The parasha for this Shabbat is entitled Re’eh, which means “See!” It covers Deuteronomy 11:26 through 16:17. Moses makes it clear in chapter 11 that the real issue of drawing closer to God has to do with the heart of the individual.
If Israel would serve Adonai in love and faithfulness, He would send the early and latter rain in their seasons. But if their hearts were foolish and they turned away from God to serve other gods, Adonai’s wrath would burn against them, and the heavens would withhold the rain, the earth would yield no produce, and the nation would speedily perish.
The fruitfulness of the Promised Land depended on that rain, just as today we need the Holy Spirit to pour into our lives if we are to be fruitful for God.
Chapter 11 concludes with the command that after Israel entered the land, they were to conduct a special ceremony at the junction of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. At Mount Ebal, Joshua was to write the words of the Law on large plastered stones and build an altar. Mount Ebal was to be “the mount of curses” and Mount Gerizim “the mount of blessings.”
The tribes on Mount Gerizim would be Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph with Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, the remaining tribes would gather on Mount Ebal. Joshua, with the priests the Levites and the tribal officers were to stand with the Ark of the Covenant in the valley between the two mountains, and from that location the Levites would loudly address the people and recite the blessings and the curses.
After each curse was spoken, the people on Mount Ebal would shout, “Amayn!”, meaning, “So be it!” After each blessing was read, the tribes on Mount Gerizim would shout, “Amayn!”
Moses wanted these words that were set before them and their children to be embedded deep in their hearts and minds. Israel’s right to dwell securely in the Land was not unconditional. Israel must be obedient. If they were, God would drive out every enemy that lived in the land, and protect them from outside attacks.
In chapter 12, Moses reminded the Israelis of certain requirements when worshipping Adonai. Once they were in the land, Israel was to crush and utterly destroy every place where pagan idols were worshiped. The Canaanite religious practices were both false and filthy. They worshiped a multitude of gods and goddesses, chiefly Baal, the storm god, and Asherah, his companion.
These people made use of temple prostitutes as part of their “worship.” The goal of the Canaanite religion was fertility for themselves and for their crops. Moses pointed out that anything idolatrous remaining in the land was dangerous, because it might tempt Israel away from the one true God.
We must worship the Lord in the way He commands. We are not free to improvise, to “make it up as we go along.” Nor are we to imitate the religious practices of others. Biblical Judaism and Biblical Christianity came by revelation, not by man’s inventiveness or Satan’s instruction. How tragic it is when congregations, motivated by false ideas of success, begin to imitate the world and reduce sacred worship into theatrics.
Israel was to have one central place of worship and one altar. The Canaanites built many altars. The Canaanites sacrificed whatever they pleased to their gods, even their own children! But the Lord was specific about what his people were to bring for sacrifice, and how they were to go about the sacrificial ceremony.
Moses made it clear that God wanted all evidence of pagan practices removed from the land.
The Israeli people are also reminded to observe the required feasts, and to bring all the necessary sacrifices. Moses reiterates the laws regulating diseases, and urges the people to faithfully do all that God commands.
In chapter 13, Israel is told what to do in the case of a false prophet. This entire chapter is devoted to this one topic! God will permit impostors to arise to test the faith of His followers.
Real temptations to depart from the loyalty of God may come from any number of sources: From self-professed prophets or miracle-workers, or even from the nearest relative or a close friend. In any case, false teachers are like an infection that needs to be stamped out at once.
No enticement to idolatry, regardless of the source, is to be tolerated for even a moment. The false wonder-worker is to be put to death; the friend is to be slain; if a city has turned to idolatry, it is to be destroyed. This may seem harsh. But there are times when severity is actually the greatest kindness, and there are times when tolerance of such things is the greatest unkindness.
Chapter 14 discusses clean and unclean animals, and chapter 15 the year of release of debts and the emancipation of Hebrew slaves. It also reiterates the sanctification of the firstborn of cattle.
Chapter 16 deals with the celebration of the three required pilgrimage festivals: Passover, the Feast of Shavuot (or, Pentecost) and the Feast of Tabernacles. All Israeli men were to come to the place of God’s choosing at the time of these three feasts. That place would eventually be Jerusalem. This chapter also includes the appointment of officers for the administration of justice and the prevention of idolatry.
The main theme in parasha Re’eh is that obedience produces blessing. Adonai is saying to His people, “Give me your heart, and let your eyes delight in My ways.” It shouldn’t surprise us that this same theme resounds throughout the New Covenant as well.
Yeshua instructed His followers to observe all that He commanded us. And, obedience to Yeshua’s word will likewise produce blessings in our lives. Messiah has set before us death and life, the blessing and the curse, and it all comes down to our receiving Him or rejecting Him.
The ball is in your court. What will your answer be?