Rashi on Romans
Parsha Ki Tavo
I was reading an interesting commentary on parsha Ki Tavo, found on chabad.org
Devarim Chapter 29
|1. And Moses called all of Israel and said to them, “You have seen all that the Lord did before your very eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to all his land;|
|2. the great trials which your very eyes beheld and those great signs and wonders.|
|3. Yet until this day, the Lord has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear.|
Yet…the Lord did not give you a heart to know:
until this day:
I (Rashi) heard that on the very day that Moses gave the Torah scroll to the sons of Levi—as the verse says, “And he gave it to the kohanim , the sons of Levi” (Deut. 31:19)—all Israel came before Moses and said to him: “Moses, our Teacher! We also stood at [Mount] Sinai and accepted the Torah, and it was [also] given to us! Why, then, are you giving the members of your tribe control over it, so that some day in the future they may claim, ‘It was not given to you—it was given only to us!’”
Moses rejoiced over this matter and it was on account of this, that he said to them, “This day, you have become a people [to the Lord your God]” (Deut. 27:9). [This meant:] “It is today that I understand that you cleave to the Omnipresent and desire Him.”
What a wonderful thought! Yes, it is true that Hashem created a priesthood, distinct from the rest of “kol Yisrael”, with unique duties and obligations. Yet, that does not diminish the fact that kol Yisrael do right to crave the Torah, and obey all that is applicable to them.
In the same way, we can reason to the metaphor of Israel as priest to the nations of the world. Yes, Israel has a unique and distinct calling. But one can similarly hear both Moshe and Yeshua rejoicing when the Goyim likewise approach their intercessor and query, “Yeshua, our Teacher! We also stood at [Mount] Sinai and accepted the Torah, and it was [also] given to us! Why, then, are you giving the members of Israel control over it, so that some day in the future they may (and do) claim, ‘It was not given to you–it was given only to us!’”
Yeshua’s response might likewise be a hearty chortle, with the words, “This day, you have become a people [to the Lord your God]” (Deut. 27:9). [This meant:] “It is today that I understand that you cleave to the Omnipresent and desire Him.”
The Torah is, in fact, the possession of all who seek to honor and obey Hashem, the God of Israel. Choosing to walk in his ways, and bless his name, has always been the avenue to joining his people and increasing both kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the Name) and tikkun olam (restoration, or “fixing the world”).
This was explained by Moshe as he continued on in parsha Ha’azinu (which we will read in a couple of weeks), prophesying the apostasy and restoration of Israel. Long before the Assyrian captivity, Hashem declared what would someday happen: “They have moved me to jealousy with [that which is] not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with [those which are] not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Devarim 32:21).
Moshe explicitly stated that a time would come when Israel failed to keep Torah the way Hashem wanted, resulting in a scattering among the nations. While scattered, they would learn to desire Torah. But what would be the catalyst for learning this lesson? The people of the nations—those whom Israel used to refer to as, “Not a people”! The Goyim would teach Israel to love the Torah.
Through what means, though? It might seem reasonable that Israel would feel the sharp pangs of oppression, and thereby be moved to seek Torah, and the Giver of the Torah. That would appear to be simple self-interest. Return to Torah, and relieve the agony of captivity and oppression. But that isn’t what the text says, is it? Moshe said that the people of Israel would be “moved to jealousy” by people they regard as beneath them, “a foolish nation”.
Did you catch that? Jealousy! Israel was expected to be driven to jealousy over the Torah, like a child who ignores a toy until someone else picks it up. Only when someone else shows interest in the toy does the child realize its intrinsic value to him. Likewise, Moshe taught that Israel would someday experience the pangs of loss and regret that would drive them back to the Torah–when the Goyim took up the Torah, and began to follow the ways of the One True God.
Sha’ul recognized this fact when he wrote the famous passage in Romans 9-11 that seems to be almost entirely based on Parsha Ha’azinu. He clearly alluded to this text in Romans 10:19 and 11:11, restating this idea that the gift of Hashem’s good news to the Goyim would drive Israel to jealousy. We can also see that Kefa picked up on this theme, as well, saying,
“But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (Kefa Alef 2:9,10).
He seems to have been blending ideas from both Shemot 19 and the prophet Hoshea…
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth [is] Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
“These [are] the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel”.
Then said [God], “Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye [are] not my people, and I will not be your [God].
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, [that] in the place where it was said unto them, Ye [are] not my people, [there] it shall be said unto them, [Ye are] the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great [shall be] the day of Jezreel.
The declaration of broken relationship found in both Devarim and Hoshea is devastating. Throughout the Scriptures, we find constantly repeated, “I will be your God, and you will be my people”! It is agonizing to think that Hashem could reject his people, even temporarily, or in part. Yet, that which was foreseen must take place. Ha’azinu must occur, and it did. In the days of Hoshea, Hashem severed all relationship with the Northern Kingdom of israel, and cast her among the Goyim so she could be brought to jealousy when those very Goyim—those “godless heathen dogs”—began to take up the Torah as their own, and enter into the relationship Israel had lost.
In our day, we seem to be experiencing a new resurgence of Ha’azinu. Since the revival of the modern Messianic Jewish Movement in the mid-twenieth century, Gentiles have been turning to Torah in ever-increasing numbers. Numerous Gentiles have begun to seek out the Jewish background of the Bible, and they have recognized that the Messiah lived, died, and rose… in a Jewish context! These non-Jews have begun to meet on Shabbat, keep kosher, and conduct their worship services according to the ancient Jewish liturgy.
One would probably expect the Jewish people to be delighted by all this. Especially Jewish believers in Yeshua! After all, those who once were “not a people” have now chosen to depart from their pagan ways, and joined Israel in the service of Adonai. The nations have started to experience the life of Hashem, and experience the blessing that comes with Torah observance. Isn’t that what Devarim 4:1-8 says should happen? This could only be perceived as a “Good Thing”, right?
Surprisingly, some have not been delighted. In fact, some have become quite angry about having Gentiles join them in shul, keeping the same Torah, in the same way. These are those who would say, “It was not given to you–it was given only to us!”
What should be the response of the Gentiles who wish to partner with Israel, forming a single community of faithful, Torah observant servants of Adonai? Simply remind our Father that we seek to share in the goodness of the gift which is his alone to give. Call out to him, and beg his permission to walk in his ways, seeking all that he offers to his people. Then expect the response of Devarim 27:9,
“This day, you have become a people [to the Lord your God]”
“It is today that I understand that you cleave to the Omnipresent and desire Him.”
Do we truly cleave to our Father, and desire Him alone? If so, then don’t be dissuaded from following him in faithful obedience to his instructions. Love him with all your heart, mind, and strength, and continue making Israel jealous for the Torah.