“For the Instruction I teach you this day is not beyond understanding, is not distant. It is not in heaven that you would need to say who can ascend to heaven to take it for us to hear and do it. It is not across the sea that you would need to say who can cross the sea to take it for us to hear and do it. Rather the matter is near to you, indeed extremely so, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.”
This week’s portion contains these incredibly powerful words. What do they mean?
Do they teach that God’s word is easy to understand and doesn’t require effort? I don’t think so. The Instruction indeed is near. It is accessible to all and understandable. But we’ve come too far and seen too much in our study of the Bible to think that we can be nonchalant about thinking this is easy. Too many people in the narrative of the text assumed too much and were lost.
To the contrary, we have learned that understanding comes with thought, effort, discipline, and ongoing commitment.
Yet, we are told that God deals with us directly, and the Instruction is available to us each day. It is there now in our hearts and minds to understand, and it is there in our mouths for us to speak and acknowledge and act on. It is near, very near, for us to know and to guide us in our lives.
We don’t need oracles or philosophers to explain it to us. This in itself is one of the extraordinary gifts of Hebraism.
Nor are we so needy that we must await a hero to cross the sea to bring us back an elusive wisdom. Neither do we believe the wisdom to live as God expects is lodged in a treasure box in heaven, awaiting an unlocking by some traveler to heaven, perhaps even theologians.
We, all of us, stand today and each day before God to re-establish our covenant with the Divine. The message is there for us to receive. The Instruction is there for us to follow. We stand and listen…It’s as if God is saying: You know My ways, and you know what I expect; now go forth and live as I have taught.