Parashat Vaetchanan (and I beseeched) Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26
Since we have completed the fast of Tisha B’Av there are just seven more Shabbats prior to Rosh HaShannah. The prophetic readings during these seven weeks are all related to HaShem comforting His people after the period of mourning known as Ben HaMitzarim. The phrase refers to, “Those who are found to be between two narrow points that places stress and affliction upon them“. The term is found in the book of Lamentations 1:3 and today relates to the three weeks between when Nebuchadnezzar broke through the walls of Jerusalem and when the Temple was destroyed.
In this week’s Torah reading Moses reiterates the commandments of G-d to the people. In doing so he reminds the people that when they were at Mount Sinai they did not see HaShem, but rather only heard the sound coming from the fire.
“And HaShem spoke to you from the midst of the fire, a sound of words you were hearing, but a picture, you were not seeing, only the sound.” Deuteronomy 4:12
Why does Moses emphasize at this time that the people did not see any likeness of HaShem, but only heard the words which came forth from the fire? One needs to remember that what is included in the Scriptures is all that one needs to be equipped to serve G-d (See II Timothy 3:16-17). Faithfulness to G-d is not dependent upon one seeing HaShem, His words are sufficient. The fact that the people knew that it was G-d Who was speaking was enough. It is most significant that the words came forth from the fire. The concept of fire often relates to purity as that which has been refined. Hence, the people who stood at Mount Sinai and heard the words were convicted that these words were true. Later on in the passage Moses states,
“And you shall take great heed (guard yourselves diligently) to your souls that you did not see any picture (likeness) on the day that HaShem spoke unto you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.” Deuteronomy 4:15
The fact that there was no likeness of G-d for the people to see emphasizes the difference between idolatry and true Scriptural faith. One responds in obedience to HaShem, not because of what he necessarily sees, for visions can deceive, rather as Paul instructs,
“As a result, the faith from hearing and hearing by means of the Word of G-d.”
I translated this famous verse in the most literal manner to emphasize what may escape the reader. The first word represents something that will happen as a result of something else. In this case one can expect with full assurance that faith comes by means of hearing and hearing the Scriptures. It does not assert that faith comes from hearing as one can hear something that is unscriptural and respond in obedience, but such behavior does not involve faith. It is important to realize that the word “faith” in the Bible only relates to a proper response to what the Word of G-d relates. Failure to recognize the inherent relationship between faith and Scripture is vital. All too frequently people associate faith with belief. This assumption is very damaging spiritually. Individuals can and do have a wide variety of beliefs. These beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with faith, unless such beliefs are properly based on the revelation of Scripture.
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