “see” (r’eh)? We are not to walk by sight but by “emunah” or “faith” (confidence/action). However, we are to “see” (be aware of). Emunah has three elements to it. These elements are “Ahav” (love/attitude of the Lord), “Mitzvot” (commandments of the Lord) and “Da’at” (knowledge of the Lord). If any of these elements are missing, we do not have faith. What does this mean? It means we have to sit down and “look” at any situation in light of the commandments, the knowledge of God and our love attitude. Even if we don’t “see it” we will believe God and what he said anyway and will obey him. Every person must learn this and to believe what the Lord said. Do not go by the definitions given by most teachers today if they are not Torah-based. The “Faith Movement” today does not have the proper understanding of faith to begin with.
The tzitzit on the corners of a garment are there so we can “see” (be aware of) and remember the commandments and obey the Lord. We are not to follow our own eyes and go after idols (Num 15.39). Do you know how to solve most theological arguments? Just open the Scriptures and let everyone hear what the Lord has to say about the subject. Let people hear what he says, not hear our words about it like, “We don’t do that at our church/congregation” or ‘I just don’t believe that!” Let people make the choice after hearing what the Lord said. We are beginning to see that Israel had a choice. Would they come to where God put his name, or they could use other places or altars wherever they chose?
In Part 12 we will continue with choice number one, “Are we going to serve other gods or worship the Lord?”