Illustration: "Thou Shall Remember the Lord thy God"Public Domain: Originally printed by: The Providence Lithograph Company in 1901
In my opinion, this week’s Torah portion is one of most important because it warns the Israelites not to think that they have entered the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as a result of their own efforts.
Another very important point is that it says that the Israelites shall NOT live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the lord.
There is absolutely no mention of the 70 leaders of the community and the oral laws they claimed to have received. In fact, in the previous Torah portion “Devarim” Moses ONLY speaks of the words he received. Nowhere in the Five Books of the Law does it say that the 70 leaders received additional laws.
Furthermore, the word “bread” has always been used as a metaphor for "the written Torah" and even today the rabbis claim the Torah is the bread of life.
If this is true, then: What words proceed out of the mouth of the lord?
Let us remember that the Orthodox rabbis teach that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should not be considered “real Jews” because they did not receive the laws at Sinai and they knew nothing of the Talmud and its oral laws. In fact, if you look at a Torah commentary: “Eikev” appearing this week in the Jerusalem Post by Rabbi Kurkov from Toronto, the first thing he says is that the most important thing we can do is study the Torah.
Naturally, in the comment section, I asked him: Did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob study the Torah?
This is not sarcasm…(well, maybe a little bit)….but, nevertheless, this question addresses a very important issue: If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had no knowledge of God’s laws, then why did He promise the Land of Canaan to them and their ancestors?
First of all, let’s be very clear: The written Torah states in no uncertain terms that Abraham knew ALL of God’s laws.
What we saw in a previous article about Samuel was that God spoke to Samuel in almost “everyday” type of conversations (i.e. Samuel didn’t receive dreams or fall down on the ground in a trance).
Also, the covenant with Abraham has ONLY one condition: “Abraham must teach his children God’s ways…..”
Yet, nowhere in the story are we given any of the commandments or laws that Abraham was supposed to follow. None the less, we are told that Abraham did indeed follow all of God’s commandments.
What gives ?
Paul of Tarsus said that Abraham was given the land because of his faith, because the Torah says that Abraham’s faith will make up for his lack of righteousness, yet that is NOT what we read in the story of Abraham meeting the three angels. There it says that God "knows" Abraham and that he knows Abraham will command his descendants to keep the ways of the lord. But, once again, we are never told what those ways are…
The answer, I believe, comes from a work by an English psychologist: Maurice Nicoll called: “The Mark”.
In short: Dr. Nicoll suggested that the word: “faith” was mistranslated and had nothing to do with: "mere belief". The word: “faith” meant: “a new way of thinking” (i.e. a new way of perceiving the world).
In other words: There was thinking based on the “facts” received thru the five senses and there was thinking based on the “laws, statutes and commandments” one heard from an internal voice, similar to the voice heard by Samuel and even by Socrates.
Hence, Abraham followed all the commandments God gave thru this inner voice AND it was Abraham’s obligation to teach his descendants to follow God’s ways by teaching them exactly how to listen to this voice (i.e. to develop the ability to hear this voice).
As we can see from this week’s Torah portion, it is not forbidden to study the Torah. None the less, the most important thing a person can do is to remember to stop studying the Torah after six days of work and learn how "to rest on the Sabbath” ....(i.e. to listen ONLY to the words of God; NOT to the words of men….).