06 August Massei – Journeys Num. 33:1 – 36:13; Jeremiah 2:4-28; 4:1-2
13 August Devarim – Words Deut. 1:1 – 3:22; Isaiah 1:1-27
20 August Va’etchanan – And I Besought Deut. 3:23 – 7:11; Isaiah 40:1-26
27 August Ekev – Because Deut. 7:12 – 11:25; Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Massei – Journeys
The book of Numbers concludes with Massei, Journeys. The portion begins with an overview of the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness. In chapter 33 one is struck by the rhythmic repetition of the words, “they journeyed” … “they camped.” These words, echoing movement, are reiterated forty-two times in the Torah. Every word, indeed every letter, of the Scriptures is God-breathed (as Paul affirms in 2 Timothy 3:16), and carries life and meaning. Sages of old and Bible scholars through the centuries have discovered that every detail is important.
Consider the details described in 33:9 – twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. Certainly there are various possible meanings. In the context of our portion and a central theme of the whole Bible is that of a journey; our life journey. The clue is the number 70, which correlates with a life span of “threescore years and ten” (Psalm 90:10). The number 12, in relation to this, corresponds with the months in a year. Each year marks a milestone in our life’s journey. It is “this” journey that is of ultimate importance in the eyes of our Father in heaven.
Do we walk through the cycle of our years according to His Word and direction? Like any successful journey, it requires effort, preparation, focused attention and, sometimes, a sacrifice of our personal comfort. He assures us, however, as is illustrated in the book of Numbers, that He is with us every step of the way.
As is customary to say at the conclusion of the study of each book of the Torah:
“Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazeik!”
Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another (in His Word)!
DEVARIM – Deuteronomy
In the portion Va’etchanan, Moses honors God’s appointment of Joshua and encourages and strengthens the new leader. Moses also emphasizes that the one indispensable condition upon which the future victory and prosperity of the people depended was obedience to the will of God as expressed in His Word. He urgently proclaims: “And now, O Israel, hear the statutes and ordinances I am teaching you today … so that you may live and possess the Land” (4:1).
When we truly hear Him our response involves every aspect of our lives. This is highlighted in the portion by the declaration of Moses that has become the constant affirmation of faith of the Jewish people, morning and evening: “Sh’ma Yisrael—Hear O Israel—the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might…” (6:4-9). To achieve this goal, Moses exhorts the people to “…fear the Lord your God” and to “…teach [His Word] to your children” (4:10).
The third portion of the month, Ekev, fittingly carries the confirmation of God’s covenant with His people, “It will come to pass, ekev, because of, your hearing these social ordinances and carrying them out with care, that the Lord your God will keep for you the covenant and lovingkindness that He swore to your fathers” (7:12).
The word Ekev compares with the Hebrew word for heel. In the light of the context, we could say that the blessings of God, enumerated in the ensuing verses of the portion, follow on the ‘heels’ of our obedience. As we willingly heed and obey His commandments, statutes and ordinances, our focus should not be on the rewards to be reaped; rather our joy should stem from hearing the Word of God and wholeheartedly applying it to our lives for His glory. As loving children, we do this in order to please our Father in heaven. Then, He assures us, His blessings will follow.