Alt Right Torah – Tisha B’Av Edition – Parashat Va’etchannan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

* I can see many tendencies between the Jews of the Torah and the Jews of today. For example, Moses is not all stiff upper lip like a WASP. This parasha begins with him imploring God and in turn shows God expressing non-WASP emotions.

23 At that time I pleaded with the Lord: 24 “Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

26 But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.

Moshe would rather blame the Jews for his not getting into the Promised Land rather than take responsibility.

* Moshe talks about what a good land Israel is, but objectively speaking, it is not a good land. It is largely devoid of water and oil. It is not awe-inspiringly scenic. Moshe may be romanticizing the land, or he may be looking at the land through the eyes of faith. Because God gave this land to His people, that automatically makes it a good land.

* God reminds me of a football coach. Deut. 3:26: “Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter.” That’s a very common phrase said by NFL coaches.

* Deut. 4:1: ” Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.”

The purpose of Jewish law is to live and not to die, and to possess and maintain possession of the land God gave the Jews.

The U.S. Constitution is not an end in itself. It is not meant to be a death warrant. It is to help America live and to retain its sovereignty. If a crisis requires amending or suspending part of the Constitution to live, you do that.

* Deut. 4:3-4: “You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4 but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today.”

Gross sexual sins are one of the things that God destroys people for. Widespread legitimized homosexuality was a reason God destroyed the world in the Flood and later destroyed Sodom.

Why is God so uptight about this?

* The purpose of Jewish law is to look wise in the eyes of the gentiles. “5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”

Revelation is awe-inspiring but unless you have a system to perpetuate what was taught and a community to safeguard the lessons, you can’t rely upon people’s feelings of awe to last long. Jewish law concretizes commitment.

* “9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

It is natural to forget things that are inconvenient.

* “And the Lord directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Jewish law is meant to be observed in the Jewish state. Living in the diaspora is a compromise with God’s intentions.

* “25 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and arousing his anger, 26 I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. 27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

This seems like a realistic assessment of human nature. When people are in distress, they’re more likely to return to God.

The primary teaching of Jewish text about Jewish suffering is that it is the Jews’ fault for not following God’s commandments.

* How does a people perpetuate itself? Deut. 6:6 “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

“20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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