In this week’s Torah portion, we read about a very confusing occurrence. One needs to remember that we are coming toward the end of the Torah and the end of Moses’ leadership to the Children of Israel. One of Moses’ primary responsibilities was to bring the Children of Israel into a covenant relationship with HaShem. I think we would all agree that this is the most important thing in one’s life. Without a covenantal relationship with G-d, one has no hope but only the sure expectation of eternal separation from His love, promises, and blessings.
The Torah portion opens in Numbers 29:9. We read,
“You are standing today, all of you, before the L-rd your G-d…”
Careful reading of this section shows that all the Israelites were summoned before Moses and stood there that day. We are also informed that there was a portion of Gentiles who had joined with the Israelites who were also present. This is seen in verse 10 with the word “ger”. The unusual aspect of this section is found in verses 13 and 14. Here we find that Moses informs all those who were there that they are not the only ones who are entering into a covenant relationship with HaShem. In verse 14 we read,
“But not with only you who are standing with us here today before the L-rd our G-d, but also with those who are not standing here with us today.”
To what people is the Scripture referring? The rabbis answer this question by saying that supernaturally G-d assembled every soul before Moses at this location. They say that this supernatural act shows the extent that HaShem will go to in order to have a covenant relationship with mankind.
Without a doubt, it is hard to interpret the significance of verse 14. We do know the following, however. According to Ephesians 1:4, G-d chose those who would be saved in Messiah before the foundation of the world. Most scholars understand this as referring to the fact that before G-d created the world He formed all the souls of mankind. Therefore, this may be, and I stress the words “may be”, a possible explanation for the rabbis’ understanding of who verse 14 was referring to (those who were not physically standing there). Obviously, I am not saying that the rabbis consulted Ephesians, but simply saying that the idea that souls were created at one time before the creation of the world is not unscriptural.
The purpose of this article is not to deal with all the possible explanations of this unique happening in this week’s Torah portion. Nor is it to affirm or even debate the rabbinical interpretation of that passage. It is simply to take this rabbinical concept and make the following statement: The G-d of Israel is willing to do the supernatural to enter into a covenant relationship with man. The supernatural action that is beyond debate is that He sent His only Begotten Son into this world to be our redemption. I do not profess to understand how the Living G-d became flesh, and dwelt among us, and did this work of redemption (died on the Cross and rose again), but I do know this is exactly what took place. For me, it is okay that I don’t understand all the aspects of this. While speaking with a rabbi this week, concerning the interpretation of Deut. 29:14, I asked him: “Can you explain to me how G-d accomplished bringing all the souls to that location for Moses to speak to them the words of the covenant?” He told me some things you must accept on faith and in the fact that our G-d is capable of all things. To this I whole-heartedly agree.